I created a wishlist for, I believe, SU 2014. Because many of the items have come up, some repeatedly, on this forum, I thought I’d just hoist this old thing up the flagpole again and see whether anyone salutes, or perhaps clicks their heels.
Fully Annotated 3D Models. Let me emphasize here that I am specifically interested in the ability to create fully annotated 3D models, not some 2D image or static view produced as output from the model. As far as I’m concerned, using a 3D model as nothing more than a means to produce static 2D views—whether by using LayOut or an external renderer—misses the point of having a 3D model in the first place and destroys much of its real value: being able to present complete product definition in the form of an interactive 3D model capable of displaying both prepared dimensions and other geometric and attribute information for which the model can be queried in real time. This vision becomes much more compelling now that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can bring digital product and structure definitions into the shop and field and eliminate the last excuse for 2D paper documentation.
So here is my list:
1. Support for Small Faces. SU’s (or OpenGL’s) inherent face-size limitation, which keeps it from forming faces smaller than around 1mm or .04," inevitably creates problems on geometry in the Mechanical Design size range, and it comes up a lot on the forum. I’m kind of embarrassed at repeatedly having to explain this shortcoming and the absurd kludge used to work around it–impromptu scaling. (Why aren’t the problem itself and the ugly workaround of scaling up and down in your head even mentioned in the “Knowledge Base”?)
The idea of having to do math, however simple, in one’s head while sitting at a computer is nothing short of grotesque and creates a time-wasting do-loop and an unnecessary class of errors. These scaling conversions could easily be done by the program internally behind the scenes, rendering the problem invisible to the user.
Therefore, I propose that a size-range attribute, with values of, say, “mechanical” and “architectural,” be added to the Units section. Thereafter, an internal scaling filter would be applied to all input dimensions to bring them into SU’s addressable size range and its inverse applied to all dimensions reported back or displayed by SU. I believe that CATIA uses a system like this.
2. Smart Measurements box. Before leaving the seeming incongruity of a computer program that forces you to perform calculations on the side–whether in your head or with a calculator—I’d like to repeat and strongly endorse a suggestion we’ve heard here several times before, namely, a Measurements toolbar capable of evaluating mathematical expressions and then executing the result. A great example would be the Google search box, which is an amazingly versatile command-line calculator and unit converter, capable of evaluating just about any expression or formula you can throw at it. Maybe Trimble could lease the code.
3. Improved 3D Annotation Support. By “annotation,” I’m including all forms of human-readable information applied to the model, expressed in words, numbers, and symbols, and the various line types used to apply them. This includes dimensions and tolerances, item callouts, local notes, and things like weld symbols and surface texture symbols. Just as there’s no reason that a product definition must be a 2D drawing, there’s no reason that all these forms of annotation shouldn’t be applied directly to a 3D model to good effect. That is, there’s nothing about any of these forms of annotation that makes them applicable only to 2D drawings. As I’ve mentioned before, there are ANSI/ASME (US) and ISO (international) standards that define standard practices for the application of annotation to the 3D model.
I’m not asking for a complete ASME dimensioning package. I’m just asking for the basic ability for someone to construct these elements manually, which presently can’t be done in SU at all. Here are some requests all having generally to do with improving annotation:
3.a Thin Graphic Line Type for Annotation. The big obstacle to full annotation is that there is presently no line type that can be used to construct leader, extension, dimension, center, and phantom lines, which are all supposed to be thin and visually subordinate to object lines. As it stands, any line drawn by itself in space comes out as a profile line, which is thick. This new line type should be sensitive to inference so it can be positioned accurately relative to geometry and text and so it can be built into dashed line patterns.
3.b Standard Drafting Line Conventions. Alternatively, the ability to use the full complement of standard line weights and line conventions instead of the current “edge and profile” system—perhaps implemented as a style–would be very useful, and would subsume the previous request.
3.c Angular Dimension Tool. Hard to say which is more surprising: the absence of an Angular Dimensioning tool in the first place or the development team responding to requests for it by adding it to LayOut only. SU itself requires an angular dimensioning tool that produces standard-format angular dimensions. The arc-with-leader dimension produced by the angular dimensioning plugin is non-standard and not acceptable for engineering usage.
3d. Improved Leader Lines. SU’s default leader is hostile, quirky, and largely unworkable. The following improvements are needed:
- Ability to place two or more leaders on a single dogleg and point each arrowhead independently.
- Ability to extend leader from beginning or end (or both) of note or callout.
- Leaders should be able to meet horizontal dogleg at an acute angle if that’s what fits the space most efficiently
- Leader text should stay where you put it—no more of this surprise flipping over to another location.
3e. Ability to to add tolerances to dimensions. Dimensions on Mechanical Engineering product definitions are required to be complete with tolerances—representing permissible variation from nominal during manufacture. Tolerances may be expressed by direct annotation or by general note.
Direct tolerances. Direct tolerances (applied directly to individual dimensions) are of three main types:
- Plus-and-minus, e.g., 1.234 ± .005, 1.234 +.005/-.001 (arranged over and under)
- Limits, e.g., 1.234 – 1.244, [or arranged as upper limit over and lower limit under]
- Geometric. Geometric tolerances are also known as feature-control-frames
Note-form tolerances. Note-form tolerances usually employ dimension precision–the number of decimal places to which the dimension is stated–to invoke a standard tolerance. For instance, this is a standard general note invoking two levels of tolerances: Tolerances on dimensions: .XX = ±.03; .XXX = ±.010.
3f. Annotation Planes. Looking forward, it would be lovely to implement the concept of annotation planes put forward by ASME Y14.41, “Digital Product Definition Data Practices.” An annotation plane is a hypothetical plane that is either congruent with or perpendicular to the feature being annotated upon which all extension and dimension lines, dimensions, arrowheads, other local notes and callouts, and so forth, associated with that feature are projected. In that way, ordinary 2D text and other annotation can be consistently applied to features in 3D space.
4 Construction Tools. For SU’s construction toolset, I have two requests to propose.
4a. Circle Tool Alignment Enhancements. First, as has been discussed many times on the forum, it would be very useful to extend the special axial alignment capabilities of the Rotate tool and the Protractor tool to the Circle tool. This includes the ability to snap to an existing edge as an axis and the ability to pull a rubber band axis out into space that can be aligned using axial or other inferencing.
4b. Native Lofting Tool. I join the chorus of requests for a native lofting tool. I find that skinning a series of cross-sections is the method I use most to construct organic or non-rectilinear geometry. This could be an extension (that is, a real, integral extension) of the existing From Contours tool, which presently is, to say the least, quirky.