The number of electronics in today’s smart connected products is exploding. To get all those different components to talk to each other, you have to connect them with routed electrical systems. In this post, we’ll review Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design from Siemens PLM. Here, we’ll first take a look at the capabilities that the application provides. I’ll then offer my commentary and analysis. We’ll then wrap it up with a quick recap.
Capabilities: Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design
Back when Siemens PLM acquired Mentor, it was fairly obvious that there would be integration between the electrical and electronic design tools and the mechanical design tools. With this release, we’re starting to see that come to fruition. However, this new software application isn’t just something to wave your hands at and move on. There are some truly interesting new capabilities here.
I know. I know. Understanding how a software application works isn’t as interesting as what the software application does. But in this case, it is important to discuss this side of things first because there are some important implications. So, let’s hit those first.
- New Application, Established Foundation: In the small and medium business space, Mentor has offered VeSys solution for designing electrical systems. This, in fact, is the core of the Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design offering. Yet, it isn’t just some reskinned application. This offering has been built from the ground up as new software.
- Database-Driven Projects: An important infrastructure fact of note is that this solution is based on a client and server architecture. That means your local software application connects to a central server, where many other designers and engineers can also connect. Harnesses can be partitioned, allowing many people to design in close proximity on the same design. As these designs get larger and more complex, and they are, this infrastructure aspect of Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design is a key enabler for collaboration. Note that you create designs in a project context. Furthermore, note that this solution is not based in the cloud.
Developing Schematics and Diagrams
Fundamentally, the design of electrical systems occurs in diagrams and schematics. The majority of the capabilities of the Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design solution fit squarely in this space. Now, solutions to design electrical systems have been around for a long time. That means there is lots of functionality that is considered table stakes. We won’t be going through everything in the extremely long list of stuff in the tool in this post, but here are the primary capabilities and differentiators in the offering.
- Building Diagrams: You have a starting library of roughly 1500 components that you can build upon. You can drag and drop those into diagrams. You can place connectors. You can route wires from pin to pin. All the basics are there.
- Productivity and Guidance: Mentor has been offering solutions for this space for a long time. Given the chance to build out a new solution, they’ve included a plethora of productivity tools and shortcuts that can speed design up quite a bit. Furthermore, hovering your mouse over any action in the interface brings up a mini-video showing how to use that functionality.
- Model Intelligence: You can develop a diagram or schematic in a 2D CAD application, creating lines, arcs and more. However, there is no intelligence behind those symbols and components. In contrast, Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design understands and knows when you’re adding an electrical component, a connector, a wire and more. Behind the user interface, it’s keeping track of all that design work, doing things like automatically building a bill of material, or tracking what pins have been connected to wires. This is critically important to automating downstream tasks and making changes quick and easy.
- Analysis: As you’re designing these electrical systems, it is important to check along the way to see if anything breaks. In Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design, you can turn switches on and off to check if a fuse blows. You can interrogate wires to check their current. These tools lend themselves to verifying your model as you are designing it.
- Auto-Reporting: Building up an electrical system creates a lot of information. At times, engineers need to do simple checks by creating tables of information generated from their designs. Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design offers a quick table builder where you can specify which variables will fill each column of the table. There are filters and many more controls.
With an electrical system designed, it is now time to route wires and harnesses through a 3D mechanical assembly. In this space, Siemens PLM has been hard at work creating an integration that shares information back and forth between Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design and Solid Edge, the Mechanical CAD offering. It starts by connecting Solid Edge to the server used with Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design. Remember, this offering is based on a client-server architecture. Once that is connected, you select which wiring design you want to work within. Once connected, you can start passing information back and forth between the two software applications.
- Sending Diagram Information: From Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design, you can bridge out all or some filtered part of the diagram information. That includes lists of components, wires, connectors and more. Furthermore, this information is interconnected, meaning the software knows which connectors are used with which components and which wires are connected to which pins. All that information can be bridged into Solid Edge, allowing the mechanical engineer to route the wires, bundle them together into harnesses, and more.
- Sending Routing Information: Once the mechanical engineer is routing, they can bridge their information out as well. In Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design, the electrical engineer can bridge the mechanical information back into their diagram. This includes information like wire lengths that are shown directly on the diagram.
- Iterative Changes: Electrical systems, of course, are not designed in one pass. They often require back and forth iteration between the electrical engineer and mechanical engineer. Sending changes back and forth is easy: you simply bridge your changes out, and it shows up in the other application. If components, wires, or anything else is added, you can designate which mechanical parts they represent. If the electrical engineer changes the color of the wire, it updates automatically in the 3D mechanical assembly.
- Interactive Highlighting: Another interesting capability of this integration is interactive highlighting. Let’s say that an electrical engineer has their diagram open and a mechanical engineer, 100 miles away, has his 3D mechanical assembly open. These two are already connected. If the electrical engineer selects a component on his diagram, it highlights in the 3D mechanical assembly.
This whole process doesn’t require any manual file management. There are no standards to worry about. It’s as simple as sending updates back and forth. In fact, there is a change log that can be opened, where users can see what information has been passed back and forth.
Commentary: Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design
The Sweet Spot
At the lowest level, you can design electrical systems using spreadsheets, graphical diagrams, and 2D CAD tools. At the highest end, there are incredibly powerful and expensive tools that offer far more capability than what many small and mid-sized companies need. Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design hits the sweet spot for these companies. It is the right amount of functionality.
Automation, Reporting, Simulation
These three capability areas offer significant benefits to electrical engineers. The automation and reporting will shorten design times and allow engineers to explore more alternatives. The simulation capabilities will allow them to verify the design before moving to prototyping, allowing organizations to avoid respins and multiple rounds of testing.
Many of the issues facing the development of smart, connected products don’t fall neatly into electrical or mechanical engineering domains. They are system issues that need the input and feedback from both sides for good resolution.
The integration that Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design, along with Solid Edge, is a good step in that direction. The functionality allows these engineers to communicate their intent more clearly. This will only aid in resolving these issues during the design cycle instead of prototyping and testing.
The integration between the two offerings has another bright spot: independent accessibility. Electrical engineers often need to know wire lengths in order to check if they are too long or too short. That information exists in the 3D mechanical assembly after the wires have been routed. Traditionally, those electrical engineers would have to track down a mechanical engineer or designer to open that model, find the wire, and measure it. With the functionality offered by this integration, that information is right in the diagram. The same is true of getting information about wires in the 3D mechanical assembly. Mechanical designers and engineers can access that information independently.
- Siemens PLM now offers a new software application called Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design to design electrical routed systems.
- Its core is built on VeSys, Mentor’s long-time electrical routed systems solution, but it is a new software application built from the ground up. This offering uses a client-server database architecture, allowing multiple users to collaborate on the same project. It is not a cloud offering.
- The application provides capable functionality to build out diagrams and design electrical systems, and also includes many productivity and guidance features that aid in design. There is intelligence behind the model, allowing it to keep track of what wire is connected to which connector which plugs into which pins on which components. This set of information enables automation on a number of fronts.
- The solution provides analysis capabilities, allowing an engineer to verify the design before proceeding to prototyping and testing.
- Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design integrates directly with Solid Edge, the Mechanical CAD offering. Electrical system information is passed to Solid Edge, enabling the automated routing of wires and harnesses through the 3D mechanical assembly. Changes can be passed back and forth through a built-in connection. Furthermore, information on the electrical system can be accessed in the other application. For example, wire lengths can be passed from Solid Edge to Solid Edge Wiring and Harness Design so it can be shown on the diagram, providing independent accessibility by the electrical engineer.
- The integration also supports collaboration. As a user of one of the applications selects a wire, it highlights in the other application. This can aid in the resolution of issues that span both mechanical and electrical engineering.
Alright folks. That’s my review of this new offering. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.