NX 9 Offers Broad, New Functionality

The latest advances in Siemens NX can help speed both programming and machining.


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Siemens NX from Siemens PLM Software (siemens.com/plm/nx9) is many things to lots of people in product design, engineering, analysis, manufacturing, and, well, everyone else involved in making products. Under its various disci-plines of coverage, including CAD, CAE analysis of all types, simulation, and CAM, the latest version, NX 9, includes new tools to make a multitude of tasks easier, faster, and more foolproof: 2D editing, freeform design, finding product information, meshing, and machine programming—to name a few new features. Here are some details.

For Designing

Siemens’s synchronous technology (ST) was initially for manipulating 3D models without needing to know how the models were created, that is, their history and model constraints. This way, 3D models can be easily and quickly modified. The goal of ST for 2D, which is in NX 9, is the same. ST for 2D “addresses many of the downfalls of drafting and sketching,” says Chad Jackson, principal analyst for Lifecycle Insights (lifecycleinsights.com), a PLM research/advisory firm. “It understands the geometric relationships inherent in 2D drawings and applies user-controlled assumptions at the point of change to enable intelligent modifications. It also applies these assumptions locally instead of globally to ensure fast performance.”

Also new is NX Realize Shape, a freeform design program for producing products with highly stylized shapes or complex surfaces. Siemens is not the first company to offer a product that makes nicely shaped surfaces with continuity, but it does claim to be the first to have it in the core of a leading CAD/CAE/CAM system.

The Siemens Active Workspace Client (AWC) is now fully embedded in NX 9. AWC is an interface to query the Siemens Teamcenter PLM system for information about products, assemblies, parts, tasks, workflows, requirements, specifications—you name it. The benefit of the now-seamless integration of AWC with NX, says Paul Brown, Siemens’s director of NX marketing, is that “the user doesn’t have to leave the NX design or the manufacturing environment for Teamcenter when searching for information, signing workflows, or doing other things that support the user’s design tasks.”

For Analysis

Often, an analyst wants to change an existing mesh slightly to match a new geometry, but doesn’t want to spend the time for a full remesh and lose the identification of loads and boundary conditions. NX 9 lets analysts morph the mesh, that is, move individual nodes and elements to conform to the new geometry. “These [meshing processes] are recipe-based,” says Ravi Shanker, Siemens’s global marketing director of simulation. “If your original design changes, the remesh will still honor all the mesh controls you’ve defined. They don’t have to be reapplied. And they can be applied to batch meshing as well.”

Also for analysts is condition sequence management. This module lets analysts easily create a simulation’s “mission profile” by entering input complex boundary conditions as a function of time. “It’s not that you couldn’t do this before,” says Shanker, “but it’s very time consuming when you think of a complex model with hundreds of boundary conditions, each being a function of time. The condition sequence manager takes hours and hours out of defining your equipment profile.”

NX Advanced Durability analyzes the stresses in composite parts. This module goes beyond static conditions; it can predict the performance (fatigue, durability) of a composite part when random vibrations have been applied. NX Advanced Fluid Modeling now has sophisticated surface wrapping and filling tools to build fluid domain regions using. These tools help create more refined and accurate fluid bodies in selected regions, thereby improving the accuracy of friction and heat-transfer predictions. And for mechanical assemblages, NX Motion Simulation lets designers move joints through all the different ranges of motion—one at a time or in combination—to check for interferences. The module also has full journaling support for solve and postprocessing commands.

For Machining

“Your non-cutting moves—retracting, moving the tool or part–that’s really where the time and money savings are. You want these more-complex machines, these million-dollar-plus 5-axis machine tools, you want them cutting,” says Troy Vanderhoof, marketing director for Siemens. NX 9 helps keep ‘em cutting.

NX 9’s Interactive Cut Region Management utilizes a graphical user interface (GUI) for increasing programming efficiency—up to 40% faster for some complex parts—and for more precisely controlling machining. Machinists can review cut regions, edit and merge them, and reorder them as necessary to create large regions of a part that can be machined in a smooth, continuous toolpath. The result, says Aaron Frankel, Siemens’ director of product marketing, is “better surface finishes and machining performance without lifting the tool and moving it around as much.” 

NX also has what Siemens calls “divide toolpath.” This approach lets machine programmers set up a series of toolpaths based on the length of tools involved. “Programmers save their longer tools for only the very deep areas that need to be machined,” explains Frankel. “Longer tools are less stable; they tend to vibrate and give you lower-quality surface finishes.” A new multiple-part programming capability lets a machinist program a part, and then “distribute” that toolpath to the other parts on the setup. Estimates Frankel, a setup with six identical parts can be programmed up to four times faster by reusing the machining sequences. Another new capability of note is that NX 9’s coordinate measuring machine inspection programming now supports sheet metal parts. Not only can edge geometries be measured with touch or laser-scanning probes, there are also options to define an offset from the edge and to automatically create relative measurements on adjacent faces.