Blender and Solid Edge

Hi All!

This is my first post on this forum so if this is the wrong place then let me know and move it:) Also, please don’t criticize me for not looking at all the tutorials on how to do something or not, I’m just trying to figure out if I should use Blender or another.

Anyway, for those of you who know what Solid Edge is you’re probably wondering what on Earth Solid Edge has to do with pretty much anything in this thread, especially since the two programs are in one way or another, completely unrelated. As an engineering student and student researcher I use Solid Edge almost everyday for CAD modeling, simulations, basic rendering and for part fabrication. Solid Edge is more or less a CAD package for engineers and the like which can do anything from stress analysis to thermal simulations. And that’s great! But I need something else and since you all now know a little about Solid Edge maybe you can help me.

I need to set up a presentation/promo video and I would like the best simulations and graphics I can get. Solid Edge is great because I can do simulations and I can do rendering, however, the rendering is pretty darn limited(unless I have the $$), and the simulations are pretty limiting because I can only make the part move(like a piston in action) but I can’t really have my part(maybe a missile for example) moving through terrain, etc.

So here’s the question(s). I would like, if possible, to use Blender(cost effective :p) to do my intense rendering. And since I have to design everything in Solid Edge for all the engineering analysis, it would be better if I can import parts into Blender(I can make a huge variety of extension files), how possible is this? I need dimensions to be the same. Also, how controllable are animations in Blender, if I have a multi-part piece, and all the parts need to work together(car engine for example) then is this doable? Also, can I import what we call “assembly files” into Blender? An assembly file is a bunch of files which use directories of other files. And one more thing, since I don’t know too much about Blender, can you make one part in Blender and import it into another part in Blender.

I know it seems like a lot that I need to do, but once I finally pick a program I’ll be doing 8-10 hours a day of just the program, so hopefully I can pic it up pretty quick.

Anyway, I appreciate the help. Looks like a good community going on in this forum and it seems like a pretty good program.

Le Aeronautical

Blender does great with obj import, preserving UV’s, FBX is good too AFAIK.
You can also import multiple objects as a single mesh and separate it easily in edit mode…currently blender uses blender units, so…I am uncertain about them…I believe 1 BU = 1 meter…
in earnest you may be better off doing searches for each issue you need to overcome separately.

side note: animation in blender is fantastic in comparison to SE, and most packages out there.

Short answer (a.k.a. tl;dr): You can’t (not directly).

Long answer: Solid Edge doesn’t provide a direct way to export the parasolids into any kind of mesh that blender can import, so you’re pretty much out of luck. There are some plugins that allow solid edge to export to wavefront OBJ though (you have to pay ± US$200 for this.). This will allow you to export almost everything in a format that blender can understand and use. (Join, contrains data, animation data and Nurbs objects would be an exception, i’m using SE 15, don’t know about lastest version)

Solid edge provides a way to export all the data to dwg format, but this would convert to ACIS objects, so you need AutoCAD to read them and convert them to 3ds format to be exported to Blender (This is possible, but isn’t cost effective). Be aware that 3ds format support in Blender is reverse enginered, so you will need to do some mesh cleaning. Animation data is lost and Nurbs objects are a no-go in 3ds format. (AutoCAD will convert them to meshes, but the 3ds importer is not mature enough to import them correctly. (result is unpredctable)).

Animating mechanical objects in Blender is not particularly hard, buy you should get familiar with the constrain system in Blender which is not particularly hard, but somewhat confusing and sometimes, unpredictable. But trust me, it rewards in the end.

Can’t give any real example since i work under NDA, but if you have 8-10 hours a day to do this work, you will learn pretty quickly how to do the work with Blender.



I am a mechanical drafter working in the automotive industry (at least until I finish my bachelor’s degree) and I use blender all the time for visualizations and simulations at work. We model all out parts in Autodesk Inventor here. I am able to get those models into blender pretty easy. Inventor allows for saving in the .stl format which blender can open without even the use of a script. The models come in nice and assembled. If solidedge offers a save as .stl you’ll be in business.

The bad thing about taking drafting models into any animation software is that drafting software models with nurbs. The conversions I’ve used (maybe there’s another I don’t know about) converts the nurbs models into meshes. Ugly ugly meshes. Not to say meshes are ugly, just these. They all end up looking like spider webs and have WAY more polies than you actually need. This equates to longer than needed render times, odd aritfacts from the messed up normals, and just general ickiness (or maybe I am just picky).

Anyhow, I think 3ds max (blech) can import .step files and you can get a 30 trial for free. You can then export to .obj files to inport to blender. If this is only a short term, one time project then this would be the easiest option if .stl saving isn’t available.

Ditto GGentzel on using STL for transferring your CAD data. I’ve done it with SolidWorks, Inventor and CATIA V5. I would guess that SE has an STL output (unless stargeizer has experienced otherwise.)

Yes, the geometry that comes in does get “polygon-ized” into mesh objects, since blender’s NURBS functions are still a work in progress. However, here are some basic default tricks to apply to your imports to helps to clean things up:

    • with your imported object selected, hit the TAB-key to enter edit mode, select all the vertices using the a-key toggle, then use the W-key menu and click “remove doubles”. Most of the time STL imports a “double” mesh with faces on both sides of each triangle of verts. “Removed Doubles” changes this to a single layer of faces.
    • you’ll then need to re-orient your face normals to face “outside” your objects mesh shell. Hit the ctrl-N key combo and click the “Recalculate Normals Outside” button that pops up. (Be sure to still be in edit mode with all verts selected.)
    • if you intend to use bones to deform your meshes, or if you intend to UV-map your meshes, you’ll want to convert them from triangles to quadrangles. The alt-j key combo will accomplish this, again with all selected in edit mode. Disclaimer: this step isn’t always necessary and may result in undesired topology.
    • lastly, you’ll want to enable the “set smooth” button on your selected mesh, as well as enabling the “Auto Smooth” button. This effects the smooth-vs-facetted appearance of your mesh for renders. Don’t be too concerned about how the set smooth makes your parts look in the realtime OpenGL display… this oddness isn’t necessarily carried over to the render output. If it is, then check your face normals to verify proper orientation.
      As to animating and simulating, much can be done in blender without using armatures. But if you do get into some complex relationships, such as an engine’s internals, you’ll likely have to resort to some more advanced techniques than just keyframing LocRotScale (i-key).

Cheers and good luck! Be sure to start up a WIP thread to keep us appraised of your progress! :smiley:

EDIT: I forgot to add: for assemblies, does Solid Edge have a function that will take an assembly and make a multi-body part out of it? I know both SolidWorks and CATIA have such a function - very handy for getting all the parts transferred into blender in one shot. Otherwise, check out LoboNZ’s batch STL script for multiple imports.

This might be less relevant to the OPs original question but… I’ve found that when dealing with imported models, particularly OBJs, that the EdgeSplit modifier can be a thing of beauty! And very, very tweakable.

Yes… Solid edge can export STL cad data, but only allows exporting of parts, not the complete assembly, so if the assembly uses too much parts, well… exporting 100+ parts can become very frustrating. Of course one always can manually create a part using an assembly, but this is a call for trouble. I do wish that siemens fix this, but i don’t think they will.

Blender don’t import nurbs, since 3ds, stl, obj are mostly meshes format, and any nurbs objects are converted, but well… exporting a nurbs object from autocad/solid edge usually gives anything except what one wants… never knew why…

About animating mechanical parts, what usually i do, is to represent the mechanism with empties and basic planes in a separate layer, constain these and make the meshes follow the mechanical movement of the empties. Of course this requires that every part is separated into differents objects, but is easier.

Regards, and sorry my bad english.

CorsairX, thanks for this tip. I may tinker with this when I encounter “oddness” in my imported meshes at the boundary of a flat surface and a fillet or round - particularly on cylindrical-type parts.

stargeizer, thanks for the info on Solid Edge - I’ve not played with that app since an eval version in '01 (and its blender-compatibility was not even part of the equation then…), altho I do like their free 2D CAD app. Nice.

One tip I forgot to mention on the assembly-to-part-to-STL-to-blender workflow: one can easily separate all these imported parts back into individual objects via the P-key command, again in edit mode - and there’s several sub-options there.

There’s been talk of an openNURBS I/O function as a part of the Nurbana update thats presently ongoing. Would be cool, but more CAD apps would have to support it as well b4 it became valuable to many blenderheads.

Hey guys! Thanks for the discussion. I’m sorry my own post is so late. But I’ll take it all into consideration. I’m definitely sticking with Blender. Once I get a good hang of the program I’ll start posting more.


-Le Aeronautical