Revolutionizing Shape Design with NX Realize Shape


Getting a job done right requires vision, experience, and the right tools. In product design – especially initial product styling, where the look and feel of a product is flushed out – this often comes down to a creative and trained resource utilizing a collection of tools including hand sketches, preliminary form models from direct edit CAD programs, initial parametric models describing functional form, and advanced surfacing techniques to finalize the details.

Needless to say, the process can be cumbersome, requiring files from various systems be translated, and the overall time it requires can preclude a designer from trying multiple variations they might envision, in order to meet deadlines. Just as in every other downstream aspect of product design, finding processes, training, and or tools that allow us to cut overall design time gives us options and advantages that directly impact our bottom line.

In NX 9, Siemens introduced another great tool, NX Realize Shape, giving us a new sub-division modeling approach aimed at creating complex organic shapes (solids and surfaces) in an intuitive straightforward manner, without having to be a high-level surfacing expert.


What is Subdivision modeling? It is a method of creating complex 3D models that originated in the entertainment industry as a facet-based technology, where it was used to create environments and characters by studios such as Pixar. More recently, Siemens has implemented and updated the technology to produce NURBS output surfaces, meaning the solids and sheets created are not only of high quality, but they are now associative, editable, and suited for use by all downstream consumers of CAD data.

The basic workflow is that you use primitive shapes to begin with, such as a sphere, block, or cylinder, and NX builds a control cage around it. This cage, when manipulated, pulls vertices and edges of the geometry it is connected to. You can then subdivide polygonal elements of that primitive into further polygons. This creates greater control and refinement over the shapes details. The primitive is pushed, pulled, rotated and scaled into shape using intuitive onscreen inputs with instant shape feedback, allowing for optimal control sculpting the shape.

Tools are included in the Realize Shape environment that further allow the designer to take advantage of Symmetry in the model, bridge smoothly between dissimilar shapes, and create seamless cutouts and extrusions.  All of this makes Realize Shape a very capable tool for sure, but its real merit comes in its ease of use. Working in Realize Shape is akin to creating shapes in play dough or sculpting: it’s straightforward and, well, easy. Though I know my way around the NX CAD capabilities fairly well, and can understand the reason many of the advanced surfacing methods exist, I can honestly say I could never create the complex and smooth elements and bodies that I am able to produce in NX Realize Shape.

And that is truly where the opportunity with this tool abounds. Studies have shown that modelers are able to produce high-quality, complex shapes in 10% of the time compared to traditional methods. This means many more iterations are able to be made in a product’s styling early on, and due to the NURBS output, associativity, and editability of the model produced, late design changes will propagate seamlessly through the model and to any downstream consumers such as Manufacturing or Quality departments. It also means that a user can learn and utilize Realize Shape in their day-to-day work with minimal training. Additionally, new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing, where the traditional rules of manufacturability and design are being rewritten, thrive off of Realize Shape’s revolutionary approach to shape development.

NX Realize Shape is another great tool in Siemens’ integrated toolset, and whether used alone or in conjunction with the previously existing Feature, Synchronous, and Freeform modeling tools, it sets Siemens NX CAD apart from any other competitor in the industry.

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