A browser built into Wildfire keeps users connected and collaborating. For new users, it also opens access to the Menu Mapper and tutorials.

 

Drag handles, another addition, lets user easily make model changes without making a menu selection.

 

Feature Highlight in Wildfire reveals more about underlying geometry when users pass the cursor over it. In this case, the software says that the curved surface is labeled F29 and includes geometry described by the wire frame.

 

Geometry Preview shows what the square post will look like before it's added to the existing part. It can be accepted or resized. The Dashboard, the few icons at the screen bottom, deliberately looks simple. From these few selections, users can make a wide range of model changes.

In a nutshell, the improvements include a great user interface, the ability to import lots of data formats, and modeling flexibility unavailable anywhere else.

The first thing users notice when launching the software is the total redesign of the user interface. The Navigator area on the left displays files such as the Model Tree, Folder Browser, and administration information. The center of the display launches a Web browser (when connected to the Internet) with direct links to PTC support for Wildfire. This area has tutorials for Wildfire and the Menu Mapper. Long time Pro/E users will find this invaluable because it maps the old (2001) menu commands to the new ones. A reference card quickly brings users up to speed on the new interface. I was building parts with the new interface options just a day or two after loading the release. By clicking on the sash controls (small arrows on the sides of the navigator and browser windows) users can toggle between the Navigator and Browser window displays. Hiding the Browser clears the screen for modeling.

This philosophy of putting tools and information where needed makes the software innovative. A big plus and unadvertised benefit lets users run the display space at full screen. This means that on a 19-in. monitor, users get about a 20% increase in modeling area because there is no need for extensive menus.

Users need no longer select multiple menus because they have been replaced by single-pick icon commands. These let users create geometry profiles then decide which options best apply. The flexibility is in making modeling decision where they apply most.

Users will also see about a 30% reduction in feature-creation time. For example, in the 2001 release, users had to decide what type of geometry to create, such as a solid or a cut. After generating geometry, there was no way to redefine it as anything other than what was initially selected. So users could not change a protrusion (which added material) to a cut (which removed material). Wildfire allows this type of design decision at anytime. A cut can become a solid and a solid can become a cut. Also, all feature-creation options are conveniently located in the Dashboard, a simplified user interface of often-used features. Another plus is the instant geometry preview as it is being created. It lets users see design characteristics as they apply options.

Another enhancement is live feature highlighting. As the cursor passes over a feature, an on-screen display tells more about it. And the new color scheme seems a bit easier on the eyes.

The software imports everything from scanned data to translated CAD files, some as obscure as point data from hospital MRI equipment. This capability for handling point clouds comes from embedding the former CDRS software for reverse engineering.

Improvements also show up in part modeling. Assembly and drawing enhancements are not as extensive but still significant. It took a while to get comfortable with new mouse features, but they seem more efficient and work best with a three button mouse with a scroll wheel.

One change I'd make would prevent users from turning the Intent Manager off. It streamlines the task of constraining geometry during profile sketching. The developer has made such improvements to the Intent Manager that it really helps user proficiency. Turning the Intent Manager off gives users a less-automated method of constraining geometry, thus lowering productivity.

The basic Wildfire retails for $4,995 and provides a good range of design capability. The company offers a range of add-on modules such as Pro/Mechanica for stress analysis, Advanced Assembly Extension for large assemblies, and the Advanced Surface Extension for complex surfaces.

Pro/E Wildfire comes from PTC Inc., 140 Kendrick St., Needham, MA 02494, (781) 370-5000, www.ptc.com

- Dennis Stephen


Dennis Stephen (dlsams@bellsouth.net) is president of Plantation Key Design Inc., a design firm that covers a wide range of support and projects. He has over 27 years of engineering experience in several industries and teaches PTC software to all level of users.