PTC Creo 3.0

06 August 2014

With the release of Creo, PTC looked to refresh and revamp its legendary 3D design system, Pro/Engineer, with new technology and a new approach. We look at how the Creo vision is being realised

Product Creo 3
Company name PTC
Price On application

When PTC decided to drop the Pro/Engineer brand, it took many by surprise.

Users are increasingly asking for the ability to work with data generated in other systems

For all it’s ups and downs over the years, from storming success in the early 90s to losing out to SolidWorks’ market domination ten years later, Pro/Engineer has always been a well respected system. Why was that the case? Because it could get the job done and handle a level of complexity, whether of assembly or geometry, that few in the mainstream could match.

In 2010, Creo introduced the rebranding of the Pro/E line to bring in a vaguely redesigned user interface. But, perhaps more importantly, to introduce new technology for PTC’s customers.

Whether that’s greater capability to work with third party data, direct modelling, which got a boost with PTC’s acquisition of CoCreate in 2007, or sub division surface technology for complex organic surface modelling.

So, let’s explore where things are heading with the Creo 3 release cycle. A good place to start is the headline enhancement for Creo 3 — Unite Modeling.

Unite Technology

If you’ve followed the Creo launch activities over the last two years, you may remember heavy references being made to AnyData Adoption becoming one of the key tenets of Creo.

The concept being that, rather than going through the painful process of importing data from other systems, the native files are opened directly into Creo and used. With the release of Creo 3, this has been implemented for the first time, but under the new guise of Unite Modeling.

To appreciate what’s going on under the hood, it’s key to understand the traditional workflow. Using most other systems, the import process for data outside of the native format requires heavy processing and the end result is a set of native part and assembly files that contain that converted data.

This means that your CAD seat is essentially locked up while it translates and replicates that data.

What Unite does is shift this so that you’re not replicating the data by performing the translation on the fly.

Essentially, within Creo 3, you can open SolidWorks, NX and Catia files directly from the file system and Creo pops them into the current model.

That process doesn’t create Creo native data and maintains the links to the original. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s no translation; there most certainly is, but the process is masked from the user and the system links directly to the source file. This provides a couple of advantages.

The first is that, when combined with Creo’s existing tools to just open product structures (without the heavy geometry), you can get your data into the system, work out which you need and load just that.

Secondly, it means that if that source data is changed, you can quickly propagate design changes as the system should, assuming there is no massive topology changes, be able to track where you’ve referenced that data and built features from it. If not, it’ll flag up out of date features and references and let you resolve those design changes.

The new intelligent fasteners tool gives you full fastener stacks in a shorter space of time

Perhaps equally important, because the system is not performing a wholesale import and conversion of your data, those same design change abilities are available to parts or sub-assemblies within that original file.

For example, you import a gearbox from a supplier and work with it, building interface components, mounting brackets and such. Then, the supplier sends you a complete new assembly. Usually, this is a disaster. But the good news is that Creo is intelligent enough to work out that only a single gear set has changed and updates those parts in the master Creo assembly.

Traditionally, you’d have to re-import the whole thing to find that out — wasting a lot of time and effort.

There are also implications for design change management in a managed environment. If you consider the import of a sub assembly in, say, the automotive realm, this might include a master sub-assembly, files for any sub-assemblies and then a data file for each of the parts. That could range from 10s to 100s very easily. Then, using traditional tools, you need to convert those data files to Creo — essentially doubling the amount of managed data.

Then if you have design changes, you can double that again for each revision. It quickly stacks up. From now on, in Creo (and presumably, Windchill or PDM/Link), you have managed data for the source geometry and that’s it!

Of course the obvious question is: what if you edit any of that opened data? Here, the system flags up the fact that you’re editing non-native data and tells you that you’ll be converting that to Creo native geometry.

That creates a data file for that part and it’s business as usual.

To finish things up on the Unite technology front, it’s also worth noting that this addition also removes one of the limitations of Creo’s requirements when importing native geometry — in that you needed a license of the generating system on the same machine. From now on, you can import SolidWorks, Catia, NX as well as Solid Edge and Inventor files as usual (with full conversion) without the need for additional software.

Complex forms

For those that are engaged in the design of complex geometry, in terms of surface complexity, then Creo’s introduction of sub division surface modelling tools, is a great boon.

Starting out with a basic set of tools for creating the sub-division type primitive and editing, pushing and pulling them into shape, the tools have evolved over the last two releases to having a pretty decent set of capabilities.

They work in the manner you’d expect and are integrated into the Creo history tree as an explicit object, meaning that downstream, parametrically driven design work can be updated from the sub D form.

The big news for this release is the ability to match sub D geometry from Freestyle to analytic solid or surface geometry, with tangency and normal connection options at the model. This means that you can integrate the two types of geometry giving you much greater control and the ability to work with the geometry you have, rather than forcing you to do everything with sub Ds.

It’s also worth a quick recap of some of the updates that have been made to the surfacing tools in Creo at the same time. Creo and, before that, Pro/E, has always had a set of tools that are perfect for handling the creation of highly complex, but high quality surfaces — in the ISDX module as was.

What’s changed in the last couple of releases is that the systems’ tools have had an upgrade and, as with all things surfacing, it comes down to the quality of curves, from which the surfaces are built.

You can now create higher-order curves and surfaces, allowing for surfaces and surface connections.

Design exploration

Now, if you’re engaged in the earlier stages of design and are looking for a method of experimenting with form and function inside a managed data environment, then this next addition to Creo is going to be right up your street.

The Design Exploration Extension (DEX) allows you to take a set of geometry that might be already part of the data management process and step it sideways from the version/revision process and perform experimentation on it to try and solve an engineering challenge or design issue.

The Design Exploration Extension module gives you the ability to experiment with form and function

It accomplishes this by moving your starting geometry (if there is any) into the DEX environment. Here you can model, edit and experiment as you see fit. At any stages, you can save a check point to document the progress, ideas or concept you’ve developed.

You can add a title, a description and a string of keywords to assist with tracing those check points. You can then continue and create a series of check points that document the process of that idea. Interestingly, if you choose to step back to an earlier check point, you can rework an idea and save another check point. This then creates a branch in that development history and manages it as such.

All of these ideas, check points and the associated models are saved in a separate file, with the extension .TMZ. When you’ve got an idea you want to formalise and progress outside of this environment, you save out the part or assembly again and continue.

It might sound a little convoluted, but once you get your head around the idea, it’s potentially powerful. If you’re working in an industry where traceability and data management are key, if not mandated, then you don’t have much room to formalise your experimentation and conceptualisation.

What DEX does is allow you to do it but, by sidestepping this outside of that formal tracked environment, you can store all your thinking and experimentation, but without a massive burden on version management — you just manage that single TMZ file.

If you’re not in a managed environment, there are similar benefits, as it’s essentially an internally tracked journal and method of documenting your design ideas. It’s smart and worth investigation by almost every user.

Flex modelling

Moving onto more core updates, you can’t take a look at a major update to one of the leaders in the market without looking at some new modelling tools.

While the core set of Creo modelling tools are pretty much what you had in Pro/E, there are specific areas where there’s been a lot of work. One such area is in Flex Modelling.

Flex Modelling is PTC’s take on direct editing of geometry (à la CoCreate, SpaceClaim, Fusion etc.) but within the parametric world of Creo rather than a standalone application.  As such, it has uses for both imported and inherently dumb geometry just as it does with quick tweaks to complex history tracked parts native to Creo.

When it comes to direct editing, the devil is often in the detail or, more specifically in this case, the ability to control how the geometry you’re editing influences the geometry around it. To be able to use these approaches more effectively, you need to have a system that combines intelligence and awareness of the content of an edit.

For example, if you move a face that has fillets, chamfers or tangent faces built off it, you typically want those chamfers and fillets to move with it, rather than to extend. So the system has tools to detect that type of condition and maintain those features, with predictable results. Of course, you might want to make exactly that edit so you need to switch it off and then you can.

There are also changes to the editing of patterned features. In previous releases, you’d need to identify the seed feature that’s first in the tree, make those edits, then propagate them to the others in the pattern.

Now you can grab any of the instances, make the edits and have them propagated to the others.

Patterning with Flex Modelling has also been improved. You can now use the fill pattern across multiple faces (within a specific boundary) and have the system build, extend and trim the features to accommodate those different faces.

Flex Modelling is a curious set of tools these days where folks are looking for one or the other, as it mixes and matches the best of history based modelling with the ease of direct editing.

PTC, when it acquired CoCreate, got hold of some of the most mature direct modelling tools on the market.

What they’ve done since is integrate those tools into Creo in an intelligent manner, so that you get the best of both approaches — the power of history modelling combined with some of the highly intelligent direct editing tools.

Other core updates

Alongside these big updates, there’s always the smaller updates to each release that, while they don’t make the headlines, are most certainly worthy of a mention.

A good example is the work done to make the thickness analysis more accurate. Previous versions used a XYZ approach, which meant that, for more complex forms, the results could be a little off — as it was essentially slicing the model up using sections. The results could be fudged in previous releases using a ‘field point’ related work around.

The new thickness analysis tools give you a more accurate result

For Creo 3, this has been reworked. Now you can select the geometry, add in minimum and maximum values and it’ll show you where the part you’re analysing steps out of those limits.

This can be saved out, added into the feature tree as a feature so that any subsequent design changes will cause that analysis to run and you’ll be notified of any violations.

It’ll even work when you’re using the direct editing tools so you can see the influence of design changes in parts that have very specific requirements in terms of wall thickness (I’m thinking injection moulded or die stamped parts in particular).

Other smaller updates worth a mention include the ability to maintain fillet (or round) widths with the new Chordal options in the round command.

Another example is the work done on the patterning tools in both the regular, history-based modelling tools and also in Flex Modelling.

Creo (and before it, Pro/E) had some advanced pattern filling operations that have been ever popular with many users, giving more options and greater flexibility.

The issue was that to add additional features into an existing pattern (such as fillets perhaps) you needed to find the seed feature set.

From Creo 3 onwards, this limitation has been removed and features can be added to patterned objects and quickly propagated to all other instances in that pattern from any instances — not just the seed face.

Assembly modelling

To round things out, let’s look at a smaller, but useful update to the assembly modelling tools, specifically, instances where fasteners are required.

While there’s been a number of third party add-ons to assist with automating the build up of fastener stacks (bolts, washers, nuts etc.), these have always been an extra cost.

From Creo 3 onwards, these tools are built directly into the system so you pick the full fastener stack (nuts, bolts, washers lock rings etc.) then select the pattern of points you want to place them at and the system does the donkey work — adding in holes and threads where required.

Found in the Utilities tab, you’ve got screws (with the usually array of socket, caps, slotted etc.) and dowels. It’ll then perform some self filtering where needed (for example, selecting the closest standard bolt length to the conditions) or let you dial values in manually.


As stated at the outset, PTC made some pretty bold claims when it unveiled and subsequently began to deliver on its vision for Creo.

We’re now into the third release and all of the component parts are in place. The new Unite technology shows that it’s delivering on the AnyData Adoption concept and is looking to solve the use of third party data as part of complex design processes. This is as much about managing that data and reducing the burden on traceability as it is about pure geometry wrangling.

The transition of the wealth of technology in CoCreate is also moving ahead and this release shows that the tools found in the Flex Modelling area are maturing and evolving.

In short, this release shows that PTC is fulfilling its vision for Creo and doing so in an ordered and careful manner. If ever there was a time to look at the system, now would be it, as it’s maturing nicely.


Comments on this article:

*I have CREO 3. 
*opened STEP files from solid works.
*began a drawing with cad files.
*CREO will not create a section view with those files from solid works.

why ?
how do I fix ?

Posted by Phillip on Tuesday 10 2015 at 03:39 PM

Leave a comment

Enter the word you see below: