3D Modeling Techniques
IronCAD Lesson Four
Top Down or In-Context Modeling
Streamlined Sketching/Feature Based Modeling

3D Modeling is the basis for our engineering. That is the only place where productivity is paramount. You can have all the PLM/MBE gurus debating data management, but it does not add one smidgeon of productivity to the design process.

Top down or In-Context modeling is the most productive feature of 3D CAD. Most systems tout this but each part is still an external part. We are talking about a single model of multi-object design environment. Both of the systems we represent offer this as the "normal" design process. Thereby increasing your productivity 20 to 30%.

In these exercises I not only focus on modeling techniques, but also on much more productive systems to do our designs. I hope you enjoy them and learn something. If you are in management, understand that all 3D CAD systems are not the same. Cutting your engineering costs is very simple. Even your legacy data is not a problem. Please feel free to give me a call. There are millions of man hours wasted every day with poor modeling techniques and dated 3D CAD systems that cost a fortune. Productive 3D CAD systems do not have to be expensive.

Joe Brouwer

I am doing the below assembly for an exercise showing my modeling techniques and, of course, my 3D CAD solutions.

3D CAD Modeling Techniques

When I introduce IronCAD's very flexible design paradigm I have a hard time to get the Pro/e clone users, like Solidworks and other programs to understand the drag and drop design paradigm.

I saw the following video challenges on linkedin and thought I would give it a try on IronCAD. This will give you an idea how different and flexible IronCAD is compared to the conventional Pro/e clone. These exercises have become incredibly popular and I have follow up by showing more examples of this 3D modeling technique!

IRONCAD vs Fusion 360

IronCAD vs Solidworks

ZW3D vs Creo

ZW3D vs NX


ZW3D vs Inventor

These exercises started out to show the benefits of IronCAD over these systems, but quickly turned into a study of modeling techniques. Take a look at all of them, they will open your eyes to a much different and more productive way of modeling. It really has more to do with modeling technique than it has to do with the 3D CAD systems. I have found that I do 3D modeling as compared to the conventional 2D sketching. Of course, having a more productive 3D CAD system doesn't hurt.

These exercises were incredibly popular and I thought I would follow up by showing more examples of this 3D modeling technique.

We will be doing a couple of parts each weekend in both IronCAD and ZW3D. I hope you enjoy these exercises and hopefully they may lead to increasing your productivity.

Please feel free to review the prior lessons:

3D Modeling Techniques IronCAD Lesson One

3D Modeling Techniques IronCAD Lesson Two

3D Modeling Techniques IronCAD Lesson Three

We have a couple more parts to add to our assembly. The true single model environment is by far the most productive feature in 3D CAD. Watch how easy it is to design parts in context or top down.

We are going to model the Shaft. First we create a configuration called "Shaft". With  a single model environment this is how you differentiate the parts for detailing and viewing assemblies. You can have any level of configuration. This is much better than using levels as it is done in other single model environment programs.

With the extrusion wizard we establish a plane on the mating face and project the mating edge on to the plane and select stand alone to create the new part. We do not concern ourselves with sizing it now, we can push/pull it to the correct length later.

We select okay and push/pull the shaft to the correct length.

We put the groove on the bottom by drag and dropping a hole block on the end of the shaft. We size it by editing the handles.

We are done with the Shaft and now for the Yoke, and I am not Yoking, LOL. We drag and drop a cylinder on the end face of the shaft with the right mouse button that allows you to select a new part, locate and size it.

Note: The catalog is so incredibly powerful, its productivity can not be denied.

We hide the shaft and drop another cylinder on the center of the face of the last cylinder and size it.

Now we just drag and drop a hole cylinder on to the center of the face of the cylinder and size it.

We will now drag a hole block on  to the face and size it.

While the whole block is active we turn on the triball, hit the spacebar, which allows locating the triball only for the next step.

Note: The triball was the first feature, part and assembly manipulator. Even though many programs offer this function, none have come close to this very productive, even though simple, very sophisticate tool. IronCAD, if anything else, is a very clever program.

We hit the spacebar again making the triball functional. We select the inside axis with the right button and select mirror link. This copies the feature and links it, so any changes to either will be reflected in both.

We hide the shaft again and drag and drop the hole and size it.

We add the blends and create the hole again using the triball. We drop it on any face and rotate it and move it into place and pull it through both features. Notice the axis that is highlighted, there is not system as flexible as IronCAD for manipulating features, parts and assemblies.

Add a few blends and we are done with the yoke. I will unhide the shaft.

Ooops, the yoke needs to be rotated 90 degrees. No problem, using the triball it is a snap.

Now for the Coupling Ring. We drag and drop a sphere, using the right mouse button with the option to create a new part, locate it and size it.


We drag and drop a hole block on to the face of the sphere.

I comes in catawampus, but no problem.  As I have been telling you the Triball is truly incredible. I was still learning things about it years after I started using IronCAD over 20 years ago. We just turn on the triball and right click inside the circle and select "Orient Triball to global" and viola!! It is ready to push/pull into the correct shape and location. This is huge!

I will size the block and mirror link it.

I drag and drop a hole from the catalog. Tools>custom hole. I drag it on to the center of the face of the part. I know this all seems very strange to you Solidworks clone users but it is the way of the Force! Yes, you have a completely different mind set when it comes to modeling. It is like a completely new dimension of freedom.

We just take the hole and locate and link the other holes with again, the fantastic Triball. I can not tell you powerful this one feature is.

Now drag and drop a hole cylinder to the center of the faces and size it.

Note: IronCAD has common points that you can drag and drop. Center and mid points and ends to make it very easy for locating the feature, part or assembly.

You can custom catalogs where you can drag and drop feature, parts and assemblies from the scene (workspace) into the catalog. It is called a scene because IronCAD started out as a graphic design program called Trispective. This fact alone, make IronCAD much more than some engineering design program.

IronCAD has a modeling only package that offers many in the companie access to the engineering models for a variety of reasons.

Leverage Your Engineering Data - Sales, Publication and Marketing

We are done with the Coupling ring. now for the screw. We drag and drop a cylinder onto the face of the yoke for orientation only. We size it and drag another on top and size it, drag a hole block and size it for the driver groove. We add some cosmetic threads and we are done.

We locate the screw and rotate and link using the Triball. Oops I noticed that the hole in the yoke was incorrect. No problem we just select the feature in the scene and edit it. Notice how easy it is to correct small or even large errors on the fly.

Now, using the triball we link a new yoke. We rotate and locate it. Notice we now have 3 new linked screws and one yoke in the history.

Now for the tapered pin. Just drag and drop a cone with the right mouse button an select new part. We can now edit the cross section. Remember that all of the drag and drop shapes are based on editable sketches. This is such an easy way to make a revolved part. I am shocked that drag and drop was not implemented in the Solidworks clones. I am still wondering why anyone stays with that dated paradigm.

Now we will edit the cone by deleting the existing graphics. We will project mating edges for actual construction and reference.

All I do is select okay and I have a new part, Coupling Pin. I rename the part in the history and create a coupling pin configuration.

The shaft, yoke and pin are actually a inseparable assembly. So we will create the assembly in the scene browser (history tree)

Now for the check nut. I am sure most of you have got the idea. I drag and drop a cylinder locate and size it, drag and drop a hole block locate and sized it, rotate and link. Then drag and drop a threaded hole.

With the triball we will link a new check nut in place and rotate it for clarity.

The last part the Key. We drag and drop a cylinder and make the appropriate cuts.

We are done with all the parts we are going to create.

We can use the existing exploded view to move the other parts into place with the triball.

I am going to detail these parts in one sheet. Ironcad allows all of the parts to be detailed in one document. Great for one person doing an assembly.

Here is the original. I did add some dims that were not defined.

Now for lesson Five:

3D Modeling Techniques IronCAD Lesson Five

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