3D Modeling Techniques Defined
Streamlined Sketching/Feature Based Modeling

The modeling technique is hugely responsible for the level of productivity. Those of you that are only trained in the constrained sketching world of the major CAD systems are truly limited by not using the freedom of Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based Design, that is available in even the most Pro/e-ish of CAD systems. If you or your designers are designing in these very unproductive and time consuming processes it might be time to review your standard design processes. Don't have any do you?

These lessons started out as product comparisons, but quickly turned into a study in 3D modeling techniques.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

See this done in ZW3D

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.

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I saw the following CATIA YouTube tutorial and thought I would give it a try on IronCAD. I have to tell you it is almost tortuous to watch the CATIA presenter. CATIA is a constrained sketched based system as are Fusion 360, NX, Inventor, Solidworks and Creo. This modeling paradigm is used throughout the industry causing millions of wasted hours.

I have to say the CATIA presenter struggle with such a simple part. I cannot imagine the wasted time CATIA is creating for companies like Boeing, Bombardier, Airbus, Gulfstream, Chrysler and so many more.

The CATIA interface is cluttered and confusing.

The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why

Effective, easy to use part modeling is the basis for all engineering productivity.

The order of Design in IronCAD should be Drag and Drop, Sketching, Direct Edit and finally Surfacing if required.

You can see many IronCAD comparisons in the following article

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

Catia Tutorials - Design of Master Rod part_1


While creating 3D models from a drawing is the very best way to learn 3D CAD and maybe some design techniques is does not expose the designer to the design flexibility necessary in product design. IronCAD is all top down due to the single model environment. Creating mating parts is a cruise. But effective modeling is just one aspect of a well designed productive 3D CAD system.

The AID (drawing) is at the end of this article if you would like to try this lesson.


I would do a video, but I really am not good at it. So I will show you step by step. I will try and get ZW3D support to create one. They are very good.

I usually create the part before I watch the Video, so as to not taint my process, but this time there was no drawing so I had to suffer through this presentation getting the dimensions. Of course, there are a multitude of ways to create a model. There is no right way, just more productive ways. But from what I have seen from these very complicated processes done by the CATIA presenter, it is not just limited by the 3D CAD system.

I have to say this is incredibly simple. But the CATIA presenter has been indoctrinated into these designs techniques. It started with Pro/e (Creo) and has been the way the sketch, constrain and assemble. The Solidworks clones are costing the industry millions, if not billions, in lost productivity.

I actually created this part by studying the CATIA presenters video since there was no drawing. It was a bit torturous. But I finally got it modeled and then created a fully detailed AID (drawing) and did it again to optimize the modeling process. I had to refined it to a bit better designed model. You can see by the AID it is a very simple part as compared to the poor CATIA user. Sadly, we can model anything. But I believe all CAD engineers should understand basic machining to be a good designer and modeler to provide inspectable documentation.

CNC Machining Design Guide

Here is IronCAD. We will set the units to millimeters.

IronCAD has two sketching features

The Standalone that allows you to sketch and save the sketch at any level of completion, this is used when creating a complex sketch or when importing .dxf or .dwg to use to make 2D into 3D.

The sketch wizards instantly turn extrusions and spins into a solid model so the sketch has to be correct. You use this when creating new features or part by projecting mating edges.

We will start by creating a standalone sketch on the YZ plane.

We will look into the plane and put in a few lines to use for reference.

We offset copy some lines to locate our first circles.

I delete the reference graphics.

The Catia fellow locks an arc to locate the angled edges. Now this is fine for a CAD jockey I have to think about how this part is going to be documented.

Do I will defined this edge by offsetting two lines and set their length. We connect the ends and extend the line. We create two arc with two tangent and a point.

We clean up the extraneous graphic by deleting or trim/extend. We select the graphics to mirror. I don't understand why the Catia fellow only created half and then mirrored the solid. I feel in this case it was easier to create the complete sketch there are so few entities.

We mirror and add the last arc, trim and extend. If you look at the CATIA presenters end arc it was not tangent. Even when we are doing examples we should focus on correct part design.

I add the hole in the middle for reference later. The difference between a CAD jockey and a designer is the consideration of the documentation.

We are done with the sketch. 

We now select the sketch and create extrude to the 42m.

Now for the center cut we create a standalone sketch on the YZ plane. Project the lines and offset the circle and create a rectangle to create the cut out sketch.

We will extrude and set to remove from the existing solid.

We now need to add the 190m blends.

We now add the center boss and hole by dragging and dropping a cylinder then a hole cylinder from the catalog and size them. You can see I have enabled the catalog so you can see it. Usually it is hidden for more scene landscape.

What are these shapes? We call them intellishapes. All are based on sketches that can be edited.

IronCAD was first released as Trispectives a graphic design package and they called the workspace the scene.

We now add the side cuts by dragging a hole block locating and size it. We mirror using the Triball and link it.


We add the fillet in the cut and on the end boss and were are ready our end boss and hole.

We drag and drop and cylinder on end and size it. Then drag and hole cylinder to the center of the boss and size it.

We add the blend and drag and drop a slot on a center point and size it.

We mirror link the slot with the Triball.

We add the 10m holes by dragging and dropping a hole cylinder on the center of one of the tabs.

We use the Triball to link the hole to the center of the other tabs and we are done.

Here is the final part. We did two sketches, the poor Catia presenter made this part so much more complicated. I can't imagine hundreds of Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream and Bombardier designers struggling with CATIA and constrained sketching only.

Since we didn't have a drawing we will now create the AID. IronCAD has a separate documentation module. Since IronCAD is a Single Model Design Environment we can have complete projects in two files.

But if you have the job of converting drawings to 3D you have to create a drawing to check to see it the model is correct.

All You Wanted to Know About Drawing to 3D Conversions

Here is the AID (drawing)

It is very important that you look into how you or your engineers are creating the parts. Streamline Sketching and Feature Based Modeling is easy to learn and implement. It, alone, will increase productivity 10X. Now, IronCAD with its unique integrated history/direct edit functionality can increase your productivity another 5X or more with changes! Again, time is money in engineering.

More on Streamline Sketching and Feature Based Modeling.

3D CAD Modeling Techniques

To experience this increased level of productivity, please download IronCAD for a 30 day evaluation. Legacy data is no problem, IronCAD can read the native files of all of the popular programs. IronCAD is a great replacement for the subscription only Autodesk and PTC products.

Give me a call if you have any questions. I can set up a skype or gotomeeting to show this part or answer any of your questions on the operation of IronCAD. It truly is the very best conceptual 3D CAD system.

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If you are interested in adding professional hybrid modeling capabilities or looking for a new solution to increase your productivity, take some time to download a fully functional 30 day evaluation and play with these packages. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions or would like an on-line presentation.