ZW3D vs CATIA Lesson 1
3D Modeling Techniques Defined
With 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.

See this done in IronCAD!

I am not sure if it is due to these exercises but I have replaced a few Creo, Solidworks and Fusion 360 with ZW3D. Listen to what these two fellows said.


"We spoke a year and a half or so ago about ZW3D. I took the Autodesk Fusion 360 but am becoming increasingly unhappy with it… It’s not very productive for me, just too slow and cumbersome to get things done quickly. On on the strength of your recommendations I am ready to give ZW3D Standard a shot, probably as a rental for the first year.

Bottom line is, Fusion 360 is “free” but not really free… I am finding that the slow, clumsy pace of design with it is counterproductive… time is money."

Thanks much,



The initial hull design was done in Rhino, which for some reason is a standard in the boat industry.

The surface already had a few problems!

It was imported into Fusion 360 and I did some of the early concept design work, but when it came to surfacing I hit road blocks every way I tried it.

At this time Phil was not part of the project, but I suggested to my client that we needed Phil's help. Phil also hit road blocks in Fusion 360 even using some of his unique re-topologizing workflows and T-Splines.

The rest is history, as they say. 

Thanks to ZW3D paired with Phil’s surfacing skills we now have tooling for the hull created.

You should see the images.

Perfectly smooth reflections! 


I saw the following CATIA YouTube tutorial and thought I would give it a try on ZW3D. 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, Solidworks, NX and Creo. This modeling paradigm is used throughout the industry causing millions of wasted hours.

I was a bit surprised to see a bit of direct editing in CATIA. ZW3D includes robust direct edit functionality. Direct editing should not be used haphazardly especially in a history based systems where every face move is a step! He should have organized the features better so this was not needed.

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.

You can see I did the part in a different order so I would not have to do any direct edit modification.

You can see many ZW3D comparisons in the following article

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

CATIA Tutorial 10 -Pump Body

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. ZW3D is all top down due to the multi-object design environment. Creating mating parts is a cruise. But modeling is just one aspect of a well designed productive 3D CAD system.

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


ZW3D is very similar to CATIA and the Pro/e clones with differences that make it much more streamlined. It is very easy for those users to get up and running with ZW3D. The unique benefits over the other systems is the multi-object environment with the integrated drawing. You can do complete projects (parts, assemblies and drawings) in one file.

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.

The modeling technique is hugely responsible for the level of productivity. Those of you that are only trained in the constrained sketching world are truly limited by not using the freedom of feature based design, that is available in even the most Pro/e-ish of CAD systems. If 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?

ZW3D is a history based system with planes, but it also has primitive shapes to increase your productivity. It seems to me watching this CATIA exercises that there is no concern for simplifying the process and increase design productivity. Most of us do engineering design and have schedules to meet. Not only do these more productive modeling techniques and a productive system increase design speed it allows us to meet our goals much easier. Especially with changes.

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.

Here is ZW3D. It is set to mm so let's get started

We open a Part/Assembly and call it PUMP BODY

These have actually turned into exercises in modeling techniques as compared to showing a more productive CAD system. Again, I say there are many different ways to model a part. I see with my exposure to direct edit modelers like CADKEY, I rarely sketch like you see the CATIA fellow doing. I have always created my basic sketches by mostly creating offsets and trimming or extending. It seems to be much easier. I never put in a fillet that can be created later. What do you think?

I will start my part a bit differently with the top flange by inserting a  Center/Height block primitive shape and sizing it. I will locate the top middle at X0Y0Z0. This will make modeling this part much simpler. Setting up you model correctly will save you time and frustration. You can see in the CATIA presentation it was done much differently.

I will insert another Center/Height primitive block, size and locate it and set it to add.

We will add the fillets. I turned on the hidden lines to get to the edges that are not shown.

We can now use the centers of the fillets to put in our M10 holes. I will put all of my holes in at once which is easy in ZW3D. The CATIA presenter had to create a point, insert the hole and then pattern.

We are done with the top feature for now. We put locate a Cylinder primitive on the mid-point of the lower edge of the lower face and set the offset of 102/2 from X0Y0Z0 and set it to add.

I could have created the large cylinder with a sketch but we are focused on Feature Based Modeling. We will create a line for a reference point for our first boss. We locate a primitive cylinder on the face of the large cylinder and a the end of the line an size the cylinder and set it to add.

Using the pattern feature we create the other boss.

We will now add the top center hole. We locate a Center/Height block at X0Y0Z0, you can now see the advantage of how important setting up the model is. It is not just speed of modeling but creating well modeled parts.

We put in the fillets.

We locate a cylinder primitive at the center of the large cylinder and size it and set it to remove. We also hid the line. It was a wireframe entity.

We create the two M10 holes in the center of the bosses. The CATIA presenter seemed to have problems with this step.

We just mirror the M10 holes using the XZ plane

Again staying with Feature Based modeling we create the base by inserting a Corner Primitive block at X0Y0Z0 and locating it.

We finish sizing it and set to add.

Now we have to do a sketch. We set it to the front face of the base.

We reference the geometry we are going to use in our sketch.

We unlink our referenced geometry add our circles and trim. No constraints!

We exit the sketch and extrude setting to add.

We have another sketch this time we will set it at the XZ plane.

We create our reference geometry.

We unlink our reference geometry and create our offset and angled line.

We trim our geometry to complete our sketch. Again no constraints. We will not put the fillet in at this time. You should never sketch fillets if you do not need to.

We exit the sketch and extrude.

We create the fillet and create the sketch on the XZ plane for the slot.

We create the reference geometry and unlink it.

I created offset on the diagonal line 12.5mm, extended that line to the bottom line, I offset the bottom line 38mm and deleted the bottom line, and created another 57mm line from the end of the new diagonal line, created a vertical line at the mid-point of that line and mirrored copy the diagonal line.

We trim the geometry to get the completed sketch. No constraints.

We exit the sketch and extrude setting to remove.

We put in our fillets.

We add our M20 hole on the bottom face located at X0Y0Z, remembering how important it is to setting your model up right in the beginning

We are done with the part.

The AID (drawing)

ZW3D is one of the few 3D CAD systems that has an integrated AID. Imagine how that would simplify the PDM system.

3D model and AID for this part! One File!

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, can increase productivity 10X. Now, ZW3D with its unique history and robust 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 Modeling Techniques Defined

To experience this increased level of productivity, please download ZW3D for a 30 day evaluation. Legacy data is no problem, ZW3D can read the native files of all of the popular programs including the PMI data of NX, Solidworks, Catia and Creo. ZW3D is a great replacement for the subscription only Autodesk and PTC products.

For more information or to download ZW3D

Give me a call if you have any questions. I can set up a skype or go to meeting to show this part or answer any of your questions on the operation of ZW3D. It truly is the Ultimate CAD/CAM System.

Joe Brouwer

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

We sell and support IronCAD and ZW3D Products and
provide engineering services throughout the USA and Canada!

 Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

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.