ZW3D vs CATIA Lesson 2
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 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 many ZW3D 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. 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.

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.

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 Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based modeling, 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?

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

We open a Part/Assembly and call it MASTER ROD

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 with descriptive geometry as you would to on a drafting board. It seems to be much easier. I never put in a fillet that can be created later. What do you think?

We also start with a sketch on the XZ plane.

We will start creating the sketch by using entities to set up the basic construction for my sketch, as you can see I do no constrained sketching. I call this StreamLined Sketching.

We will add our tangent arcs.

We now just trim/extend and delete the unnecessary entities.

We mirror the entities and trim. If you watch the CATIA Video the presenter stops here creates the half solid and continues. This such a simple sketch I have no idea why. I was more complicated to do what he did.

We now will extrude mid-plane.

We create anther sketch at XZ plane go to the sketch. We create the two diagonal lines by using the existing graphics then extend to the circle and add the rectangle.

We just trim as shown and are ready to go to extrude remove.

We just extrude from mid-point and remove.

We are done with the basic shape and just add the fillet. We can now add the boss in the middle. We insert a primitive cylinder at X0Y0Z0 and locate and size it and set it to add.

Now we do the same thing for the hole. But this time we locate it a the center of the block, it is already set to 70m, we just need to set it to remove.

Now for the four 10m holes. We just use the hole feature and select the center of the tabs. Mirroring seems like a silly process for such few entities.

Now create sketch on the XY plane and go to the plane. We create a vertical line at X0Y0Z0, create an offset line create the arc.

We do our trim and when there are blue dot we know the sketch is ready. Nope, not one constraint.

We exit the sketch and extrude the shape.

We mirror the feature and add the boss at the end by inserting a primitive cylinder locating and sizing it.

We insert another primitive cylinder in the center of the new cylinder size and set to remove.

Now we just have the slot left. We create a sketch the outside face and activate it.

We exit the sketch and extrude the slot.

We mirror the slot and add the fillets and we are done. I can't imagine hundreds of Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream and Bombardier designers struggling with CATIA and constrained sketching only. I can tell you moving to StreamLined Sketching and Feature Base modeling would increase productivity 5X with conceptual design and 10X with changes. The only constant in engineering is change.

Since we didn't have a drawing we will now create the AID(Associated Information Document).

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

All You Wanted to Know About Drawing to 3D Conversions

Here is the AID (drawing). How would you do this part.

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.