ZW3D vs Inventor Lesson 1 Assembly
3D Modeling Techniques Defined
True Top Down Assembly/In Context Design
Separate Part Design
With Streamlined Sketching/Feature Based Modeling
In a Multi-Object Design Environment

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.

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 Inventor YouTube tutorial and thought I would give it a try on ZW3D. I have to tell you it is almost tortuous to watch the NX presenter. I have tried to do top down design in Solidworks and failed. Inventor is a bit better but all of these programs including Inventor create external parts. You will see a huge difference in ZW3D's multi-object design environment.

Inventor is a constrained sketched based system as are Fusion 360, Solidworks and Creo. In the following lessons you can see that this modeling paradigm is use throughout the industry causing millions of wasted hours.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

 Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise                 Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise
 Part 1-Base                                              Part 2-Jaw


Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise                  Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise
Part 3-Key                                                 Part 4-Screw


Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise                 Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise
Part 5-Handle Rod                                     Part 6-Handle Knob


Autodesk Inventor Tutorials Vise Part 7-Assembly  

Wasted Time?

I have never done this type of assembly modeling! ZW3D is designed for top down design! Not a marginal add-on feature! 

I was hired as a Sales/Tech for a company that wanted to provide the Autodesk Manufacturing Solution that was based on Inventor. So I started the included self tutorial and found it quite good. As you watch the presenter create each part separately, the Inventor tutorial actually introduced you to top down design which was quite functional, it still save the parts separate from the assembly, but you could use existing component to create new ones. You can see the benefits working with ZW3D it truly cuts the design time.

After I learned Inventor I went back to reintroduce myself to Solidwork to try some top down design. I was incredibly convoluted and I failed to get the results so easily delivered in Inventor.

The reference drawings are at the end of the lesson.

Assembly is the very best feature of ZW3D. With its multi-object design environment it offers the highest level of productivity. Watch how we use inserting primitive shapes with a minimum of sketching to complete this job in no time. Se how easy it is to manipulate parts and an assemblies in a 3D space.

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 environment. Creating mating parts is a cruise. But modeling is just one aspect of a well designed productive 3D CAD system.

ZW3D vs Inventor

ZW3D is very similar to Inventor 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.

ZW3D is a history/sketched based system with planes, but it also has primitive shapes to increase your productivity. It seems to me watching this Inventor 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 Inventor presenter has been indoctrinated into these designs time consuming modeling techniques. The Solidworks clones are costing the industry millions, if not billions, in lost productivity.

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

We have to set ZW3D for an assembly. We open a multi-object file and call it Vise Assembly.

These have actually turned into exercises in modeling techniques as compared to showing a more productive CAD systems. 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 Inventor 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 insert my first component which will be the top assembly and call it also the Vise Assembly

We insert a component under Vise Assembly and call it Base

We have to review the part and think about how were are going to model it. We can start anywhere but if we pay attention it will be much easier to model. These drawing to model exercises extend into our design practices.

I design with Feature Based Design, while working with primitive shapes makes this process obvious you can also do it with sketches. You review the part and see the basics shapes not jumping to an obvious yet overly complex constrained sketch.

We insert a primitive corner block. I locate the origin of the block offset -1.75 Y from X0Y0Z0 and size it.

We insert another primitive center block using the lower left corner of the existing block and set it to add. We will set the height to 2.625+1.5 so we can put in the fillet.

We add the front block the same as the first and size it.

We create the fillet.

We insert a primitive block on the corner of the fillet set to remove and size it. Nothing can be easier.

We insert a cylinder on the top edge of the front face set it to add and size it.

We insert a cylinder at the center of the boss, set it to remove, size it and set to remove.

We insert a center block and offset the 1st point of the block .75 along Y from X0Y0Z0. As you can see how we locate the part originally aids in the ease of modeling. We just size it and set it to remove and we are done.

We do the inner block the same way.

Now for the feet. We create a sketch on the bottom of the base.

I use StreamLined Sketching so the first thing I do is create a horizontal .5 line to set the point for the base of my foot. I then create the base horizontal 2.0 inch line, I create a .625 vertical line from the mid-point of the 2.0 inch line. I create a boundry circle at the ends of the .625 line. I create tangent lines from the circle to the ends of the 2.0 inch lines. No constraints. Much faster.

We trim as required and we are done with the sketch. If you watch the Inventor presenter he makes this so complicated by drawing to full feet. If I wanted to create two feet in the sketch I would just mirror the first sketch. I will just have on sketch and pattern it so I can always just edit one of the sketches.

We extrude the sketch and set to add

We just pattern the foot. So simple.

Now of the the other side. Just mirror the feet by the XZ plane. Again we are reminded how setting the origin in the beginning makes designing easier.

Select okay and we are done.

Now for the holes. It is a bit weird the the Inventor presenter has to create points to locate the hole. I Found this true about the Catia presentation also. ZW3D recognizes centers of the radii of the feet so we can skip that step.

We set the size of the hole and select the centers.

We select Okay and we are done with the Base.

ZW3D was designed from the ground up for top down or in context design and has many functions that make it much easier. You can see the time saved not only in much more productive modeling but having the mating parts available for reference.

We insert a new component under Vise Assembly and call it Jaw.

We go to the assembly mode and create a reference entity of the vertical inside edge to create a point to put in our basic block. This is the beginning of our top down and in context design process.

We insert a corner primitive block using the bottom end of the line we just created and size the block adding the .125 so we can create the fillet. Since this is a new part it is automatically set to base.

We add the fillet.

We insert a corner primitive block on the top corner of the fillet and size it and set to remover. So, so easy.

We insert another corner primitive block at the bottom left corner of the shape and size it and set to add. It's so easy!!

I insert another corner primitive block and locate it by offsetting .625 from the mid-point of the bottom edge of the shape, sizing it and setting to add.

We insert a corner primitive block by offsetting .75 at corner of the lower left side of the bottom feature, size it and set to remove.

We mirror the feature across the XZ plane.

We select okay. We insert a primitive cylinder on the front face of the Jaw and at the mid-point of the related edge, size it and set to add.

We insert another primitive cylinder in the center of the boss, size it and set to remove.

We are done with the Jaw. We will change the colors and insert the new component. We will create a Screw Tip since we could not get the screw through the hole. This part is just to modeling practice, but we should make it bit more real.

We will go the assembly mode and create a reference entity on the back circle.
We will insert a cylinder using the center of the reference circle, size it and it is automatically set to base.

We need to shell that shape. This is the only step we need to do with the part. You can see we design much differently with what I have coined Feature Based modeling.

We change the color of the Screw Tip. We insert a component and call it screw. Again we go to the assembly mode and create a reference entity of the back circle in the Screw Tip. We insert a cylinder primitive at the center and size it again it is automatically set to base since it is a new component.

We insert a cylinder primitive at the end of the rod, size it and set to add.

We create the chamfer and create the hole. We set the XY plane then use offset setting -.5 in the X and 1.0 in the Z.

We create a new component the Handle Rod. We have to first go to the assembly mode and create a reference entity from the front edge of the Screw. We then insert a cylinder primitive and select the XY plane for alignment. We select offset and select the center of the reference circle. We set X -.5 and Z -2.5.

We select okay we are done with the rod. We add a new component called Handle Knob. We go to the assembly mode and create a reference entity from the top of the rod. We insert a cylinder primitive using the center of the reference circle and use offset distance from that enter setting the distance to point .25.

We add the chamfers. Then we insert a cylinder using the center of the knob. We use edit distance option of .25, set the size and set to remove.

We insert another knob. I will allow it to stay in the same location. I select the assembly mode and rotate it 180 and we are done with the Vise Assembly.

Hmm Wait a minute the knob looks too big. I select the Handle Knob and edit. I select the base cylinder and see it is .75. I change it to .625. How simple was that. Both Knob are updated and now we are done with the Vise Assembly.

Oh Oh. I missed the Keys. Well let's get it done. We insert the Key component. We hide the Base and go to the assembly mode and reference the inside edge of the key slot of the Jaw.

We insert a corner primitive block at the inside upper corner of the slot, set the size.

We insert it and move it. And now we are done again.

We blank or turn off the reference entities.

This is not only top down and in context but it is in one file.

Here are the AID (Associated Information Documents (drawings))

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, 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 StreamLined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling.

3D CAD Modeling Techniques

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

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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.