ZW3D vs Solid Edge Lesson One Assembly
3D Modeling Techniques Defined
True Top Down Assembly/In Context Design
In a Multi-Object Design Environment
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.

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

You can see the same basic part done on NX. The part is dimensioned incorrect in the Solid Edge drawing.

ZW3D vs NX

Solid Edge 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


Here is the Isometric drawing. It is incorrect. So use the drawings at the end for a good assembly. The top boss on the base should be 46mm.
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.

ZW3D vs Solid Edge

ZW3D is very similar to Solid Edge 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 based system with planes, but it also has primitive shapes to increase your productivity. It seems to me watching this Solid Edge exercise 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 Solid Edge 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 mm so let's get started

Like Solid Edge we have to set ZW3D for an assembly. We open a multi-object file and call it Belt Roller 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 Solid Edge 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 first create my part which will be the top assembly and call it also the Belt Roller Assembly.

We will now insert our first component the Base

We will now start our part by inserting a primitive block shape and sizing it.

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

Now insert another primitive block, size and locate it and set it to remove

I put in the fillets.

For the threaded hole we bring up the Create Hole Feature. We set our hole specs.

We locate the hole by selecting offset from the options.

Using the pattern feature we create the other 3 holes. I can't believe it is as complicated to locate a hole in Solid Edge.

I select okay and we are done with the Base.

We now insert a new component called Bracket

As you can see the base is now a reference part that can be used for in context design for the bracket.

The bracket based will be created by creating reference graphics in the assembly tool.

We now turn these graphics into a curve list and extrude the shape.

We add our cut by inserting a primitive block locating and sizing it set it to remove.

We insert another primitive block locate and size it and set to add.

Working with primitive shapes is fun. It is a short learning curve but is so productive.

We just insert a primitive cylinder locate and size it.

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

We will insert a primitive cylinder, locate it and set to remove.

We pattern the hole.

Now for the rib we create a sketch. Yes, we do have to do some sketching.

We just use existing geometry to create the 3 lines. No constraints. The only line we defined was the vertical that was set to 40 as we put it in. The horizontal line was point to point.

We exit the sketch and select extrude, select symmetrical and size and set to add.

We put in the blends and we are done.

We copy another bracket and locate it. We are ready for the shaft.

I create a reference circle and move it to the location to start the part.

We insert a primitive cylinder using the reverence circle and a set the diameter and length.

We insert another primitive cylinder, locate set the diameter and length.

We add the chamfers and create the hole by inserting a primitive cylinder and setting the diameter and depth.

Now for the side hole by inserting a primitive cylinder at X0Y0Z0 and sizing and locating it. We are done with the part.

We insert a new component and call it bushing, we create a reference curve from the aft bracket boss and use it for a reference to insert a cylinder, we set the diameter and thickness,

Add the shaft but inserting another primitive cylinder, locate and set the diameter and length.

Now for the chamfer and another primitive cylinder. I am sure all of you have gotten the idea how this works by now

Since there are two bushings we will copy another one and locate it.

We will add a component Roller by creating as sketch. Since I will be using Streamlined Sketching I will create a couple of reference lines.

I will create my parallel offsets.

Now create the edges of the roller by connecting the dots, trimming, extending deleting and mirroring. Nope, no constraints.

Exit sketch and select revolve at 360 degrees.

We add the chamfers and fillets and we are done.

Now we insert the washers and screws and pattern them and we are done.

Here is the assembly.

Here are the drawings.

Think of the amount of files created with Solid Edge, the five parts and one assembly, if you create the AIDs (Associated Information Documents (drawings)) that is a total of eleven files to maintain. In ZW3D there is one file due to the integrated 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, 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

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

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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.