Universal 3D MCAD
Compatibility is "NOT" Here!!

I wrote this article in 2013. I have been using direct edit solid model functionality in my 3D CAD design since FastSolid was introduced to CADKEY in 1995.

That was with the release of the ACIS solid modeling kernel. With the ACIS and Parasolid kernels now available, there were many new PC based 3D CAD package being released. I found a package called Trispectives. It was a graphics design package that used drag and drop push/pull solid shapes from catalogs. It also did realistic rendering and animation. It also ran on ACIS which made it completely compatible with CADKEY FastSolids using the .sat translation. We would design in CADKEY FastSolids, toss the 3D model into Tripsectives and render and animate it. 1995!

Here is an image from those early days. No systems could do this at the time, PTC was still on a Unix box and Solidworks was in its infancy. This job was done in CADKEY and rendered in Trispectives! Years ahead of the industry.

The 1990's - 3D CAD/CAM Moves to the PC!!

In a few years Tripectives turned into IronCAD. I have always thought I was blessed to be involved with IronCAD. It is the only truly integrated history/direct edit 3D CAD modeling system. Both operations are used in the design process. This alone increases your conceptual design productivity 2X and with other functionality, such as drag and drop, single model environment, the Triball (feature, part and assembly manipulator) plus easy copy/paste functionality you can easily achieve increases in productivity of 5X in conceptual design and 10X for changes.

Is 3D CAD Productivity an Oxymoron?

Five Functions that Increase 3D CAD Productivity!!

Why am I telling you this. Because I have had direct edit functionality available to me since the introduction of Solids. There are very few complex parts with direct editing available.

       Dumb System - Smart Parts    Smart System - Dumb Parts

I was selling both CADKEY and IronCAD. I was introducing many to this highly productive design process. Imagine very little need for 3D CAD design intent.

Solidworks showed up on the scene incorporating Siemens parasolids solid modeling kernel. It was a poor copy of Pro/e that ran on the PC. It had no copy protection and was freely passed around the community and many started using it. What happened to IronCAD and CADKEY, you ask? They put on strict licensing and sales slowed. But that is another story.

29 Years of 3D CAD Incompatibility

The Two CAD Programs that Set the Path to 3D MCAD Chaos!

I was like the 2D worm finding the 3D pole. I was showing the high level of productivity of IronCAD and CADKEY, but Solidworks was too well placed.

But something happened in 2007. A product called SpaceClaim was released and at the same time Siemens was releasing their ST (Synchronous Technology). These were very robust standalone direct editing packages. I was selling Solid Edge at the time and took on SpaceClaim as a product. When playing with them I actually thought they were the same package for awhile. Both had the new Microsoft Office Ribbon interface. But soon I could see the difference. I like ST much better,  it had a much more user friendly GUI. Siemens made ST available to both NX and Solid Edge.

The 2000's - The Age of 3D CAD Un-Enlightenment!

These events shook up the industry.

Soon Solidworks added robust direct edit functionality with SW 2010. Autodesk added Fusion in 2012. I am not sure when Pro/e purchased CoCreate and released it as Creo Direct. NX was already well ahead of the crowd with ST.

The only stand out was Catia 5. They still don't have it available. Dassualt released a package called SW Conceptual Design based on the Catia solid modeling kernel yet they did not make it available on Catia 5. This oversight makes Catia 5 the least interoperable system on the market, to Boeing's, Airbus's and many other large manufacturing companies detriment.

I was very enthused writing the original article. I could see where we could use any system and could toss models back and forth, like I have been doing it for years. CADKEY, IronCAD, SpaceClaim and ZW3D could easily modify each others and any systems 3D models. Now the industry could experience the flexibility I have using for over a decade. You can see SpaceClaim in operation on a part created in CADKEY and IronCAD in this article.

Prototek Redesign

Were they finally seeing the 3D pole?

Sadly, I was hugely mistaken. Read these articles. It shows the limitations of direct edit functionality in Solidworks and I have yet to see it touted as being used effectively in any other Pro/e clone. It took me almost 2 years to realize that direct edit functionality could not be used in the design process of these Pro/e clones. I soon realized that the users would never experience the incredible flexibility of utilizing direct edit in their design process. And the popular Pro/e clone companies sort of swept it under the rug. It was funny I found SW direct edit really by accident. Many of of the users and even those of other companies didn't even know it was there.

Solidworks Users are "NOT" Stupid?

Welcome aboard Solidworks Rewritten!

So there you go!! Back at square one!!

Hey, everybody look there's a 3D pole!!

No one can hear you scream in 3D CAD space!

Please feel free to read through the rest of the article. I have collected all of the popular 3D CAD videos promoting their direct edit functionality. They all actually do a good job editing non-native models.

Universal 3D MCAD Compatibility is "NOT" Here!!

Why is an IronCAD and ZW3D dealer writing an article that shows the capabilities of other 3D CAD systems? To show you that these systems can read and modify parts/assemblies from any other system. But I can tell you with some of confidence that our systems offer more productive and cost effective solutions.

I want you to know that you do not have to be stuck forever with some complex, painful program that demands thou$ands a year just for the privilege of using their software with costly annual maintenance contracts or now in Autodesks or PTCs case: The Annual Subscriptions. Is it really worth the cost?

I have been beating the drum of 3D CAD incompatibility for almost 20 years. All of the major package now include Direct Editing. I have been waiting for Solidworks to enter this fray, they now offer good Direct Editing capabilities, since SW 2010. The only product that has yet to join the group is Catia 5.

Welcome aboard Solidworks: Updated!

The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why!

There are two forms of Direct Editing implemented by the 3D CAD companies. Integrated direct edit functionality working together with history and the stand alone direct modeling which is basically a separate module.

Imagine not worrying about Design Intent!

Now that we all have direct editing available,
how do we get it widely utilized?

 Today, I can tell you we are there!

It does not matter what system you use.

Note: Oooops! After further investigation I have now come to the conclusion that Pro/e clones that add the face modification as a step in the history tree do not offer the true flexibility of direct editing usable in the design process. After talking to a SW expert that has been using direct editing in his design process I have found this process to be problematic and may make the history almost unusable. But these system do offer the ability to edit non-native parts, so we are half the way there!

Next Generation 3D CAD Technology Applied!

Next Generation 3D CAD!! The Win-Win Solution!!

Standardization!!! The Future of 3D CAD!!

Here are some promo videos from the current popular programs showing that we are now totally somewhat compatible. I did not include the Direct Modeling Only packages, because I feel they deliver only half the capabilities and I feel you need both history and direct edit to design effectively.


Conceptual Design!! Which 3D CAD Paradigm is Best?


First, let's take a look at the high end packages.

These products are designed for large multiyear projects, with concurrent users and multiple suppliers. These packages deliver a so called PLM solution. These packages are overly complex and very costly for the small company and individual consultant and actually for the large companies also. I would like to see a standard nonproprietary PLM product where all 3D CAD systems conform to a standard deliverable to be utilized.

PLM & PDM Defined

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

The Ultimate Document Control System

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control Part II

Catia 5

Catia 5 is the only 3D CAD system that does not offer any direct editing capabilities. Now I have heard that Catia 6 has some direct edit functionality. Catia 6, released in 2009 has yet to be adopted by the big Catia 5 users like Boeing and Airbus, probably due to the fiasco that was caused by the lack of compatibility between Catia 4 and 5.  

Catia 5 is the program that really needs direct editing the most with its wide use at Boeing and Airbus. If there is a place where change is a constant it is in the Commercial Aircraft industry and change is where the Pro/e paradigm fails miserably. This is nothing new, we have known this for years, that is why we have all of these 3D CAD companies now offering direct editing functionality.

This product is very expensive and offers less interoperable capabilities than virtually every 3D CAD system no matter what price. It is shocking that Dassault has made no effort to help its users to be more compatible. This has cost Boeing and Airbus, millions if not billions in this lack of compatibility. It is an embarrassment that the commercial airplane industry accepts it as their standard.

Dassault is responsible for keeping Boeing and Airbus the most ignorant and isolated manufacturing companies. Their lack of interoperability is beyond belief.

CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!

It seems like Dassault puts more attention on it's failed PLM and MBE system than offering the engineer a flexible design tool.

The Death of PLM



Catia 6

It has been very difficult for me to get any information on how Catia 6 is being used, since I am in the NW and Boeing has not moved to it. It has been out since 2009 and I have never run into anyone using it. I have heard that its PLM package is just not compatible with Catia 5 and that is the reason for Boeing not moving to it.

But here are a few words from a Catia 6 user from Cessna:

"I've used CATIA V5 for quite a few years now and we don't have any major issues with it at all nor do the many machine shops that we send our files to. I cannot say the same thing for CATIA V6 however. We've had many issues with it and it is not at all as user friendly as Dassault advertised it would be. CATIA V6 is a huge mess right now for us."

Here is another engineers experience with installing Catia 6:

"### has decided to install "3D experience Catia V6". This entails CAD and PLM integrated system. As a design engineer, I loathe this. The package deteriorates the design productivity by at least 50%. It is not completed, it is full of bugs that we are being promised by DS "the next" upgrade will fix. Which it does, with about 50% success and introduces a new batch of bugs...

In short, if anybody was to listen to my engineering experience, I would rather work on the drawing board than with this, unfinished, slow, pretentious, software that has no place at a facility like this."

I talked to him earlier this year to see how things are going:

"Performance, reliability, upgrades track record, productivity, etc.. In short, they are all bad, it is only matter of % points on how much (every aspect is 30% - 60% worse than a 'common' 3D design software), not to mention gross lack of (some) functionality that everyday designers need...

So there you go!! The ratio of cost/performance of Catia is probably the worst in the industry.

Ref: Update: 9-15-17 PTC to move to subscription only

TECH-NET does not recommend purchasing any products from PTC. They are moving to subscription only. We suggest you consider staying with a perpetual version or move to another package that offers a perpetual system. The problem is not just the subscription fee, but they now can hold your Intellectual Property hostage. No company can ignore this situation.

Ref: Update: 6-27-14 Creo 3.0 Unite Technology

PTC has now released Creo 3.0 with Unite Technology. This is a big step for PTC, opening up the interoperability of Creo by adding the capability to read the native files of the more popular programs. This is a doubled edged sword, moving the industry a bit closer to a 3D CAD standard. It shows a desperate effort by PTC to stay relevant in the fast changing world of 3D CAD. ZW3D, IronCAD, SW, Inventor, NX and Solid Edge have had this capability available for years, But we know that Dassault's Catia 5 is still the big hold out. So what does the "Unite Technology" really mean? It means you do not have to buy Creo to be compatible. PTC has more users "stuck" with their program than any other CAD system except maybe Catia. This may be an opportunity for the disgruntled Pro/e-Creo user to look at the industry to see if there is a better option!

PTC Creo Direct (CoCreate)

Creo (Pro/E) is still a very difficult and complex program to use. But is working to make sure that the product is more flexible by adding direct modeling.

CoCreate is now Creo Direct. It is a fully functional standalone direct modeling product that works with Creo Parametric. It is one of the older direct modelers. But being a separate product does not give the flexibility of having direct editing integrated into the system. Creo Direct is a $5,000.00 product.

I have a Creo user that is now using Creo Direct here are his comments:

"Today I opened a native solidworks part in creo direct, modified it, saved it as a creo part, then opened it in creo parametric. I could modify the modification I made in creo direct using creo parametric. This is, in my opinion, huge; instead of dumb blob "import features" I get when importing step files I can use creo direct to modify what I decide needs to be "modifiable" long term, and save it as a part that can have the modifiable features modified in creo parametric"

As you can see the fellow is using two different packages that are sold separately, they are not even modules integrated into one system. That is why I find Creo a very unproductive package as compared to most packages, but it is still a better system than Dassault's Catia 5.

This could have easily been done years ago, but PTC wanted to keep their users locked into their system with only providing STEP/IGES translation. This fellow bought Pro/e years ago and is basically stuck with it. Can you imagine how many would move out of Pro/e if they could afford it. Well, today they really can.


Siemens NX ST (Sychronous Technology)

In my opinion, from what I have heard, NX offers the most flexible design capabilities of the three high end systems. I think ST for NX is like Inventor Fusion. I am not sure how integrated the direct editing is, if it is instantly accessible while using your history or do you have to purposely activate it. I know they have a stand alone program shown below.


The Mid-Range packages offer much more cost effective solution. Put Boeing in the hands of Dassault's Catia 5 PLM and MBE has been devastating. But I hope in the future we will have standard PLM or document control system where the 3D CAD system basically becomes a design package with a standard exportable format. If we based our engineering documentation on an outside deliverable, instead of on the native 3D CAD file, it would increase the universal compatibility.

Siemens Solid Edge

The Solid Edge is basically a sub-program of NX. It is half the price of NX. It is focused more on direct edit. It still suffers with the separate part, assembly and drawing files.


IronCAD vs Solid Edge - Direct Editing

Solid Edge is the only Pro/e clone that offers a bit of integrated direct editing. But as you can see below it is only marginally effective as compared to, IronCAD, a truly integrated history/direct edit system.


Autodesk Fusion

Ref: Update: 9-15-17 Autodesk to move to subscription only

TECH-NET does not recommend purchasing any products from Autodesk. They have moved to subscription only. We suggest you consider staying with a perpetual version or move to another package that offers a perpetual system. The problem is not just the subscription fee, but they now can hold your Intellectual Property hostage. No company can ignore this situation.

Fusion is Autodesk's direct modeling stand alone product. It serves as an add-on module for Inventor and Autocad. I have had the experience working with Fusion in Inventor. When you want to directly edit a part you directly switch into Fusion. I can't remember if any history that you may have used is gone. It worked well with updating the drawing. I think there were a few bugs with the version I was using because it would not correctly recognize the units coming from Fusion. But it is an easy to use direct modeling system.

Note: Inventor now has incorporated direct edit functionality in the package.

Dassault Solidworks Direct Edit

I found the "Direct Model Editing" feature in SW quite by accident. I was looking for functions to compare to our ZW3D Lite product. I was looking in a matrix of functions and saw "Direct Model Editing". I was shocked I have never heard that SW had this function and actually have panned it for not having it. I had a seat of SW 2010 available and took the opportunity to play with this function. I have quite a bit of experience in direct editing and was pleasantly surprise how complete it was. I did quite a few experiments and it was quite enjoyable and easy to use. I did see that it created history step with each change. I have heard since that this can be a bit of a problem if you are also mixing it with conventional history. But for working with non-native parts it seems to do the job.

SW direct editing functionality is not based on a direct modeling stand alone package and is accessible as a direct editing function inside the package, making it much easier to work with. If you have not experienced the direct editing you should play with it and see how you can utilize it in your design process. I know it is very difficult to even tamper with your history, but with this capability you can really design with more freedom not being so concerned with Design Intent.

Due to the popularity of SW, I think this is the one package that opens the door to Universal Compatibility! Today we can actually use any system.

Note: I have been advised that the history becomes unusable after a few face moves.

Ref: Solidworks Users are "NOT" Stupid? 

IronCAD & INOVATE - The Best of Both Worlds

IronCAD is unique in the industry and quite different than any of the package that I have presented. It has completely integrated history and direct editing. There is no special direct editing functionality you have to turn on it is always available with a click of the right mouse button.

When you start directly editing faces it will ask you if you want to make the change and warn you if you do you will "blow" or consume the history that is tied to the features you are modifying. This creates a brep inside your history. You do not have to worry it since you just directly edit any of the affected faces or features from that point on.

This is where the history only folks start freaking out. Who in their right mind would tamper with such a precise procedure. Ha, I am here to tell you it really doesn't matter. All of you folks that have direct editing available do some experimenting. You will see that history is truly not the holy grail you think it is.

Is 3D CAD Productivity an Oxymoron?

After doing a comparison with Fusion 360 and Solidworks, I realized I modeled much differently than the Pro/e clone user. I have coined it Streamlined Sketching and feature based modeling. You can seed the huge productivity difference from constrained sketching only here.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

INOVATE is IronCAD's Modeling only package.

Notice below that IronCAD is using a mixture of history and direct editing in modifying this part. It is the only presentation that shows this functionality.

Below you can see IronCAD directly edit multiple faces from different parts


IronCAD utilizes both the Parasolid and ACIS solid modeling kernels. Shown here is how the two kernels handle imports differently and how you can have certain limitations when you have only one kernel.


But IronCAD unique direct edit functionality is just one of the three feature that make it the most productive CAD system available.

Five Functions that Increase CAD Productivity!! 

A CAD Comparison - True Integrated History/Direct Edit

It is silly to compare the popular CAD packages, since they are just Pro/e clones. Yes, there are a few differences but all are basically the same in operation. Below shows you a new paradigm that cuts your design time in half. But it is more than just the modeling. It is a completely different design environment, actually making changes easy as doing the original design. Here we compare Solidworks, but it could easily be any of Pro/e Clones. The problem with all of them is the lack of true direct edit integration. The goal is to have both paradigms available in your design process. Imagine not worrying about design intent, able to change the complete design at any time!!


ZW3D - Solidworks Like Product

ZW3D makes a Case for Inexpensive Professional CAD. They have a Lite package that completely capable of doing most plastic and machine design, the full package offers the same capabilities as SW at less than half the price. Starting at an annual rental of $600.00 this is a very cost effective solution for the independent contractor, hobbyist, inventor or to enhance the more expensive packages with the same or superior performance. And as I have shown, it now does not matter what system you have, so why pay more and put up with the expensive annual maintenance contracts.

It works like SW in its direct editing. You turn it on and you have it available concurrently with the history based design. It comes with all of the native translators of the above products including PMI. It does offer primitives drag and drop functionality and has full surfacing also integrated in the full package which is shown in the next video on Hybrid Modeling.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

ZW3D Pricing

ZW3D allows you to combine your history, making it a dumb model which allows easier utilization of direct editing.


Hybrid Modeling - The Next Step in CAD!



As you can see in the Video's all can easily edit the parts directly. They all use very similar functionality to do it. The only difference is basically the level of integration and cost of the product.

"So how many of you are now willing taking advantage of the Direct Editing that is now available to you?"

Standardization! The Future of 3D CAD!

What are the benefits of having direct editing available?

1. Employee or User Benefits?
    Unlimited Opportunities!

2. Employer or Company Benefits?
    Project Continuity!

Next Generation 3D CAD! The Win-Win Solution!

So take some time to investigate the direct editing capabilities now available to you in your own packages and be part of this new Compatible CAD world.

So now you see that we ALL can easily utilize data from any system. Please take a look at our solutions. All of our programs can provide you a much better "Return on your CAD investment". From a VAR, that is not just some CAD salesman, but also provides engineering services directly and that can understand your problems.

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

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

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.