The 2010's - The Age of 3D CAD Nothingness


This is the fifth in a series of articles documenting my experience with the introduction of 3D CAD into industrial/mechanical engineering. Please take some time to read them all. From board draftsman, to 3D CAD designer, to 3D CAD/CAM program dealer, to 3D CAD teacher, some of this information may surprise you. 


54 Years of Engineering


My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning

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

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

The end of decade report


3D CAD had a decade of nothingness!


CAD - Computer Aided Design?


We have pretty much reached the end of modeling enhancements.


All of the major 3D CAD systems are Pro/e clones still operating on the basic dated system released in 1988!


It is a strict history based and constrained sketching system.

It has separate part, assembly and AID files.

All of these parts, AIDs and Sub-Assemblies are associated forever.


1. The dated (1988) Pro/e CAD paradigm of strict history based on complex constrained sketching. This limited modeling technique is very time consuming. Sadly, this process has been accepted as normal.

It has not changed! How can that be? Nothing stays stagnant! It has been 32 years.

Here is a system that was introduced in 1998. I sell it because it is a much more productive system. I could have settled my engineering services on these systems that I have tried to sell: Pro/e, Solid Edge, Solidworks and Inventor.

Five Functions that Increase 3D CAD Productivity!!

Here is the other system that would virtually eliminate PLM and PDM and the need for MBE (PMI)

The Ultimate 3D CAD System

I introduce you to StreamLined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling in these following lessons. They started out as product comparisons. But when I saw the convoluted way the presenters were modeling with simple parts with constrained sketching only I realized the huge amount of wasted design time. See how your favorite system fairs as compared to my modeling concept.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

2. The Pro/e paradigm is based on separate parts, assemblies and AIDs (drawings). This has spawned the data management programs of PDM, PLM, MBE (PMI) just to manage all of the associated files. This has  become a model and documentation nightmare. Again, all has been accepted as normal.

IronCAD vs CATIA Lesson 3 Assembly

ZW3D vs Catia Lesson 3 Assembly

3. The implementation of PLM has led to the elimination of the drafting group, turning engineers into "glorified draftsmen" now responsible for all documentation and "GT&D". This is not to insult engineers; this was to cut engineering costs and the engineer was the fall guy and still is. Engineering in the large companies are now under the thumb of unworkable processes developed by unknowledgeable PLM Gurus, vested interest CAD companies and InfoTechs (IT).

The Death of the Draftsman or “Where has all the talent gone?”

Engineering Yesterday & Today
Engineer's Job Description
The Search for the Purple Squirrel

Yes, all of this was caused by the Pro/e paradigm. I can tell you engineering was much more productive when it was based on the manual drawing. Not because of the engineer, but the vested interests of the InfoTechs. Remember all we did was add the 3D model as a pattern.

Engineering management is now in the hands of millennial! These fellows have never known an effective engineering system. Nope, this effective engineering system is not documented because it lived in the skills of the drafting and document control group.

Engineering's only purpose is making available concise, complete and  unambiguous engineering documentation to manufacturing.

Engineering documentation is engineering's language to the world.

Educating the New 3D CAD Engineer

The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

Should the New 3D CAD Engineer Learn Drafting?


There is no money in CAD?


Everyone that needs a seat has a seat and to try to move them to a new system is like talking someone into changing their cell service provider. Trust me.


To keep their customers paying most have gone to SAAS (Software as a Service) or Subscription Only! Looks like this is the way of the future. Due to the lack of enhancements to motivate the customer to stay current with an annual maintenance. More than likely they will downsize and probably drop the rates! Maybe!!


To make money they are now pushing tangential services. The major CAD system are moving further and further from their users and basic purpose of creating CAD models. They are now promoting to the the CIO (Chief Information Officers, the most important person in the C-suite) that are focused on the biggest fraud of all "Digital Transformation" one of the most generic terms of the century! The CEO is now like a mushroom and is fed the crap by the CIO and his InfoTech team and cult.


Digital Transformation is the buzz word of the decade. This seems to be an effort by the InfoTechs take control by having companies in a continuous state of transition. Most large companies now have a CIO that leads the charge. It is like having the fox watch the hen house. He who controls the software controls the world. It is like having Bob the computer nerd in charge of your finances. PLM is part of this movement.

Digital Transformation - 70% Failure! $900 Billion Wasted!


Most are not even in pushing PLM anymore, it has basically failed. They are renaming it with a stack of generic buzz words, PDM, MBE, MBD, the digital twin, AR, AI, digital transformation, IoT, IIot, Industry 4.0, AI and more. Not one of these acronym or terms came from engineering. They come from the InfoTech world's ideas of how they think engineering and manufacturing work and not one increases productivity on any level.


Engineering Documentation - A Primer for the PLM Guru!


You are Not Stuck with Autodesk or PTC Subscriptions!


Viable Options to Replace Subscription Only CAD software





Dassault has some kind of plans to completely change their CAD landscape! It is obvious that is to slowly move them to the 3DEXPERIENCE based on Catia, unfortunate for them, no Solidworks user is stupid enough to fall for the plan!

Dassault’s Digital Transformation! Bye, Bye Solidworks?

“The annual Event for 3D design has been renamed and from 2020 the 3D-Experience World will take over to address a wider range of potential users of 3D technology. CEO Gian Paolo Bassi explains the reasons why Dassault Systèmes took this decision.”

The first 3DExperience World Conference sets a new course for Solidworks


Catia 5


Catia 5 was released in 1998, Wow 22 years.

Catia is still by far the worst 3D CAD system. What Dassault can't dazzle you with brilliance, they will baffle you with bullshit.


The Worst to Best 3D MCAD Systems Expanded!


Boeing is still not opting for Catia 6 or the new 3DEXPERIENCE. Even Boeing upper management is not stupid enough to trust Dassault with any "New" processes. They are still suffering with Catia 5 and the failed PLM/MBE (PMI) experiment.

PLM failures are showing up! I have talked to a few engineers that have to work around the requirements of PLM. Those that are in charge, truly have no understanding of the engineering to manufacturing process and needs.

Telecom Giant Ericsson Halts Its PLM Project with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE

The failure of PLM/MBE (PMI) at Boeing is monumental due to poor design practices and incomplete documentation. But today there is not enough applicable knowledge left in engineering to even know it. This chaos is now SNAFU!

Can Engineering Survive without the Drafting Group?

Recommendations to the New CEO of Boeing




PTC Purchases Onshape

I just scratch my head on this one. Onshape wasn't making any money and PTC hardly has the skills to make it a viable product. Very little will come of this endeavor which cost almost a billion dollars.


Not much new on the Creo end of PTC. They like the rest of the industry are pushing tangential products and services that really do not relate to engineering proper. It looks like they are more involved in selling you a vague digital transformation process than proven engineering solutions.


They are pushing AR very hard. But this is not engineering. They seem to want to move into the manufacturing process. They better be careful manufacturing does not pay much attention to fluff like the InfoTech unworkable processes they push on the millennial engineering management!


I have always thought PTC would be the first company to downsize. They have a huge user base that came on in the early years, not even knowing they are suffering with is stagnant system. Trust me Onshape is not going to add any benefit to this grandpa system.


The Worst to Best 3D MCAD Systems Expanded!



Siemens PLM Software


Not much out of Siemens they are also focusing on PLM and manufacturing solutions. It is amazing how complete industries turn to these consulting companies to run their business. Never realizing that they have less knowledge of their product than they do.


NX and Solid Edge have very few enhancements. None even worth talking about. It all about PLM and every buzz word coming out of "Digital Transformation. Trust me they have lost all contact with the user!! ZW3D Standard is a great inexpensive enhancement or even a replacement for both of these dated systems.


The Worst to Best 3D MCAD Systems Expanded!





The first to lead to the subscription service. Now are pushing the non-engineering services, AR, AI, Digital Twins, etc. Virtually worthless novelty processes.


The problem with Autodesk is that they have so many software packages it is hard for them to focus. I took a job as a Sales/Tech manager for a company that was setting up to sell the Autodesk Manufacturing solution. Trust me the emphasis  was not on product capability, but junkyard dog marketing.


Their Mechanical packages will not be enhanced now that they have their users locked into their software with subscriptions forever. Do you think they will drop the subscription rate? Hell no!! They have stockholder they are beholden to first.


The Worst to Best 3D MCAD Systems Expanded!



The next decade?


It is time for engineering, manufacturing and academia to reevaluate the current engineering system.


We have to get out from underneath these vested CAD company interests. They have destroyed the proven engineering standard processes of the past by allowing the Dassaults of the world along with PLM and InfoTech Gurus to reinvent the wheel with virtually no applicable knowledge of the previous functional engineering system.

Chaos is always the result of trying to reinvent the wheel in a place where the wheel is very well defined. Product knowledge, proven standards and work force continuity is the formula for design success.

The solution isn't really that hard. You can even do it with the crappy CAD systems above. But you do need a complete understanding of the past process. You have to turn to the old draftsman of the past. Pre-CAD. Engineers were not part of this process.


Recommendations to the New Boeing CEO

  • Eliminate Dassault’s Catia 5 PLM and MBE

  • Eliminate the CIO Position

  • Put Engineering back in Charge of Engineering

  • Re-implement the Engineering Standard
    and Document Control Processes of the Past

  • Bring Back the Drafting Group

Can Engineering Survive without the Drafting Group?

Related image

This is a drafting room. No, it was not called the engineering room. Drafting was the basis of all engineering.

I will tell you unless we put engineering back in charge of engineering our next decade is going to be the decade of engineering chaos and there will be no one to post this comment. Virtually all of the manual drawing draftsman will be gone and all of their knowledge will be lost forever! I am looking for someone to take control of all my articles for posterity, when I am gone!! Any takers? LOL


Viewpoints on the Industry




November 8th, 2019

With some of the failures in engineering lately we have to look at the process. Today the engineering process is being defined by the PLM folks. As you have read in my many article these people have no knowledge of how engineering and manufacturing was done in the past.

In the beginning, programs were designed to enhance and automate much of the manual processes, such as Word processing, spread sheets, graphic design and, of course, CAD/CAM.

But as the processes developed the infotechs decided they should redesign these processes without any understanding of the basics. Here is one example.

Zero File or File-Less CAD systems! Debunked!!


Here are a few of my latest articles.

Evolution of Design

Viable Options to Replace
Subscription Only CAD software

Core/Cavity Split in 5 Minutes II

TECH-NET IronCAD Training

IronCAD Video Basics!

June 7th, 2019


The Secret of Product Success! Well Designed Parts!


No matter how small or large the manufacturing company, the basic building block of the product is "part design". All the PLM, MBE, PMI, IoT, Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, Digital Twinning or Physical Twinning LOL, PDM, etc must be based on well designed parts.

"Design is and always will be the weakest link,
good documentation and checking strengthen that weakness"

"Product knowledge, proven standards and
work force continuity is the formula for design success"

But today's major CAD programs are not focusing on 3D CAD design or documentation they are focused on things that now hinder our design process. Engineering management is not in charge of the engineering process, they are under the control of the CIO, Infotechs and PLM gurus.

"Engineering's only purpose is to make available complete,
concise and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing."

I am thoroughly convinced that the engineering/manufacturing process of the past based on "The Drawing" was not just more productive, but much more productive. All we did was add the 3D model. Engineering has been over computerized and even taken out of the hands of engineering management. We are in a "Work Around World" in both engineering and manufacturing due to PLM, MBE and PMI. We can never get out of it as long as those that are not directly involved in the engineering/manufacturing process are defining and managing it.


Here is my latest articles referencing today's engineering documentation.


PLM/MBE/PMI Absurdity!!


A Short Primer and History of Dimensioning


As I state in my last update below, we are in the age of "Digital Transformation".


Digital Transformation - 70% Failure!  $900 Billion Wasted!


Dassault’s Digital Transformation! Bye, Bye Solidworks?


I now have 3D modeling techniques comparisons with all the major CAD systems as compared to my products, IronCAD and ZW3D, and it isn't pretty. All are based on the time consuming and inflexible constrained sketching. This modeling paradigm is costing millions, if not billions, in an overly complex modeling system, if you can even call it a modeling system.


Here are my exercises. If you are management you really do not know how much time is wasted with this process as compared to my StreamLined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling that is available in all the current CAD packages. But you should also review your Information Management! Can you trust the Fox?


IronCAD vs Fusion 360

ZW3D vs Fusion 360


ZW3D vs Solidworks

IronCAD vs Solidworks



ZW3D vs Creo



ZW3D vs NX


This comparison is incredibly disturbing. CATIA is used by the major aircraft companies I cannot imagine how much time is being wasted with this marginal modeling system.



ZW3D  vs CATIA Lesson 1


This comparison is also quite bothering, the presenter actually designs the parts separately and inserts them in the assembly. It is quite weird, since I have used inventor and its top down modeling functionality is quite good. Just look at the time he wastes as compared to my top down and in context design technique in both IronCAD and ZW3D. But then they are both designed from the bottom up as Top Down and In Context design systems due to their single model environment.

IRONCAD vs Inventor Lesson 1 Assembly

ZW3D vs Inventor Lesson 1 Assembly

January 18th, 2019

Here are my latest articles.

Digital Twin Defined

A Solidworks Competitor?

Production Body Challenge

There is a new buzz word being touted by the Infotech (IT - Information Technology) folks. This is being hugely marketed by Siemens and PTC/Rockwell. It looks like Dassault is focused on the 3DExperience being promoted to its existing users.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is not necessarily about digital technology, but about the fact that technology, which is digital, allows people to solve their traditional problems. And they prefer this digital solution to the old solution.

Old Solution? What the hell are they talking about? This is just a rebranding of Computerization. Truly there is nothing we do that has not been digitalized!

This is part of the FIR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) or Industry 4.0. You really have to admire the arrogance of a group that states that their own technology is the new revolution. It is nothing more than the extension of the TIR (Third Industrial Revolution).

This is a very strange group made up of PLM gurus, PHD, MSME, BSME, Infotech gurus that seem to be a bunch of bobble heads that are manipulated by companies like Siemen, PTC/Rockwell and Dassault. I do not see monetary benefits to most of the minions. These companies use these folks, knowing most have huge buttons on self importance, to foster the cause. When you read an article promoting FIR, you see it is usually written by a marketing employee of one of those companies.

But is not just the infotech world that is pushing this, it is being pushed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with McKinsey & Company. This is a huge management firm that supports the largest of companies. You can only imagine the amounts of money that are involved.

It is a bit bizarre to me to watch companies like Boeing, that were the leaders in their industry, go to these outside firms for management support with their industrial solutions, and not in a trivial way.

Fourth Industrial Revolution -
Beacons of Technology and Innovation in Manufacturing

The CIOs (Chief Information Officer) are in charge or at the right hand of the CEO and advising them. They make the recommendations and then dictate to the other departments including engineering. I saw these folks power grow at Boeing in 1986. BCS (Boeing Computer Services) were dictating the CAD software Boeing would use, not because of productivity but politics.

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

It was the weirdest thing, the enemy of BCS was the drafting group. Little power there, the Drafting Group was dissolved at the turn of the century and the title was even eliminated. The Document Control Group was also gone replaced by Dassualt's Catia 5 PLM.

The Death of the Draftsman or  “Where has all the talent gone?”

Image result for fourth industrial revolution.

Sadly, these infotech folks are trying to or have taken control of all aspects of business, especially in engineering and manufacturing.

Here are a few terms that do not offer any process just state the obvious.

IoT - The Internet of Things is the network of devices such as vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.

All of this was going on before the term was coined.

Digital engineering is the art of creating, capturing and integrating data using a digital skillset. ... Through progressive applications, the art of digital engineering enables designers to explore possibilities and develop innovative solutions in a virtual environment.

I have been doing digital engineering since 1982 it was call CAD (Computer Aided Design). Why are these folks always changing terms?  

Digital Twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets, processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes. The digital representation provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an Internet of things device operates and lives throughout its life cycle.

This is by far the most misunderstood concept. They are very confused on this term. If you are designing in 3D CAD, the manufactured part is the "Physical Twin". If it is a structural part or assembly much of the simulation is done before the documentation is released. More than likely a prototype is made or at least scrutiny of the first article.

Digital Twin Defined

The State of PLM

It seems like the top three: Siemens, Dassault and PTC are moving away from the term PLM and are moving to the completely generic Digital Transformation. This hugely muddies the waters. The top three are obviously running scare of some of the third party PLM products being offered that compete with their failed solutions. So they have changed the names to keep the large customers on board. Go ahead and view their websites. PLM use to be all over now you have to search for it. 

All of this is again under the guidance of the CIO and the Infotech group in cahoots with the top three to keep control and keep the money flowing. This is a huge example of the fox watching the hen house. They depend on upper management to trust them. I really wonder if upper management is really this ignorant or in the pockets of these culprits.

Sadly, the top three have designed their software with PLM and MBE to keep a company totally dependent. There are ways out? Moving the engineering documentation out of the native CAD system and standardize. 

I have written the following article to educate the PLM folks on how the engineering process really works. I really am shocked that these folks never studied the proven standard process of the past. It would have been so easy to implement 3D CAD if they did. But the top three CAD companies saw the opportunity to completely take over a company with the failed PLM based on a very convoluted CAD paradigm.

Engineering Documentation A Primer for the PLM Guru!

I would love to see a study on the productivity before the computerization of engineering as compared to now. I enjoyed the high level of standardization of the past. Today, engineering documentation (my area of expertise) is not standardized and each large company is winging it with MBE. If you think of it we only added the 3D model.



We are talking about so much power in the hands of vested interests. The Infotechs have infiltrated every large company. They should instantly be put in a subservient position under the scrutiny of the other departments.

We need more than a disruption we need a revolution.


August 31st, 2018

I have been a busy bee. I have written a few more articles since April. The engineering world is getting more and more complex, costly and ineffective.

Engineering 101


The major CAD vendors are going to have to downsize if you do not keep your subscriptions up. LOL They are getting freaked out and trying to push MBE/MBD/PMI to keep you locked into their software. Of course, this engineering process will fail.




Why MBE/MBD/PMI Will Fail Part II


One day some large manufacturing company executive will look at the stats pre-CAD and today's engineering and manufacturing costs and wonder why are we depending on these "CAD" companies for the basis of our engineering and manufacturing?


The time is Now! We can help you cut those ties. Just a small procedural change. No new software! You can then decided to change to a more cost effective CAD solution if you want. Hopefully you have not moved to the subscription. Hmm maybe you can go back to the perpetual system.


With these changes you can get rid of most of your PLM software, PLM and Systems Engineering staff. Move to a cloud based document controls system maintained by inexpensive admin people. Reduce the dependence on the native CAD or 3rd party PDM system.


Take a look at these titles there is bound to be one that might spark your interest.


So, what "HAS" gone wrong with Engineering? Part III

We haven't made a Drawing Since 3D CAD was Introduced!


Engineering Ignorance Defined II

Top 5 Reasons to Use MBD, DEBUNKED!


Engineering Ignorance Defined III

How to Define a 3D PMI Assembly! You have got to be Kidding


Engineering Ignorance Defined IV

Defining the “2D Drawing”  Redundant? Of course!


Engineering Ignorance Defined V

Altering the Model for PMI Documentation


Engineering Yesterday & Today

Engineer's Job Description - The Search for the Purple Squirrel


The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer


All You Wanted to Know About Drawing to 3D Conversions


Learning IronCAD in ONE Minute!

April 20th, 2018

We have two subjects to talk about today.

The “2D Drawing”.

I have hated that term since who ever coined it. I am sure it was some PLM guru. Really, what other kind of drawings are there? I have made it one of my goals to remove that term from the engineering lexicon, along with BOM for the industrial/mechanical engineering world. It is a Parts List!

There are two popular engineering documents. There is a not so popular 3rd but we will not go into that here.

1. Drawing – This is a manual or electronically created document defining the part or assembly with unassociated orthographically projected views on a specific drawing format/sheet.

2. AID (Associated Information Document) – This a document generated with associated views from the 3D model in a special documentation module in the 3D MCAD program. While it can stand alone depending on the level of detail, it is usually delivered with the 3D model as an associated information document in a PDF, hence AID

Please read my latest article: There will be a test! Just kidding!!

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

I have been talking to a couple of prospective clients about their engineering documentation problems. They told me they have a large legacy of electronic drawings (definition 1). They do not do electronic drawings (definition 1) any more they have moved on to 3D MCAD. But they still maintain these drawings and actually send out the native .dwg or .dxf to their suppliers. I used to laugh when someone would say we have to convert the Autocad users. Being in the northwest with Boeing driving 3D MCAD we had very few.

This is a huge problem for these folks. They really do not know how to handle the situation. Many are handling their document control in a variety of ways. Conventional PLM has failed. I really don't think the PLM guru's really understand engineering documentation in both manual and in the CAD world.

One of the fellows not only has a legacy of Autocad drawings (definition 1) but a huge amount of Mechanical Desktop files. They have now moved to Inventor and are having a problem accessing the Mechanical desktop files. They do not want to move on to the subscription only and are now looking to a perpetual solution.

As I was made aware of the problem I realized many have been using Autocad for drawings (definition 1) for 15 years. I assume they all have moved on by 2000 with Inventor.

How do we access that legacy data in an effective way?

It is relatively simple. We need a cloud based graphic based program as I describe here. Where you can have all forms of documentation (Yes, the 3D model is documentation). But to do this we have to take the data management out of the hands of the PLM folks and put it back the hands of engineering.

I am hoping a smart group of programmers give me a call and we can design a simple system. The basics are already here.

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

The Ultimate Engineering Document Control System

Cloud Based Engineering Document Control

The Next Topic

The Millennial 3D MCAD engineer.

This actually ties to the last article. The couple of engineers I talked to, arrived after 2000. One graduated in 2010. I was a bit shocked as I talked to him, realizing he probably has never seen a drafting board, met a professional draftsman or been in a drafting room. His experiences were electronic only. More than likely he has never used Autocad for drawings (definition 1).

Now, this is not the only fellow I have bumped into. There is a very bright engineer I debate with occasionally. He made the statement that he had 10 years’ experience. I thought 10 years? That means he graduated in 2008. I realized that he probably also has never met a professional draftsman. I am constantly talking about how draftsmen have disappeared and now replaced by 3D MCAD engineers and assume that many worked with and were introduced to 3D MCAD by experienced draftsman.

Prior to 2000 most 3D MCAD was done by the draftsman. The product was still the AID (definition 2) and was being delivered along with the 3D model as a paper print. No engineer was willing to create AIDs so the draftsman still held a viable position.

But Boeing adopted Catia 5 PLM in 1998. They probably looked at the costs of delivering the paper print and devised the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information) not realizing the electronic delivery system from Adobe, the PDF, was just around the corner. Since this minimized the need for dimensioning, they also decided they didn’t need draftsman. This is where MBE (Model Based Enterprise) showed up trying to use the 3D model as the design authority. The PMI, being what you can only call a 3D drawing replaced the drawing (definition 1) and the AID (definition 2). The PMI is the 3rd engineering document.

The Death of the Drawing

Shockingly, many of the large manufacturers were sold this bill of goods by the three major 3D MCAD systems and followed suit.

This is where the 3D MCAD engineers was defined. The Drafting and Documentation Control group were dissolved and draftsman were renamed engineering technicians and document control move under Catia 5 PLM.

I suppose this was the last of the work done by engineering techs (draftsman) since Boeing was not hiring any and letting them go by attrition and replacing them with the degreed 3D CAD engineer, preferably with Catia 5 experience.

Enter the Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

The millennial 3D MCAD engineer, graduating after 2000, entered engineering without any reference of the draftsman. They see drawings (definition 1) and have no clue how they were done or where they came from. 3D MCAD has been here since 1982, PC based electronic drawings (definition 1) in 1983, PC based 3D CADKEY since 1986, surface modeling since 1989, solid modeling on the PC since 1995, all 3D MCAD on the PC by 2000!

Now I am being very general, I am sure there are a few Millennial 3D MCAD Engineers that had family that may have been in engineering and told them about the old days. But I am sure many did not. I am beginning to realize how out of touch I am with today's engineering world. It is worse than I thought.

But the Millennial Engineer is now moving to management. They are trying to work in the failed PLM system. They have no idea that the PLM guru has never done any engineering and are living in ivory towers protected by their pedantic acronym-ridden description of how the engineering process should work, never ever doing any engineering.

These people are a fraud hiding behind PHD’s!!

There is one fellow pushing a BOM (part list) program that actually thinks that a parts list is a living function. I am not sure if he even knows that a parts list only relates to the assembly and sub-assemblies. I imagine it is relatively easy to fool the Millennial 3D MCAD engineer.

Engineering Documentation Today!

So there you go. We don’t have 3D CAD engineers, we now have the Millennial 3D MCAD engineer. Not depending on my past, that was based on a smoothly operating standard engineering process, but a completely convoluted and chaotic non-standard past. Twice removed from a functional standard engineering process and not even knowing why a standard would exist.

So how do we educate these Millennial 3D MCAD engineers? Well, we can't look to those that just came before them. Sadly, they threw out all of the experienced draftsman.

I have a few old draftsman associates I worked 30 years ago working now working in this environment. You should hear their experiences of this new Millennial 3D MCAD engineering management.

One associate said to one Millennial MCAD Manager:

"We can't do that, it is not standard procedure"

His answer:

"Standards are only Guide Lines"


The Death of the Draftsman or “Where has all the talent gone?”

Educating the Millennial 3D CAD Engineer

Should the Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer Learn Drafting?

December 8th, 2017

Making a CAD move in 2018?

Many companies have basically been stuck with their CAD software for decades. Due to their engineering process they feel like it would be a horror show to change.


But the Autodesk and PTC users are having to face that fact. No company can have their data held hostage by any software company. You can see that both Autodesk and PTC are losing money. Do you think they are not going to remedy this by not raising the subscription rates?


You are Not Stuck with Autodesk or PTC CAD Subscriptions!


Even now they expect you to pay by the year, completely defeating the, "It is easy to get into our product". It is interesting if you subscribe to Creo they put you on an automatic annual payment program. They know once you sign up you now have no other option.


So let's consider changing systems!!


Yes, I know you have many experienced users and massive legacy data to consider. Then add the cost of the new software. But most of you can do it will little consequence and if you think it through now have no choice.


The problem is basically is based on document control.


If you use a model and and AID (drawing) as your engineering deliverable then there is little to change.


If you are on a MBE system you many want to move to the above system. Sadly, the MBE system has virtually no engineering documentation standards and will sooner or later become a problematic mess. The above system demands no special software to view and use the documentation and offers a much better quality standard document to manufacturing.


PMI vs AID (Associated Information Document)


Yes you have to keep your original system forever!!


Boeing use Catia 3 and 4 for 13 years and then introduced Catia 5. Catia 5 was a complete different 3D CAD program and neither could read each others files. A fiasco? Beyond belief. Yes, Boeing is stuck with networked Catia 4 forever.


But our solutions are much more compatible than the Boeing move. All of our solutions can directly import all the popular programs.


So you make the decision to move. Don't be fooled by the cost prohibited high end systems, NX and Catia, that promise to manage your complete engineering and company. It has been shown to be a failure. It can be so much simpler. Hell, they did it without the computer with a much more streamlined standard process 40 years ago. You are already suffering from a huge painful PLM system now. You can stay with your existing system and move to a much more cost effective and easily to manage document control system.


The only mid range systems are Solidworks and Solid Edge. Of course, the big boys all seem to be in cahoots to go to subscription only. Do you really trust them?


Acutally, it may be time to move from your existing system!!


Right now we are looking at Inventor and Creo.


My two solutions are very easy to use and can easily replace Inventor and Creo or any other 3D CAD package. The only problem is the AID (Associated Information Document). No system can read each others AIDs (drawings). That is one of the reasons to keep the systems. But changing a part after release is a rare thing. Most parts are archived never to be seen again.


Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D


IronCAD offers a true single model design environment (parts and assemblies in a single file), it is the only package that has true integrated history/direct edit modeling, copy and paste parts and assemblies from other files and the incredible feature, part and assembly manipulator, the Triball. This unique system offers 10x increased productivity and can fit right into your system.


ZW3D Lite offers a Multi-Object design environment which differs from a single model environment with each part being separate yet in the same file, it offers primitive shapes (increases design productivity 2X) and the integrated AID (drawing). Imagine not having to worry about an AID (drawing) separately.


ZW3D is what I call the "Ultimate 3D CAD/CAM system. It adds integrated standalone class A surfacing, precision morphing, sheet metal design and incredibly robust reverse engineering functionality.


ZW3D also is an integrated CAD/CAM system offering mold design and CNC programming.


Both of these solutions import Creo, NX, Solidworks, Solid Edge and Inventor. They can also import/export all of the neutral formats plus Catia 4 and 5.

ZW3D adds PMI import to NX, Solidworks, Catia and Creo.


They are easy to learn and use by experienced 3D CAD designers. Yes, you get some resistance but soon they realize the incredible productivity increase and are now ZW3D or IronCAD Users.


Costs are much more cost effective in the long run. If you find the enhancement worth upgrading, its is your option or you could just stay with your current version.


Payment options!


IronCAD is $3970.00 and Inovate (Modeling only) $1270.00

IronCAD rental is $1500.00 per year.


ZW3D Lite is $2000.00 Perpetual and $600.00 annual rental

ZW3D Standard is $3000.00 Perpetual and $900,00 annual rental.


Both of these companies have a stable user base and very small overhead. And still base their sales on highly experience dealers that offer real world support.


It is an easy move? Not always but it now may be your only option.


You can see how much Andrew values your past faithfulness.


For more information or to download IronCAD of ZW3D


August 11th, 2017

Not much new on the 3D CAD horizon, so I thought I would look into how to buy 3D CAD software. I logged on to each vendor and reviewed "How to Buy".

Your CAD company doesn't own you!

There are other options!

No one should give up their perpetual seats for a subscription. It is an obvious statement that the CAD vendor has reached the end of their product cycle and the only way we can keep you on board is to fool you into believing they really have something to offer you that is worth paying them forever. If there was a time to consider another 3D CAD option, it is now. There are many solutions that are much more productive and cost effective. If you move to a simple document control system their PLM becomes worthless. Not that it isn't worthless right now.

Subscription Only: There are so many thing wrong with this concept.  This is a very bad business decision. It is like getting married to someone you can't control and almost impossible to divorce after a few years. Your precious engineering information is at their mercy. As soon as you subscribe and start using the software you have just locked your company out of that information without paying a "Ransom". Price increases? You have "NO" choice!

Rental with a Perpetual Option: This is a viable business model and the best for both the CAD vendor and customer. If you are using a subscription only do not subscribe and slowly move your information to one of these systems. Our ZW3D product line offers this solution with no maintenance, upgrades only. Rental starts at $350.00 per year for ZW3D Lite.

Perpetual only: IronCAD offers perpetual only with annual maintenance. I would like to see a 6 month and 12 month rental option.

How to  Buy Subscribe PTC

Look like PTC has moved to subscription only. It is interesting $2,200.00 per year gets all of their 3D Design Products. Key Features Much of their promo is on PLM. Truly this is this high-end systems only claim to fame. It is by far the most fragmented program today!

But what about all of the extensions. They have a myriad of optional extensions and it seems that you have to call for more information or to purchase. You can download a 30 day evaluation of Creo Parametric which indicates it can easily be loaded and played with. Nope, I won't do it. LOL


I believe PTC will be the first of the large companies to drastically downsize.


How to Buy Catia


Of course, Dassault is as obscure as ever. You fill out a form or call. I am not sure if they send you to a dealer (I don't think there are many) or deal direct. There does not seem to be a way of evaluating with out contacting sales. Many of these programs have given up on just part design and have focused first on PLM, which puts it out of the range of most mid-sized company and large companies in my viewpoint. Dassault has made engineering very, very expensive, not only in the initial cost but in the operational environment. Catia is actually one of the easier systems to replace.


Actually the only people that would buy Catia would be those that have to communicate with those that already have it. I heard a story about a company that bought Catia 6 and it took 6 months before they had it up and running. It is just too complex for most of part and assembly design.


Catia has a good future as long as they can keep their large users fooled.


How to Buy NX

Siemens has by far the worst website in the industry. If you want to buy NX you have to contact them. I am not sure if they have a rental option.


I have heard it is very PLM focused and you have to set up your data management as you install the software. While NX is probably the best of the high-end CAD systems for design it is still a bit clunky to use and has quite a bit of overhead.


I know they still have dealers around, so I imagine they refer you to a dealer if there is one in the area. There seem to be two NX dealers in the Portland, OR area. One sells NX only the other also offers Solidworks (Which I will get to later). I sold Solidworks and the NX sales staff was always trying to take my SE customers and move them up to NX.


How to Buy Subscribe Autodesk


Subscription only?? Just pick the product and subscribe. This truly is a losing deal. You can subscribe by the month that gives the impression of getting into the product very cost effective until you have paid the 10th payment. Yes, every month you have to make a payment. Yes, there is a discount if you pay annually or for 3 years. But it will never stop. If you don't pay? No access to your precious engineering information.

What if they increase the price? You have no recourse!! You are held hostage. Who would fall for this incredibly one sided scheme?

That is the deal breaker. Time to move to a system that thinks of you first?

I am sure all of the dealers will be gone soon. Autodesk does not refer you to a dealer anymore, just their on-line store. Even expensive products like Alias subscriptions are available on-line.


You are Not Stuck with Autodesk


How to Buy Solid Edge

You can rent Solid Edge directly from the website. If you want a perpetual seat they request that you call.


How to Buy Solidworks


They offer to sell you Solidworks from inside sales or refer you to a dealer. They don't reference rental options, but I have heard that it is available.


How to Buy ZW3D


Of course, TECH-NET sells and rents ZW3D. Before you make any decisions look at ZW3D. It easily matches all of the above packages in part and assembly modeling but adds two things that make it much more productive. The multi-object (Single Model) environment and the integrated drawing. Just imagine how simple that would make your design and PDM process? But its claim to fame is its reasonable pricing. All ZW3D packages include importing of NX, Solidworks, Creo and Catia native files including PMI. It also imports Inventor and Solid Edge. It imports and exports all of the neutral formats plus Catia 4 and 5.

ZW3D Lite             Annual Rental $350.00 Perpetual $1,300.00

ZW3D Standard      Annual Rental $625.00 Perpetual $2,500.00


The Ultimate 3D CAD System


ZW3D is an truly integrated CAD/CAM package. Give us a call for more information. All CNC options come with professional CAD functionality.

The Case for Inexpensive Integrated 3D CAD/CAM!


How to Buy IronCAD


TECH-NET, sells and supports IronCAD. IronCAD only comes with a perpetual options. It is by far the very best 3D CAD conceptual design program. It only cost a year of two of annual subscriptions or rentals the above CAD packages. I can tell you it is worth it. It is 5X increase productivity in conceptual design and 10X when modifying.

Five Functions that Increase 3D CAD Productivity!!


IronCAD - $3,970.00 Maintenance $895.00 Upgrade from any version $1,295.00

Inovate -  $1,270.00 Maintenance $295.00 Upgrade from any version    $495.00

Inovate is one of the few modeling only package available. Great for those that are creating models for 3D printing or need access to the engineering models for a variety of reasons from analysis, manufacturing and even sales and marketing.



Things are changing in the industry. The large CAD vendors are starting to lose there continued sales and are force to move their users to not so friendly options to keep their cash flow. I just want to make you aware there are other solutions. You are not stuck with these systems. I look and see that Boeing has extended their relationship with Dassault. Sadly, they think they have no option. But replacing Catia is one of the easier things to do.


Give me a call to help you with any situation you are now confronting. You truly need to evaluate the subscription option. We have a cost effective solution. Not in just part design but making document control (PDM) much easier.


Joe Brouwer



January 6th, 2017

There have been a few changes in the industry since April 17, 2016:


1. Version 2017 

Every CAD product has released a 2017 version of their product including the ones I support. Do you even look at the enhancements? Or do you just load it like an automaton and keep on working. How many of you have really reviewed the enhancements? Most have just keep on working not noticing an enhancement until it effects your operations and you become very upset. Now you have to figure out what they did.

I have a great article about the Maintenance Contract.
How to keep the suckers paying!


All You Wanted to Know about the Annual CAD Maintenance Contract


You are Not Stuck with Autodesk


2. The largest change in the industry has been with Onshape. 

They have eliminated the 10 private projects and all the work you do is now public and available to anyone with an account. One of the benefits was you could use Onshape like a document control system as sort of advanced blue print counter (I will have an article on that in a few weeks) but they have limited private documents to read only with a free account. Now this may change if it is shown that accessing completely released engineering documentation information may increase paid users. If large companies see the benefit they will easily opt for the reasonable cost for Onshape. Imagine what they pay for the Catia fraud. Onshape! The Party is over! Onshape needs a way to quickly monetize this operation. But as design collaboration and document control tool, the market is wide open and with no CAD development costs.


Why Cloud Based CAD will Fail

I think they are missing the point, there are enough CAD Pro/e clones on the market and CAD in the cloud will never be a viable option.
It is obvious that there are not many users to their unique CAD solution. Personally I found it lacking in so many ways. Their CAD system instead of adding innovation to the 3D CAD world, they tried to win over the existing dated Solidworks program user. I will guarantee that SW users will never move to Onshape. But the biggest problem is not with a marginal CAD system, it has to do with a native file format you can't save locally. A few have told me you can just export the models as a STEP. But our 3D CAD modeling problem is not with model compatibility it is the associated documentation. We need those associated information documentations (drawings) for many reasons, version history for one. Yes, there is PMI but it will never be a standard. Why MBE/MBD/PMI Will FAIL. Not that it matters, Onshape doesn't support PMI at this time. PMI is based on the native files and translation is based on the current release of those files. Who could keep the translation format up to date? (Short sighted, yes beyond belief).

Document Control:

But there were some incredible benefits to Onshape. Sadly, they only allow viewing of the professional version with the free version. If they allowed full controlled downloading they could have created the ultimate blue print counter. Which would have required a professional license by many large companies. When the PLM and MBE experiment fails, a move to a conventional based functional cloud based document control system will be established. If not Onshape something very similar will be the perfect solution.


Onshape was a gift to engineering in truly unlimited functional collaboration. While in the free mode it is completely available. All of your information is accessible by anyone with an any account. Onshape could solve this problem with just offering 1 or 2 private formats. It may not generate subscription customers but there may be groups that would want complete control of this level of collaboration. Maybe at $100 per year with the hope they would move to the professional solution for collaboration only. Basing the product on only CAD design will be a loser.


Oops, I almost missed one of the greatest functions Onshape offers. If they keep even just the basic CAD functionality they could have the only 3D and electronic drawing training package available on the Cloud. Every school in the world would be beating a path to their door. But it is more than just the platform, they need professional training packages including basic drafting, form, fit and function design mixed with basic 3D functionality. Imagine the student could study from anywhere. Even the not so bright Apple users (Just Kidding) could access the assignments. Many could even use the program to do small projects, as long as they knew it would be an open format. No college would need expensive high end systems. The graduate students would walk in the door with good 2D and 3D design skills that would make training on the company system a much shorter learning curve.


The sale of Solidworks to Dassault

Sadly, Onshapes founding team really were not the innovation geniuses everyone touts, but nothing more than a few fellows that pirated Pro/e and put it on a PC and called it Solidworks. They really didn't even add any innovation. There were other system that offer much more productive features like a single model environment, direct edit functionality and integrated drawings. These features would have not even needed the creation of the complex and expansive PLM, PDM and MBE systems.

But Pro/e had the right buzz word: History based/Parametric design. Solidworks was going down, it could not even compete with programs such as CADKEY and IronCAD. But as they were going down a miracle happened. Dassault probably pressured by Boeing, being impressed by the success of Pro/e's successful demand on their very convoluted history based/parametric design paradigm as compared to Catia 4s superior Boolean based design. Dassault paid upward of $250 million for Solidworks. Did anyone wonder why? I have always thought it was Solidworks Pro/e history based technology to incorporate in the Boeing demanded Catia 5. Dassault brought to us the Catia 4 to Catia 5 incompatibility fiasco that cost Boeing and Airbus billions and is still causing them massive costly problems.


Solidworks is the worlds most popular 3D CAD solution

Ah, but Joe, Solidworks is the most popular 3D CAD program on the planet. A simple reason. This is where the Solidworks management apply some well proven genius. They used the AutoCAD "Perpetual Evaluation Marketing" program which did not include any copy protection for 10 years and it was passed around like hotcakes. Every engineering person in the industry has a copy of SW 2006. The last year of no copy protection. Not so much for SW2007!! But the die was cast.


Superior IronCAD moved to a 2nd Tier product

I was selling IronCAD at the time. Miles above Solidworks. It had integrated history and direct edit design (still the only package that does), a single model environment, drag and drop design from standard and custom catalogs and the often copied but never duplicated feature, part and assembly manipulator: the Triball. IronCAD also provided a documentation module that provide not only drawing capabilities, but many different documentation formats such as tech pubs, marketing promotional materials, sales presentations and a variety of other pertinent documents comparable in use to a word processor. Its ease of use was easily implemented by many different departments like purchasing, planning and manufacturing: see Leverage Your Engineering Data throughout your Organization! even for companies that use different CAD systems. Don't believe me Download a 30 day Evaluation and bring in your most complex SW assembly and start modifying parts much faster than the original SW. You can do the same for all of the popular packages, Creo, NX, Solid Edge, Inventor and Catia 4/5.


Why aren't we all using IronCAD?

Strict licensing (Against my protests) implemented in 1998!!

Sadly, the same thing happened to CADKEY for the same reason.


3. Product Rental 

Rumors abound on a SW rental option. I have yet to see a program that is based on Parasolids (Except Solid Edge) or ACIS offering this option. I think it has to do with royalties. If they do make this an option, say good by to VARs or Dealers. All large CAD companies will be selling direct. Gone are the friendly support fellows you could always depend on helping you. You will be required to have a maintenance or subscription. Yes, they do think you are that stupid.


4. Now to Autodesk

The jury is still out on the subscription only. My own viewpoint is it is a scam. You sell your company and your engineering information is tied to a subscription service forever? With a local system you sell the information and a compatible version of the native software is part of the sale.


Autodesk is a strange bird. A few customers called and discussed Fusion 360. All just stayed with my products IronCAD or ZW3D since I make the argument about the benefits of owning it.


But I wonder why Autodesk seem to be competing against their own products. Fusion 360 (Fully functional CAD/CAM product), Autocad Mechanical (2D/3D Wireframe, intermediate surfacing and push/pull solids) all in a functional hybrid design environment. Then Inventor a fine Pro/e clone. But all for a subscription you pay "FOREVER". Is anyone really this "STUPID"? Ooops, too rude Joe, "IGNORANT"?

April 17,2016

I am celebrating my 35th year in 3D CAD. If you have read about the 1980's in the above article, you will know that I was instrumental in introducing PC based 3D CADKEY to the Northwest starting with Boeing and virtually all of their suppliers. As a user and dealer of a variety of 3D CAD programs over the last 30 years, I have become much more than a professional user and salesman, I have become an enthusiast and evangelist.

My years as a board designer have given me all of the design tools to become very proficient in both engineering design and graphic creation with the 3D CAD system.

Current and Past Projects

I pay close attention to all of the current 3D CAD news.

I am going to start this article where my last one left off -2010

2010 – Knock, Knock! Anyone Home in the 3D CAD world?

One day I was doing some feature comparisons for my ZW3D products as compared to Solidworks for some marketing since they are very similar products. As I perused through Solidworks 2010 features on their website I saw this:

Direct Model Geometry Modification! – What?

I have been pushing the direct edit functionality of my programs for over a decade. That was one function that I would point out that Solidworks and the other Pro/E clones lacked. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this.

I showed this to my CAD Vendors and they also didn't know that this function was available. I never heard about it anywhere, not from any of my Solidworks friends. I pointed out this weakness quite often in many articles and promotions offering our products as direct edit

Direct Editing Relief For Solidworks and Catia 5

I was very enthused.

Enthused?? What the heck are you talking about, Joe? This is your competition. Like I have said, I have been pointing out the high level of incompatibility of the Pro/E clones and pushing the integration of direct editing for over a decade. IronCAD, KeyCreator and ZW3D were my tools of choice. All had direct edit, IronCAD and ZW3D had integrated history and direct edit functionality that provided much more flexibility than KeyCreator that was a direct editing only package.

28 Years of 3D CAD Incompatibility

Next Generation 3D CAD Technology Applied!

Here is an example of IronCAD's direct editing:


Here is a shelled shape. We select the face and with a right mouse click with select move. The Tri-ball comes up to manipulate the face. We are going to rotate the selected face 15 degrees. We had the shell function in the history and shows that the shell did get updated.

Imagine working without worrying about design intent. You have the freedom of incredible conceptual history design with the flexibility to directly edit the part when the design requires it.

Here is what Solidworks says about Direct Model Edit:

"SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software gives designers simple ways to quickly create and adjust 3D model geometry using direct model editing. Simply click on the model geometry and move it, speeding up design, saving time and development costs, and increasing productivity."

Solidworks was now totally compatible with my 3D CAD programs or any other 3D CAD programs. The was what I had been waiting for. We could now pass models back and forth and we could use any system that had directed edit functionality. Total 3D CAD compatibility. We could now focus on standardizing, at least, on the 3D modeling.

I had a friend with a SW2010 and he let my play with it. I was a bit shocked that you really had to look for the toolbar. It was a bit obscure. But when I got it up and running I found it was quite robust. I did notice something strange, that it added a step in the history. It didn’t bother me at the time since I was just testing the functionality on an imported file. I was satisfied that it could do the job. I was a bit surprised that the Solidworks users seemed not to be aware of this functionality and spawned this article.

Solidworks Users are "NOT" Stupid! 

But there seemed to be one problem. Adding a step with each face modification as a step to the history seems to be problematic.

There is this young engineer that I often get into heated debates about on a variety of subjects, many are related to Solidworks since he is an expert. I was asking why the Solidworks users were not using direct editing in their design process. I didn’t think much of the step created in the history every time a face was altered. He explained that this creates huge problems with the history and could not be extensively used.  I found out that you could not combine the history and just work directly with the part as I can with IronCAD.

I even suggested he export a parasolid and bring it back in and start direct editing it. He shuddered at the thought and the discussion stopped there. I took a bit of time to review this situation with the other popular Pro/E clones and the same problem existed. After writing a few articles like the following one I have come to the conclusions that direct edit functionality cannot be effectively combined with the history design in the Pro/E clones and that the industry may have to look to new products like Solidworks Conceptual Design to standardize the 3D modeling process thereby hugely increasing compatibility. We should be able to model in any system and toss the models back and forth.

Universal 3D CAD Compatibility is Here!! Sadly, not yet!!


I took a sales/tech managers job with a company that was selling the Autodesk Manufacturing solution. We were going to focus on Inventor 2012. I took some time to learn Inventor. It was very easy to learn. They have great tutorials that teach you top down design and I found it a very nice program, even though being just another Pro/E clone.

I noticed that they included Fusion. This was their direct edit product. At the time it was a standalone program. It had a link to Inventor. I was really interested in how it worked with Inventor. Inventor was the only Pro/E clone I got all the way to assembly and drawing. Even though I was a dealer for Pro/E, Solidworks and Solid Edge I never got beyond the modeling. Just modeling in these package was very painful and very unproductive as compared to what I was using.

So I did a design in Fusion. I was a good direct edit package easy to learn and use. I brought the Fusion file into Inventor. It was a live link. I even modified the part in Inventor.  I created an AID (Associated Information Document) previously incorrectly called the “2D Drawing”. Any changes in Fusion or Inventor were reflected in the AID. I found the AID module very well designed. There were a few small bugs but Fusion was still in Beta. I have heard that they have now folded Fusion inside Inventor. I think I have even seen some Boolean shapes.

We were the first name in a list of NW dealers on the Autodesk website so we were getting lots of calls. But all of the calls were for AutoCAD. Against the wishes of the VAR manager I decide to take another look at Autocad. I was quite shocked, it had good intermediate surfacing and push/pull solid modeling. I was quickly up and running with those two functions, but I just could not get past the idiosyncratic 2D operation. This was not your fathers, ooops grandfathers Autocad.

I was sent to a one week course on their new “Suites”. We were in the “Product Design Suite” Group. This was quite bizarre they bundled the oddest bunch of programs together. Besides Inventor, Autocad and Fusion, they included programs like Alias and 3ds Max, these are not casual user programs. There are many experts that base their professional career on these programs. They had a thing called Mud Box that seemed to be some creature creating software, very weird. It seemed like they created these suites only to get rid of some of the slow moving products.

It was an odd experience. They are a total marketing company. Autodesk has the best software money can buy.

That job didn’t last long. It is a bit tough to work for someone after being your own boss for so many years. I left and continued to sell IronCAD and ZW3d and providing engineering services.

3D CAD Hybrid Modeling

In 1998 The CADKEY Design Suite was released. It may have been the most complete hybrid modeling system ever devised. It was based on a wireframe modeler working in a 3D environment. It was easy to integrate the surfacing, solid modeling and finally history based parametric design. We had levels to differentiate our parts and assemblies. Levels also could be used as somewhat of a history manager. It also had integrated drawings. You could do easily do single person projects in one file. Sadly, this amazing, highly productive concept disappeared when they moved to KeyCreator.

The Pro/E clones are attempting to provide hybrid modeling. But the Pro/e design process does not offer the necessary base for this to happen. It is a dated paradigm and we are slowly watching it reach the end of its product cycle. It only adds somewhat disassociated modules as we have talked about with the attempt to incorporated direct editing in Solidworks.

Only one product integrates all of the features that I described in the CADKEY Design Suite. That is ZW3D. It has all of what I described above and more. It offers a much higher level of history, direct edit, surfacing, sheet metal design, reverse engineering plus many more automated features. It also offers a much more up to date and more friendly user interface.

The Ultimate 3D CAD System

The only way that the current companies can provide this level of hybrid modeling is by introducing new products. Solidworks seems to be the only one moving toward this with the introduction of Solidworks Conceptual Design. Sadly, they are not making it readily available to their user base by pricing it at a subscription price of $2,988.00 per year. It is hard for me to understand why they didn't make this a part of their Catia 5 system. It uses the same solid modeling kernel and at this time Catia 5 is the only popular system that has no direct edit functionality which is causing huge problems with the design of their new airplane, the 787.

Below I describe Onshape. Sadly, they paid no attention to hybrid modeling and brought out nothing more than another Pro/E clone at least in the basic modeling.


There wasn’t much new in the industry for a few years.

Then Autodesk released Fusion 360. They had a good trial period and I played with it. I found it a bit convoluted and not straight forward. It was called a cloud program, I guess because all of your files reside on a remote server. But it truly is not a true Cloud based program, you have to download a small portion of the program that uses your hardware. My free trial ended and I lost interest.

Onshape! A View from the Clouds

Then we started hearing rumors about the founders of Solidworks designing a new 3D CAD program.

I was friends with many of the early PC based 3D CAD Pioneers. Bob Bean, owner of Baystate Technology, creator of Draftpak and owner of CADKEY asked if I would show the team at Onshape IronCAD. I gave them a demonstration. IronCAD is by far the world's most innovative and best conceptual design 3D CAD system.

Five Functions that Increase 3D CAD Productivity!!

We were not sure what they were going to create. But finally they released the beta of Onshape. They were allowing people to sign up for the beta. I was right there. This was a true Cloud Based program. You just signed on and you were working. Windows or Apple! It was Incredible.

As a CAD package I was not impressed. There was virtually no innovation. But then I realized these were the folks that brought us, Solidworks, the first PC based Pro/E clone. Solidworks was nothing more than a poor mans copy of Pro/E on the PC. They actually never stepped out of that paradigm or they purposely designed the program that way for the existing Solidworks and other Pro/E clone users to feel at home. Onshape will never match the incredible 3D CAD conceptual design capabilities of IronCAD or come close to the superb hybrid modeling of ZW3D.

But it was miles above Fusion 360. It was very straight forward and easy to use. As far as it being in the sketch, sketch, constrain, constrain world this is a pretty good package. The direct editing was very straight forward and well thought through. One of the more productive features is that you can do complete projects in one document. Many have found it just to slow to be a professional design package.

I did go back to Fusion 360 to make sure I didn't miss anything. I had done it before and my license expired, but after the release of Onshape they made it more accessible. This did not make Autodesk management happy. I will get into this later.

But we want to control our documentation locally.

The problem with cloud based CAD systems is that they have no transferable native file format or a way to work with it off line. What you design stays on the cloud. You have to export the model in a neutral format. Onshape is the only program that writes a native Solidworks file. I do not know if it exports the history. I would pass on this program as my only design tool for that purpose only. We want to be in complete control of our documents locally.

But the CAD is one small part of Onshape. It is by far the very best collaboration and document control tool. This is the future of document control.

You can upload any file to Onshape. A native 3D CAD file, a neutral 3D CAD file, an excel, word, pdf, image, ANY FILE.

This may make you ask:

What is the engineering deliverable today?

The native or neutral model and a PDF or a PMI, sent by email?

I will tell you Mr. Murphy is having a field day.

Here is what you can do in Onshape. You just log on, Windows or Apple, and there is the model in 3D for you to review and/or modify. Documentation? All the documentation and revision history you want just sits there ready to be accessed. You can lock it down to any level of access you want. Access can be easily controlled by a group of document control admin people. Oops, goodbye PLM experts.

This process can be completely standardize and be superior to the yet unmatched standard drawing system.

You still do all of your 3D CAD work locally on your native CAD system and use Onshape only for your engineering documentation. Using the native 3D CAD file as the engineering deliverable has already failed, but the lack of applicable knowledge has not allowed the powers that be to realize it.

Beyond document control, Onshape offers a high level of collaboration. You can use it for design review, checking, analysis, also access to the model itself for marketing, sales, purchasing, tech pubs, etc. Engineering, itself, would look here first for the released engineering information then move to the native CAD system to modify or create new parts and products. This could hugely simplify the demands on the native PDM system.

We may not design in Onshape but it will standardize our document control and collaboration.

Everyone needs an Onshape account to become familiar with this concept and help define the future. It is the perfect 3D CAD training tool. I can't imagine all of the colleges not adopting it for their standard 3D CAD tool with its incredible easy access. They would not even have to contact Onshape. Just Log on!!

Get an Onshape account today and search for "Redback Spyder".

Onshape is free for the first 10 projects. After that your projects are moved to the public area. It is very reasonable at $100 per month for unlimited projects. I can see all small and medium sized companies utilizing Onshape for document control and access. All you would need is one paid license. Access would be by free accounts. Large companies would probably hire Onshape to devise a not so public cloud system. It is the perfect system even surpassing the simple archaic drawing system, that PLM has failed to match.

The release of Onshape was not appreciated by one fellow.

You have to read Autodesks CEO, Carl Bass article "Setting the Record Straight". I was shocked that he would expose his fear of Onshape so blatantly. Should the current popular CAD systems be worried about Onshape? I have worked with Boeing and Catia for over 30 years. Dassault is responsible for keeping Boeing one of the most ignorant and isolated manufacturing companies. Their lack of interoperability is beyond belief. Onshape would instantly offer Boeing a new level of operation and compatibility being able to directly import native Catia models. But, sadly, I am sure that Dassault will not let them see the benefits and more than likely sabotage any grass root efforts to utilize Onshape. They will probably offer an overly costly and complex cloud system "See we have the Cloud, too!" Boeing management won’t even question it, with BCS saying "There is nothing to see here, please move on". The 3D CAD vendors that believe their only claim to fame is their PLM capabilities may find themselves out in the cold. And the sooner the better.

With standardization comes simplification!

The funny thing about Carl's letter is that it came out the same day Onshape was released.

Setting the Record Straight

By Carl Bass, Autodesk President and CEO

The Age of Subscription only CAD Software.

Autodesk will now only rent you their software.

Here is what one fellows comment in a posting on this article:

 “The New Pricing Policy by Autodesk”

Jeff says:

“I'm very ok with this. As a small business owner just starting out, it would be incredibly hard for me to cough up the money to buy AutoCAD. A small monthly fee suits me very well.

My response:

“Jeff, you make a good point. But your data is now locked to a system you have to pay a monthly fee to access forever. Everyone knows that all CAD systems do not offer backward compatibility. It would probably be safer to finance a perpetual package. That is also one of the problem with CAD on the cloud, there is no native file format that you can save locally.”

Here is another comment in response to Jeff’s comment.

R. K says:

“Jeff, you make an excellent point, the rental system is good, for some people. I believe the major source of backlash is that now we are all required to go rental. Why not offer a choice?”

My response:

“R.K. Why don't they offer a choice? Once you get on board you now have "no choice" but to stay on board. They just took "your" choice away! Sadly, since the licenses of the past are not transferable you again have "no choice" if you want to use AutoCAD or any other Autodesk product.”

"The Pro/e clone CAD system has basically run its course on innovation. Autodesk and soon the other major players have nowhere else to turn to keep the cash flowing. They have moved far past the point of concern for the user.”

“I assume most will settle with their current version. We used to have to upgrade due to the latest version due to lack of compatibility with earlier operating systems. But I think Windows 10 will around for a very long time.”

So there you go. Renting CAD software in a nutshell.  

Added 7-29-16

I have noticed that only CAD systems that own the solid modeling kernel are offering subscriptions only or rental options. Autodesk Product, Solid Edge and ZW3D are the only ones I know of. Probably has something to do with the royalties due to ACIS or Parasolids.

How many will buy into this fraud. Many will be like Jeff and not think this through. But many will turn to 3D CAD systems that still offer the perpetual or subscription solution. It will probably be the smaller 3D CAD companies that are a bit more streamlined in nature yet offer highly productive, professional and compatible 3D CAD systems. The large 3D CAD vendors have a huge overhead. It will not be easy to down size. Many heads will roll before they will face this fact. Forcing their customers to rent their software will not save them.

I predict PTC will go first. It is just becoming too fragmented to succeed and it is easily replaceable. But Catia, by far the worst 3D CAD system and the easiest to replace, will have a bit of a longer run, since Boeing’s engineering is controlled by BCS (Boeing Computer Services) and Dassault PLM. Virtually all of the aircraft companies have standardized on Catia 5 because of Boeing, no not Catia 6 (Another fiasco). The current aircraft industry illustrates the failure of not having a good 3D CAD modeling standard that offers complete compatibility.

But we have to ask this question:

Can we have a 3D CAD modeling standard?

Not as long at the industry is controlled by a myriad of incompatible 3D CAD companies. Each trying to keep themselves relevant, even after realizing that their 3D CAD paradigm is long past any innovation. You just can't add another wheel to a car to make it more efficient!

We need the manufacturing companies, colleges and relevant industry associations to get out from under the thumb of the current 3D CAD companies and start looking at the standardization of the industry. Sadly, there is not one "single" point where this idea can be formed, and from what I see, there are none with the required applicable knowledge to form it.

I have many articles focused on solving this problem. Here are a couple of my favorite and more popular articles.

The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why


So What "HAS" Gone Wrong with Engineering?

I think that more or less brings us up to date. I will be adding more comments on the state of 3D CAD and the industry to this site as the news comes out.


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Viewpoints on Today's 3D CAD and Engineering Industry

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Joe Brouwer