This article was written years ago, and many things have changed since then. The top popular CAD programs have now embraced Direct Edit or Explicit Modeling. But they have only added it to modify "dumb" models. It still cannot be effectively utilized in the design process where it truly needs to be to take advantage of this incredibly flexible and productive process. Sadly, we need a disruption in the 3D CAD world moving us away from the dated, time consuming and convoluted history based only design into a world where both paradigms are integrated.


Update 8-20-18

I have been doing some comparison exercises with ZW3D and IronCAD vs Fusion 360, Solidworks, NX, Creo, Catia and Inventor. These started out as product comparisons and soon turned into a study on modeling techniques. I realized I modeled much different and much more productive than the presenters in these exercises. I have actually coined two productive modeling techniques

Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling.

You can see many examples of these techniques compared to today's constrained sketching only in these articles.

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

Update 5-2-16


Update 7-6-15

I just got a note from a old time jobshopper friend. We were on the board together at Boeing in 1985 and helped me introduce 3D CAD CADKEY to Boeing. After I became a CADKEY dealer he got a me big sale with Enstrom Helicopter over 2 decades ago.

He is a mechanical designer (No Degree). Even though he has been an Aerospace Designer highly skilled on Catia he is finding that today's jobs are requiring an engineering degree. He asked if he could get a student version of Creo and Solidworks trying to expand his horizons. Sadly, I couldn't help him.

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

The problem being: How do you walk onto a contract job as a newbie in a CAD program. Are the directs going to help you? I hardly think so. And we all know you do not become an expert on a CAD system without many on the job hours. The industry has been suffering for years. The CAD system experience is more important than the the engineering discipline. Why does Boeing and Airbus stay with the dated inflexible Catia 5? Look at the other industry that are locked into their CAD systems. It has cost the industry billions of dollars in the lack of expertise easily available.

My friend and I could walk on to the job pre CAD and be producing that day. We had the applicable knowledge of the industry. We were hired for our engineering experience. Our tools? Just the standard drafting instruments. 

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

So we look today to find a standard CAD solution. Even though direct edit functionality is now available in all system except Catia 5, it has not offered the necessary integration with history based design to realize a usable accepted standard.  


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



There are few complex parts with Direct Edit!


Standardization! The Future of CAD

Direct edit in the Pro/e clone world is nothing but an add-on module with a clunky interface between the history/feature based modeling and the direct editing functionality. Even when they try to incorporate the two paradigms they are basically separate functions creating a step in the history. The direct edit function is still part of the history. There is only one CAD system that truly incorporates and integrates both history and direct editing.


We can now Welcome aboard Solidworks (Rewritten)


We can also say Solidworks Users "NOT" Stupid? 


We can now say Universal CAD Compatibility is "NOT" Here!


Beyond the hype! The Worst to Best CAD System and Why!


We are getting closer to establishing a standard.


I have asked this question on linkedin. "How many are utilizing the direct editing capabilities in their design process?" I did not get a good response. I am sure that the Pro/e users are still using the history/feature based modeling since the Cocreate or Creo Direct is an option. They are not confronted with incorporating enough non-native data into their projects to justifying the cost to add the direct editing module. But many programs like Solidworks, Inventor, NX and ZW3D have them include in the base program.


But you don't have to use non-native data to incorporate Direct Editing.


Take a look at this article "Five Functions that Increase CAD Productivity!" Look at Function #4 Direct Feature Editing" and see the rotation of a face. In a Pro/E paradigm program that would be impossible. But with a Creo Direct or other direct editing module you could do it easily. Yes, you would start blowing your history, but you would move to the direct modeling module for the rest of the job. This would eliminate the strict guidelines under which you are now operating, the "Consideration of Design Intent". I know this is a huge decision but the freedom it offers in design is incredible.


I was introduced to Inventor while taking a position of Sales/Tech manager selling Autodesk Manufacturing products. We were only representing the manufacturing CAD products. Inventor, which I feel is a bit more user friendly than SW, includes a direct editing module called Fusion*. Since I started in direct editing CAD, it was quite refreshing to use. You could import a complete assembly and start working on it as if it was create in Fusion. But if you needed to make a drawing you would have to import it into Inventor and work with it there. If you needed to modify it beyond adding holes, you had to open Fusion inside Inventor and make the changes. Yes it would update your drawing but it was a bit clunky to use.


*Autodesk has now integrated Fusion direct editing capabilities in Inventor! But I am not sure if Fusion is still included as a stand alone product that offers the the single modeling environment. Please do not confuse this with Fusion 360.


Catia 5 is still history only and leaves a lot to be desired for the large companies to be compatible with outside vendors that utilize other systems. Boeing actually uses another CAD program to read non native parts and convert them to usable Catia 4 or 5 parts. Even Catia 5 requires a special group to move Catia 4 files to Catia 5 and visa versa. Imagine not being able to read your earlier Solidworks files with the current version? Imagine a company upgrade to a new version with no clear path to the earlier versions files? IRONCAD has the capability to read and write both of Catia 4 and 5, making it sort of a Catia 4.5. The inability to utilize non native parts is still costing Boeing Millions if not Billions of dollars in lost time. We won't even get into Catia 6 or now "3Dexperience" that Dassault is trying to sell. Boeing and Airbus have already been fooled once. But they are more than capable of being fooled again! LOL


Update 5-27-19


Does Catia have direct edit?


I have not seen anything referencing direct edit in Catia, but in this lesson the Catia presenter does do some direct face removal. In the Catia Video in these articles it happens at around 30 minutes into the video. The video is these Articles.




ZW3D  vs CATIA Lesson 1



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


Solidworks is also in that same boat. While it has a bit of feature recognition it is far from being a useful tool for modifying non native parts. I have heard it is going to have a direct editing module+* in the future, probably when Dassault Systemes may move SW to the Catia kernel.


**SW now has integrated direct edit functionality. See Welcome aboard Solidworks!!


A while ago I got a call from a contracting firm about an engineering job at Boeing. Of course the requirement was that I have Catia experience. Boeing is limited to the individuals that can use Catia. Just imagine the experienced talent they have excluded. I have years of experience at Boeing as a design draftsman. They believe that the learning curve of getting a experienced CAD designer up to speed on Catia is less important than having an individual that does not have aerospace experience.

I hope you enjoy my write up below. Hopefully soon we will have a standard that will allow all to have access to jobs that we, beside the CAD system, are experienced. Before CAD all you needed was a couple triangles, a scale and a pencil.



Direct Edit or Explicit Modeling for Design


Jim: "Bob, I need your expertise quick."

Bob: "What is it Jim"

Jim:  "We have a new mod that has to be done to one of our products."

Bob: "Well send me the file"

Jim:  "Did you get it?"

Bob: "Yes.. When did you move to SW 2014? I can't read this file.

Jim:  "Hmm, I didn't know we did."

Bob: "I am still on SW 2012 and I really can't afford to upgrade."

Jim: "I am sorry, Bob we need this done today.. Tell me when you get current with us." CLICK..

Yes Bob lost the job and the company had to keep looking.  But this is not a unique situation with the History Based CAD systems and is becoming a huge crisis.  Last year I got a frantic call.  Joe... they (Large NW aircraft Manufacturer) move to Catia 5 V18 and we can't read the files with IronCAD's Catia translator. Knowing that they had a Catia system on hand for no other reason than to read the native files and PMI, I said just bring them in to your Catia 5 and export them as STEP (besides IGES, STEP is the only other translator these fellows can do with Catia).  Oh yes, to their surprise they had Catia 5 V17 .. totally incompatible with V18, yes they (the Large NW aircraft manufacturer) failed to notify their suppliers about the move. Now we can assign blame, but that is not the problem, the problem is the the uniqueness of CAD data.

At this time you have to have the Current Version of Solidworks, Pro/E Wildfire, UG, Catia, Inventor, etc to be compatible.  Yes you can work on any part done in a prior version with the current version but you are stuck there. Unless you are constantly upgrading to the latest version you are out of luck.   

Same Scenario as above with both client and consultant on a different Explicit Modeling system.

Jim: "Bob, I need your expertise quick."
Bob: "What is it Jim"
Jim:  "We have a new mod that has to be done to one of our products."
Bob: "Well send me the file" (With IRONCAD, Bob could read the native file.)
Jim:  "We will send you a STEP." (This step (no pun intended) in the future will be automatic. STEP will be the standard translation format.
Bob: "Great! I will have this change for you tomorrow."
Jim:  "Thanks, you are a life saver."

In the above situation they didn't care what software was being used.  No, versions to worry about.  Imagine never worrying about what software your customer, vendor, supplier, consultant is using. This is the future. This is the beginning of the new Engineering Standard.  Until we get to this level of compatibility, revising the Engineering Standard cannot even be addressed. We will not even need the NATIVE TRANSLATORS.  Yes the large companies like Boeing, GM, Ford, GE, Chrysler, etc. will demand that their software produces a viable compatible universal STEP file or a common deliverable.  This will be the end of a company being held at the mercy of some CAD vendor.  They will be able to buy much better PLM and PDM standalone products or create their own standard. This would allow much better access to the parts from vendors or suppliers. 

I believe IRONCAD and ZW3D are products that will lead this movement.  Why?  Cost, ease of use, compatibility, latest technology, both feature and direct feature editing and much more.  Within 2009 (Oops, off by a few) many of our larger companies are going to have the EXPLICIT MODELING TECHNOLOGY available.  Catia, UG, Pro/E see the writing on the wall and realize the Boeings, GMs, Fords, and other larger companies are going to realize the productivity increases and cost saving advantages to this movement. Just the increased ability to freely communicate would be a huge increase in productivity and creating less errors.  2009 (oops, 2015 maybe? 2018? Nope not here yes) will be the year this revolution will start. Soon you will see this push from the large companies and the industry, they have no choice.  All of TECH-NET's products are explicit modelers and will be totally compatible with this incredible PRODUCTIVE future.

The Ultimate 3D CAD System

TECH-NET'S NEW (OLD) PROJECT: Direct Editing Applied!


I have just realized, besides IRONCAD, I really never have used a history based product that are being currently used in the industry.  My experience with Pro/E, Solid Edge and Solidworks have been brief and basically making single parts.  I never really warmed up to the Part, Assembly and Drawing separation. I have always used an "Explicit Modeling System" using Boolean operations or at least having it available to design my parts and assemblies in one file.  I realize now that many in the industry have never know that you could design this way.


THE LINE FINDER!! Take a look at our website at this project, it is a great story.


After years of successful sales, my good friend, neighbor and customer, Larry Smith, President of Prototek contacted me to modify the upper body of the Linefinder. This was going to be an extensive modification of the handle. It would be almost an impossible task in a history based system.  


The original part.



Modified part, minus a few dove tails.



Step One. Started Cleaning things up.



Step Two a bit more cleaning.  



Left side mirrored copy. Added the bottom support flange taken from the

original part and then subtract the right dovetail to create the mating groove.



Using the right side dovetail to cut the groove in left side.



As you can see this would be a horror show in a Pro/E paradigm product. It took me about 6 hours.  The customer was elated. I could to this with a part from any CAD system that can export a solid.


See more on this project

If you have a project that may need this kind of modification or a new project you need to have done we can do the job. Please feel free to give us a call at 206-842-0360 or fill out our online form.

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provide engineering services throughout the USA and Canada!

Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

If you are interested in adding professional hybrid modeling capabilities or looking for a new solution to increase your productivity, take some time to download a fully functional 30 day evaluation and play with these packages. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions or would like an on-line or on-site (Great NW Area) presentation.

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Joe Brouwer