Leverage Your Engineering Data Series

Simplifying Your 3D CAD Design Process 

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Leverage Your Engineering Data throughout your Organization!

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Before you get started take a look at one of my latest projects that pertains directly to this subject. Just look at the ease that I create a completely new product from existing products. Not only do I design the product, I quickly modify it to the customers new requirements.

Reusing 3D CAD Models for a New Product! Phase I

Reusing 3D CAD Models for a New Product! Phase II

Simplifying Your 3D CAD Design Process 

Sketch? Sketch? Constrain? Constrain? 

3D CAD doesn’t have to be complex. Most of the parts we design are very simple. So why are we all using a complex Pro/E (Creo) clone? It was the first effective solid modeling solution, it caught on and made enough money for many to duplicate and set as a standard for the others to imitate. It really is not the most efficient or productive way to create parts and even the simplest of changes can be challenging!!

I have taken some time to learn both Inventor and Solidworks to make my engineering services more marketable. I tell you it is quite a chore to design in a Pro/E clone. It is so much more work. As I do my conceptual design it seems okay. But after a design review and I have to go back and make some changes I think I would rather have a root canal.

The articles referenced below are some exercises that started as products comparisons, but quickly moved to a study in 3D modeling techniques where I have coined two new modeling techniques: Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling. The results are eye-opening.

IronCAD vs Fusion 360

IronCAD vs Solidworks


3D Modeling Techniques Defined

The Only Constant in Engineering is Change!

Change is no fun on any Solidworks clone, especially if you have been away from the project for a couple months. You basically have to review how you did the part and this can take hours depending how extreme the change. I am sure many have found it easier to redo the parts, of course, that leaves the door open to Murphy’s law, especially if there is an associated information document attached. Now if you are not the original designer this is even a more of a horror show. As you know some CAD operators are more equal than others.

Is 3D CAD Productivity is a Oxymoron?

There are two paradigms to 3D solid model CAD design. History/Feature based modeling and Direct Editing. Both are good systems. I personally like to start with History based and then have Direct edit readily available for changes. Now there are a few things that Direct edit will not edit, like helical shapes and few others. But you can usually recreate most of those features if necessary. 

Programs such as PTC Creo, Siemens NX, Solidworks, Solid Edge and Autodesk Inventor have direct edit modules. The problem with the Solidworks clones is that they add a step to the history tree with every face move and it become too complicated to maintain after a few moves. IRONCAD/INOVATE are the only programs that have both of these paradigms truly integrated. Not only does IRONCAD/INOVATE have both paradigms they also has a unique way of creating parts.

Check out a review and history of IRONCAD.

Solid Edge vs. IronCAD, Direct Editing

What are you using now to utilize direct edit functionality in you design process, or do you even know this capability is available? To implement this in your current system you may have it available, need expensive modules or even a separate package. This is a very cost effect solution and so easy to implement. If you are interested in this process please give us a call and we I can give you a presentation of these great capabilities.

Next Generation CAD Technology Applied!

Universal CAD Compatibility is "not" Here!

IronCAD vs Solidworks and the Pro/e Paradigm


Single Model Design Environment - No PDM until the design is done

In my experience there is no more of a productive environment that allows you to freely design in a space where you to do your complete design without having to worry about naming and saving your parts or assemblies until the design is complete.

IronCAD is the only history-based product that offers this capability. Imagine starting your design by building one part at a time. You can then create the mating parts by projecting the necessary features. Your sub-assemblies and assemblies can coexist in one space. Only when the design is done do you have to create the separate parts and files if at all. If they unique parts to this assembly, you can actually detail all the different parts and assemblies in a single associative drawing. If you have only used the Pro/E paradigm this is a new experience that gives you incredible flexibility and Freedom.

Flexible CAD Assembly and Part File Management


Enter Drag & Drop from Standard and Custom Catalogs 

I want to introduce you to a proven alternative to the standard sketch, sketch, constrain, constrain procedure of design. IRONCAD uses drag and drop functionality. Yes you select a positive or negative shape from a standard catalog of shapes, drag to the user space. This is not new, IRONCAD has been around since the middle 90’s. We will not go into why it is not widely known but I feel now is the time for you to see and experience this very productive alternative. 

This is a very easy to use interface, but it has very sophisticated and powerful capabilities. Let’s take a look as some of the basics. Look on the right side and notice the shapes in one of the standard catalogs. I have Dragged & Dropped some shapes into the work space. You can see some what are called hole or negative shapes Dragged & Dropped on the solids.  On the middle block you can see the Push/Pull handles.  On the left is the scene browser or tree. You can see the block highlighted and showing the features that make up the part. Also notice that all are separate parts in the same space without external references. You can make them external reference parts or insert referenced parts if necessary.

Let’s take a look what a shape consist of. You can see a sketch. Yes, it is imbedded in the feature itself and can be edited. Now you can also design with sketches just like Solidworks and sometimes you do. You have feature based sketches and non-associative sketches that can be utilized later. Also you can take any face and create a new feature or make it a new part. It is incredibly flexible.

Let’s take a look at some of the standard Catalogs. The Tools Catalog include Assembly, Bearing, Cold Formed Steel, Custom Holes, Fasteners, Helix and other shape and procedures. There are three more standard Catalogs: Colors, Bumps and Textures. 

        Shapes         Adv Shapes       Animation       Sheet Metal         Surfaces             Tools

Custom Catalogs and custom shapes, features, parts and assemblies. 

Have you ever had a time of trying to design a special cavity. It is very tough working through the existing graphics. But with IRONCAD you can take any part and make it a negative. I have created the red part as negative when Booleaned. I have dragged it in to our custom catalog and dragged it on to the green block. I performed a simple Boolean subtract and you can see we now have our positive part now cut into the green block.

Look at the feature cut in the grey block then look over in the catalog and you can see the feature stored there. I dragged it out and created the second feature in the grey block. So you can see you can have custom shapes and features stored in specific Catalogs.



The IRONCAD TriBall – Imitated but Never Duplicated 

Hailed by some as “the most useful tool in the history of CAD,” The TriBall is a powerful and flexible tool for performing 3D spatial transformations in IRONCAD/INOVATE. The TriBall is used many other applications within IRONCAD besides just positioning parts and assemblies such as:

*        Part and Assembly Positioning
*        Feature and Profile Plane Positioning
*        Direct Face Modeling, Loft and Sweep Path Manipulation
*        Key Frame Animation Path Manipulation
*        Texture Mapping Placement
*        Camera, Point and Spot Light Positioning
*        Anchor and Attachment Point Positioning 

Also you can review the TriBall on IRONCAD’s extensive Getting Started Guide on Chapter 5. 

I will show a bit about the TriBall. 

On the left is one hole on this bolt circle. On right we press the spacebar that allows us to move the TriBall to the center, press the spacebar again that turns the Triball back on, then select the axis we want to rotate the hole around and move the TriBall and a menu comes up asking if we want to move, copy, link or create a radial pattern.


 Here is another example of using the TriBall mirroring and linking parts and assemblies.

One more copying assemblies. We can move the TriBall to the midpoint on an edge and then define how many copies we want. We will link these to define them a duplicate parts for listing in the Parts List.

YouTube demonstration of the TriBall in action 


There are so much more to show you that gives IRONCAD the advantage over virtually any other CAD system. Please review my earlier articles at “Leverage Your Engineering Data Series” 

Here are a few features that I feel are advantages: 

1. History Based Solid Modeling

IronCAD has history based solid modeling. I enjoy the option of using history based design when starting my design

2. True Integrated Direct Edit or Explicit Solid Modeling

History based solid modeling can get very complex as the feature list grows. That is the advantage to all of our products. We can virtually edit any solid model. IronCAD offers a high level of feature based editing. Of course you can convert many features like blends and holes to editable features.

3. Single Model Environment - The Very Best Environment for Conceptual Design!

You can design in one file, not worrying about naming parts until the design is done. You can reference parts in IronCAD when necessary. You can import very large assemblies from other CAD packages in minutes. No need to populate your hard drive with hard to find parts.

4. Drag and Drop

You design by dragging and dropping standard and custom shapes and features from standard and customized catalogs.

5. Catalogs

You have standard catalog containing many shapes and features. What is beautiful you can create your own custom catalogs just by dragging parts or assemblies from the screen and dropping it in the catalog where it is available for future design. What could be easier?

6. Parametric Design

Yes you can do parametric design.

7. Realistic Rendering

Realistic Rendering is an integrated function.

8. Animation

Animation is also integrated and very sophisticated.

9. Kinematics

You can do kinematic motion studies with collision detection.

10. A Unique Drawing Environment

The drawings are associated to the assembly model so you can easily detail the unique parts, sub-assemblies and top assembly in one drawing file.

11. For more: Five Functions that Increase CAD Productivity


IronCAD is the only product that includes an electronic drawing package, IronCAD Draft, that is integrated or can be purchased separately that is a clone of the popular electronic drawing package and can be save in the two, now standard, formats. This is one of the two associated drawing module options.

You are Not Stuck with Autodesk

Yes there is an alternative to the Pro/E paradigm. A program that is much more productive and much easier to use. As the industry slowly moves toward a standard we will always want the quickest way to do our design, IRONCAD/INOVATE offer that alternative solution. 

PLM soon will be taken out of the hands of engineering and placed in the appropriate division in the company “Document Control”. Soon it will not matter what CAD system you use. So why would you struggle with complexity when there is such an easy to use CAD package available. 

The Ultimate Document Control System

You can experience this today? Download IronCAD and import one of your more complex parts or assemblies. IronCAD can import all of the popular CAD native files.

For more information or to download IronCAD

To download the very complete
“Getting Started Guide”

It is easy to load and get up to speed. It includes all the translators so you can get started seeing the advantages of implementing the power of INOVATE or IRONCAD. You can directly access your existing engineering data. Take some time to get the other departments involved. This truly is the solution to make each person in the company access to all the engineering data and in the know.

Important Note: IronCAD is much different than the Solidworks clones, you work in a single model environment and use drag and drop design as your first option. When you need to sketch please use the extrude wizard, even though you can have standalone sketches. Direct edit is just a right mouse click away. Give me a call or Skype me and I will give you a short presentation of the unique and high productive modeling techniques.

Learning IronCAD! Lesson 1
Setting up the Scene (Workspace)

Learning IronCAD! Lesson Two
Drag and Drop Design
Designing with Shapes

Learning IronCAD! Lesson 3
Streamlined Sketching
(Unconstrained Sketching)

Learning IronCAD! Lesson 5
Integrated History Based/Direct Edit Modeling

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

We sell and support IronCAD and ZW3D Products
and 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 presentation.

For information or to download IronCAD or ZW3D

Joe Brouwer