Are you living in a 3D CAD Wagon World?

By Joe Brouwer from TECH-NET INC. 35+ years of CAD experience, SolidWorks, Inventor, ProE, CATIA, & many more.

There are few 3D CAD users with more experience than me.

I started with 3D Computervision CADDS 4 (Computer Aided Design and Drafting System) in 1982 at William Research. Then I was introduced to PC based 3D CADKEY in 1986 while on contract at Boeing. Seeing the writing on the wall, I quickly became a dealer. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Solid modeling showed up in the 1990’s.

Fastsolid was a third party solid modeling application developed for CADKEY. This was the introduction of the first PC Based Pro/e Clone: Solidworks. At the same time I was introduced to Trispectives which turned into IronCAD. This was not a Pro/e Clone, it now appears it was to be years beyond the Pro/e paradigm. A uniquely different productive flexible design system.

By the 2000’s all 3D CAD moved to the PC. Virtually all of the 3D CAD programs were nothing more than Pro/e knockoffs. I tried to sell and use them but they just could not match the productivity provided by IronCAD.

Solidworks smartly used the Autocad “Perpetual Evaluation Marketing” which was based on “No Copy Protection”. IronCAD put on heavy copy protection and ended up as a 2nd tier program along with Solid Edge, KeyCreator, SpaceClaim, Inventor etc. Having the program freely available for years moved Solidworks, a marginal Pro/e clone, to the most popular CAD product just behind the only other program that used this marketing scheme: the poorly designed electronic drafting package, Autocad.

I have tried and tried to show the industry the incredible productivity of IronCAD since it was introduced in 1998. I have taken Pro/e, Solid Edge, Solidworks and Inventor on as products and tried to use them in our own engineering division. They were just too clunky and time consuming.

But I think I may have finally found a truly representative way to present IronCAD as compared to the Pro/e Clones. I know many of you are married or dedicated to these 3D CAD packages for a variety of reasons. But it may be time to face facts and realized you should be demanding so much more from your 3D CAD package.

For years people were happy just driving around in a wagon pulled by horses. They had no idea that gas powered vehicles would soon replace the horse and buggy. Remember Pro/e and its 3D CAD modeling process was introduced in 1988, and the basic purpose, like other 3D CAD systems at the time, was to speed up the drawing process!! hmmm 28 years ago and this clunky design process it has not changed. It is basically no more productive than it was when introduced.

The Pro/e Clones are like horse-driven wagons.

The Carriage
We have the Creo, Catia and NX 3D CAD Carriage. So beautiful, fit for a queen! Very complex to operate. Nothing this expensive can be easy. You then have to add incredibly costly complex options just to make it functional. It requires an incredible amount of support and maintenance $$ just to operate. Why do they cost so much?

PLM!! They promise to run your complete company, sadly into the ground!

The Utility Wagon
Then we have the Utility 3D CAD Wagon, Solidworks, Solid Edge and Inventor. While a bit Spartan they can usually provide equal or better performance than the high price 3D CAD Carriage systems. These wagons hardly have the pomp and grandeur of the carriages, but are half the price and a bit easier to maintain and operate!

For years the industry has been happy plodding along and not one of these wagons offers any more productivity than the other. They all operate exactly the same way, thus the moniker “Pro/e Clones”.

Sadly, management is oblivious to their engineering being based on the 3D CAD Wagon. They surely do not want to think about it. Hmm, I wonder what they think when they have to pay the bill? When asked why they use it? More than likely it is what the competition is using. “No way will we step out of the box”

IT (InfoTech) is definitely freaked out with any change to the complicated data management within the 3D CAD system with the separate part, assembly and drawings and the added problem of how to maintain the documentation to deliver to other departments: Like purchasing, sales, marketing and of course manufacturing. When asked they say “Change, no fricking way”.

IT is usually only found in the 3D CAD Carriage world and wheels some heavy power. Putting this kind of power in their hands has cost companies like Boeing and Airbus and complete industries like the auto industry, Million$ if not Billion$ in complicated unworkable engineering & manufacturing systems. The IT department at Boeing rents Catia 5 to each engineering group at thousand$ a month.

The User just stumbles along. Why in the world would the user care? Today, the 3D CAD engineers are thrown on to the company 3D CAD Wagon system. “This is what we use” management says, without of clue of why.

If you do ask management why?

We are using the 3D CAD Carriage!! It is the best. Here is the bill we pay. It better be the best.

We are using the 3D CAD Utility Wagon. We know It is the best, it is the most popular.

We are using basic CAD. Just shut up and do your work.

If they even have an answer!!

So there you go. All of the above work identically. None have any more productivity than the other.

Welcome to the 3D CAD Sports Car World!

But there is another 3D CAD system that can only be called a sports car. It has a modeling process that offers 2X productivity in conceptual design, up to 5X with a highly productive overall process. But there is more! It offers 10X productivity when you introduce the need to modify your parts and assemblies.

We all know the only constant in engineering design is CHANGE!

I assume you are using a 3D CAD Carriage or 3D CAD Utility Wagon. Most are convinced by the 3D CAD Wagon vendors that they have to have the best. Of course, that is all in the opinion of the 3D CAD Wagon vendor, a well known bunch of scallywags with only their self interest in mind. Now add the new Subscription only scam, making Autodesk and PTC your business partner “FOREVER”. Imagine PTC (the sales junkyard dogs) and Autodesk (The wiz bang marketing Kings) as your partners? LOL

Okay, okay, Joe, you have made some bold statements.


So what is the big difference?

Here are the 5 unique features that are only combined in IronCAD.

1. The Single Model Environment

This is by far the most productive work environment. Imagine just designing your parts and assemblies. No worry about naming and maintaining parts until the project is done. Yes, of course, you can have referenced external parts. You can have multiple design iterations in the same file, it basically eliminates the term “Top-Down” design. It is incredibly easy to compare and present the different concepts.

2. Drag and Drop Design from Catalogs

Say goodbye to the constrained sketching world the 3D CAD Wagon World. Just drag and drop shapes to begin your designs. Yes, of course, you can sketch when necessary. But even sketching is a much simpler and productive process. You drag and drop features, parts and assemblies from standard and custom Catalogs. There are many other function like fasteners, sheet metal, surface, texture, etc., just drag them from the catalog. My biggest problem when introducing a Pro/e clone user to IronCAD is trying to get them to realize they don’t need to do constrained sketching. I will tell you the sketch, sketch, constrain, constrain only design process is burned into too many minds and costing a fortune in design time..

In the following article I provide many exercises comparing the sketch, sketch, constrain, constrain world to Streamlined Sketching and Feature Base Modeling that can provide 5 to 10X increase in design productivity.

3. Copy and Pasting from different files

One day I was just working away creating a new product and I had four or five assemblies up with parts that contained parts/sub-assemblies I would be using in my new product. I realized that I was just copying and pasting them into my new assembly for reference or for use. I realized that this is incredibly productive and should be included in functions that increase 3D CAD productivity.

4. Integrated Direct Edit

Say good bye to the term “design intent”. IronCAD has both history and direct edit available in a unique design process. Imagine being well into the design and realize you have to do something that just cannot be done at that level. With IronCAD there is no problem you just start directly modifying the part with a push of the right mouse button.

5. The Incredible Triball

This was the very first 3D CAD feature, part and assembly manipulator. It has been copied and is basically only available on the direct edit programs. This is not just some assembly alignment tool. This allows you to move, copy and link features, parts and assemblies. The Triball is incredibly functional when working in the single model environment handling parts and assemblies. Mirroring is a breeze, whether you are copying or linking.

IronCAD can use any other systems 3D CAD models as if they were created natively in IronCAD with direct edit functionality a part of the design process. This is a huge benefit if you are a supplier that works with many different 3D CAD Wagons. If you do tooling, just import the part or assembly and start working. No worry about creating or maintaining the separate parts.

Incredibly Flexible and Productive Functionality!

So there you go. Imagine just one of those being effectively available in your 3D CAD Wagon World.

Are You a Manufacturing Supplier?

Outside suppliers can hardly afford to have a copy of very expensive programs like Creo (Pro/E), Siemens NX, Catia, Solidwork, Inventor, etc. Not only are they expensive, but most have a very complex interface and long learning curves. I chuckle at some that use Solidworks and try to work with non-native files. I can only imagine the problems they run into.

Designer, engineers or drafting checker are not the only people that needs to review the design. We have manufacturing, materials, and stress engineers that need access to the design.

So what do they do? With Inovate (IronCAD’s modeling only package) suppliers can have a very inexpensive translator to import the above native programs. But with INOVATE you can edit the models. Like removing features that are in the way during the machining process. Most of the features can be converted to recognizable features that can be suppressed to create a part for rough machining and then again with all the features available to finish the job. You can remove fillets or any other feature that will get in your way.

Add the capabilities of IronCAD you have an incredible 3D CAD tool for planning. You can bring in the parts and easily create your planning orders in the robust documentation module. Bring in full assemblies into one file.

Let’s not forget the Industrial Designer

IronCAD is the perfect system for the Industrial Designer! Flexibility not found in the 3D CAD Wagon World. Imagine the freedom from the bonds of separate part and assembly restriction. Design the way you want! Many different iterations of the design in the same file!

Other benefits?

Easy to use.

With its easy to use graphic design premise, everyone in the company could use it. It could easily be utilized by other departments like marketing, tech pubs, sales, purchasing, planning, analysis, manufacturing or any other department that can utilize the 3D model with very little training. We have free viewers and other programs that they could also be used to access the 3D data and documentation throughout the company. Management at any level could be comfortable with using the package to review or present the current or past designs. Compare that to the 3D CAD Wagons.

Reuse Existing Data

Data Reuse is a new buzz word in the industry. Designing new similar products with a 3D CAD Sports Car can take hours not days. Incredibly easy to create “What If” options on the fly never getting out of the same file. You can drag and drop from custom catalogs or bring up existing parts and assemblies and copy and paste the mating parts for reference or to directly modify. There just are no limitation in this functionality

Integrated Realistic Rendering and Animation

This program started out as a solid modeling graphic design program. The integrated Realistic Rendering and Animation, once learned, can be part of your design process for quick presentations or for use in other departments such as marketing, sales and tech pubs. I had an engineer working at Boeing that was a wiz at animation and could have presentation ready in no time.

Easy Fabrication, Weldments and Inseparable Assemblies

With the Single Model Environment these parts can be defined as subassemblies. No special procedures or hoops to jump through. You can have custom and standard parts easily available in the catalog.

We also include great sheet metal design, intermediate surfacing, mechanism kinematics, parametric design plus many more features!

IronCAD can easily create any level of engineering documentation. But it can also be easily used by planning, tech-pubs, marketing and sales.

Think of what you are doing now to provide access your engineering data to the other departments. Engineers just do not have the time to support outside engineering information requests.

Legacy data? You can easily develop a system to access the native files in your original system while you move to the 3D CAD Sports Car system. Believe me, today’s overly complex PLM engineering system is costing the industry billion$. But that is a different subject.


So let’s see the objections and how to handle them as you consider moving to this highly productive new 3D CAD Sports Car Paradigm.

CEO, President or Owner

Today, you are faced with some new decisions as it relates to your CAD system. Autodesk and PTC are moving to subscription only. Have you looked at the ramifications? Do you really want to be at those two companies mercy with your precious Intellectual Property? You think they may raise the price of the subscription? Is the Pope a Catholic?

I know, I know this may be the engineering VP or manager’s problem. But many times it is only your direct investigation that can make this change. Those below you are not interested in increase productivity and may be totally unaware they are in the 3D CAD Wagon World. Give me a call and I will make you familiar with your existing process and how to implement an incredibly cost savings process across your enterprise that has a very short ROI.

The IT Manager

You probably have been running the show too long managing the 3D CAD Carriage. Yes, maintaining the information may change a bit. I will tell you for the better as you handle the parts, assemblies and documentations much differently. Yes, we still have an external drawing file but it is very easy to manage inside the system. The engineering deliverable will be delivered and maintained the same way. Internal CAD data will be handled with PDM. The engineering documentation will be moved out of the system into an easy to maintain document control system.

The Engineering VP or Manager

You may be the only one in the company concerned with CAD productivity. No time for the “primo donna” user. Tired of weak excuses? Slipped Schedules? Stupid errors? You may never have to hear these words again!

“But it is so hard to change!”

What would the boss say if you walked up and said we can increase our design productivity at least 5X and any changes would be done promptly, much faster than we are doing today. Now you could be a star! You can introduce this unique productive solution or you could wait for boss to start quizzing you.

You better be proactive!

The 3D CAD Engineer

Well you are a bit of a bottom feeder in this process and are at the mercy of management. Productivity is hardly high on your list of problems. You are the very best 3D CAD Wagon user and pride yourself on your skills and change offers you little benefit.

Well this 3D CAD Sports Car world offers a system that is much easier and more fun to use. Reduces the frustration by a factor of 10. Sadly, you may not continue to be the bright and shining star. But, what if you started using this 3D CAD Sports Car and quickly found that you could work on anyone’s part without complaining how it was made. No more time consuming investigation of the history tree to find out how the part was made, just instantly working on the part. And one more fact it is fun to use even when you have to modify the parts or assemblies.

IronCAD was founded in March 2001 to develop user-focused 3D design software that improves productivity.  Since then, IronCAD has won numerous industry awards and forged new directions for 3D design software. There are hundreds of thousands of IronCAD users around the world: Customers 

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Today, IronCAD represents a fundamentally more innovative way to design in 3D. With traditional CAD systems slowly adopting some of the tools IronCAD invented many years ago, IronCAD continues to set new benchmarks for how much productivity companies can achieve with their CAD systems.

IronCAD's endlessly growing toolset includes the patented (and award-winning) TriBall, the Unified Design Environment, the Catalog SmartAssembly System, 2D Bulk Drawing Automation, Dual Kernel Technology, the Push & Pull IntelliShape, and many more tools built to give you more return on investment from every minute you use CAD software.

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