IronCAD 4 – the CAD-Reviews independent review

A truly graphical modelling interface

IronCAD 4 review screenshot

IronCAD 4 from IronCAD

IronCAD developers Visionary Design Systems Inc (VDS) merged with innovative 3D software developers 3D/EYE in 1997 and since April 2000 been called Alventive Inc.

IronCAD offers one of the more radical interfaces among the mid-range modellers.

With a strong emphasis on graphical interaction, feature creation can be accomplished by dragging features from standard catalogs and subsequent editing and manipulation by dynamic dragging.

Feature based parametric models can be generated using Intellishapes which include constructional features and modifications such as shelling, blending and chamfering.

Further freedom is available by direct face modelling which allows individual faces to be moved or tapers and offsets to be created.

Although this loses the ability to edit the models constructional history it is symptomatic of IronCAD’s goal of allowing the user to balance ultimate model robustness through structure and procedural rigour with flexibility to work according to individual preferences.

Described as design flow architecture, the need for construction or datum planes is minimised and parts or assemblies can be created flexibly within a single file or as external references if required.

At a more fundamental level users can also select between either or both of the core modelling kernels, Parasolid and ACIS.

Whilst the kernel wars have generally subsided, this selectability can make the strengths and limitations of each more apparent.

Although by using the kernel collaboration setting the most appropriate method of generating each feature is used automatically, it is possible to force the use of just one.

Features are even colour coded by default with Parasolids in beige and grey for ACIS.

These combined modelling capabilities provide extensive support for the import of foreign data extensive, even including CATIA .model files.

The direct face editing tools allow imported data to be edited in just the same way as if it had been created in IronCAD.

In addition to solids, surfaces can be imported and used to trim parts or thicken into solids.

This ‘hyper-operability’ is another core element of IronCAD’s flexibility.

Performance has been addressed in Version 4 with the ability to load boundary representations of parts rather than regenerating the entire model.

For Parasolid models the level of detail in view can automatically reduce from photo-realistic to wireframe to balance realism and interactive performance when zooming or rotating complex models.

Bitmaps can be applied to represent threads and grilles to aid design visualisation without adding to model complexity.

Graphic previews of modelling operations avoid the risk of launching time consuming rebuilds that generate undesired results.

Visual feedback is also used to indicate linked features and constraint dependencies.

Selection of a 2D plane that appears perpendicular to each axis allows the object to be moved in plane.

Rotation can be constrained to be around a single axis or about the origin by selecting a point on the circumference of the TriBall.

As if this were not enough, additional handles near the centre of the TriBall can also be used to achieve alignment to other model geometry.

Snap points such as mid points, vertices or the outer circumference when two circular shapes are concentric are highlighted in green as elements are dragged.

Both flat and curved stock is available to start sheet metal parts although smoothly connected edges can be used as a profile.

A wide range of lances, louvers, dimples and cut-outs are supplied and solid shapes or sheet metal features can be used to cut parts in their 3D folded state.

An integrated and customisable tool database can be maintained to set part parameters to suit specific manufacturers.

Each type of feature can also be assigned to a discrete layer for export to DWG or DXF.

Parts can be toggled flat in the model view for visualisation or in 2D drawings.

3D dimensions can be used to drive the model or can be locked as constraints.

Locked dimensions are automatically added to parameter tables that allow relations to other dimensions to be defined.

Individual dimensions can be labelled to be transferred to drawings and will then appear in any applicable views in current or future drawings with dual dimension units if required.

Associative multi-sheet drawings can be generated using a view selector dialog.

Additional section and detail views are readily created and named although partial section views appear not to stay in true projection.

A BOM can be generated from an assembly and a title block can be intelligently populated based on visual basic code.

IronCAD offers a truly graphical modelling interface.

In fact with extensive use of right mouse click pop-ups the command menus need rarely be used.

Although the drag and drop of features is about as simple as it gets, mastering the TriBall is critical to assured interaction and productivity.

Integration between tools is excellent so that the identical technique is used whether manipulating a part, assembly, cameras, light or decal.

Individual modelling preferences should certainly be covered with the combination of features based and direct face techniques available.

This may require some re-adjusting for seasoned solid modellers as once face modelling has been used the original method of construction will not be available for editing.

However the flexibility of face modelling has the potential to make imported data far more useful than the usual single dumb solid.

It should be borne in mind that the price of £3,500 plus £995 annual maintenance includes not only the range of modelling and drafting tools but also a range of other facilities including photo realistic ray traced rendering and animation.