IronCAD – the CAD-Reviews independent review

Still distinctive in more than its interface

IronCAD review screenshot

IronCAD from IronCAD

Continuing the pattern of regular corporate name changes, IronCAD is now an eponymous entity having been spun out from Alventive during 2001.

The latest product release is a suite of tools centred around version 5 of the IronCAD modeller with the addition of a cut down version called Inovate and a Product Data Management tool TeamVault.

Overall the suite is aimed at small to medium size manufacturers and engineering teams to provide not just modelling capabilities but also tools for efficiently manipulating the data and making it accessible to all relevant stakeholders.

By removing 2D detailing and sheet metal capabilities, Inovate is positioned as a low cost tool suitable for a wide range of users to broaden collaboration and communication, allowing the interrogation or modification of native or imported models and generation of photo-realistic images or animations.

IronCAD’s thoroughly graphical, drag and drop interface certainly makes it accessible for non CAD expert users; as with 3D model features called IntelliShapes, even colours, textures and pre-defined animation paths are assigned by dragging them from the pop-out tabbed catalogs down the right of the graphics area.

The key manipulation tool within the modeller is the on screen TriBall, allowing objects to be moved, rotated and aligned to other model geometry.

Enhancements to the flagship IronCAD modeller include surfacing tools and enhanced sheet metal functionality to include watertight corners.

The drag and drop interface has always been strong for prismatic modelling or the placement of standard components.

In addition to modelling using parametric Intellishapes, individual faces can be edited directly and although this loses the ability to edit the construction history, data imported in a wide range of formats is equally as editable.

New tools improve capabilities for creating and editing 3D curves including smoothly connecting line entities and tangency of splines.

Options have been added to the extrude, spin, and sweep wizard to allow the creation of surface shapes that can be used to modify solids.

A single connected 3D curve can also now be used as a sweep path that can be subsequently edited.

Dimensions can now be created to silhouette edges on drawing sheets and cosmetic thread and callout information for holes and fasteners can be selectively displayed.

File associativity and link management has been improved to allow folders containing linked references to be moved to different directories and between network drives while maintaining the link associativity when reloading.

Secure file handling is addressed in the TeamVault application.

As a web-based technology the data server runs under Windows 2000 Server using the IIS (Internet Information Services) and Indexing Services extensions.

The site license cost is based solely on server CPU numbers, effectively linking cost to usage, with clients accessing via a web browser being license and set-up free.

Rather than creating an additional security schema, TeamVault uses existing system access privileges.

Although directly accessible from within IronCAD and Inovate, it can also handle any project data including bitmaps or Office files with useful previews appearing as the cursor passes over.

As files are added to the secure vault, an email containing a link to its location can be sent to anyone with appropriate access rights.

Since files from a number of locations may be required, a selection basket can be created for a set of actions to be performed to the batch.

Use of such a system offers secure version control through check-in, check-out and lifecycle management of files.

When the status of a file is changed from In Design to Sign off a new revision number can be automatically assigned with old versions remaining readily available to maintain the design history.

Sophisticated searches can also be conducted and saved for re-use based on a wide range of parameters including text strings within files.

IronCAD is certainly one of the more distinctive interfaces with capabilities to create all but the more demanding free form components.

Effectively offering a cut down version of a mid range modeller, Inovate delivers a large subset of modelling and presentation tools that will suffice for many in a multi user installation.

Despite the approachability offered by the drag and drop interface, non CAD literate members of the development chain will still need some introduction to its capabilities although subsequently ease of access to model geometry by non expert users may become more of an issue.

TeamVault offers a cost effective PDM solution by utilising the capabilities available within the Microsoft server products.

Use of the familiar web browser will minimise user resistance and encourage the necessary consistent use of the vault.

Overall the Innovation Suite enables IronCAD to offer a medium range enterprise CAD implementation although consideration should be given to the need for other tools such as analysis as extensive support for third party products is not yet integrated.