Big designs in flux? No problem for this CAD

Nov. 9, 2006
IronCAD 3D modeling software provides a different, more flexible design method compared to traditional history-based systems.


To create a custom hole, users drag a custom-hole tool from the catalog (right-hand side of workspace) to an appropriate location. The custom-hole wizard lets users type in hole parameters.

The TriBall positioning tool lets users place parts by eye. Users can also snap parts to locations or type in numerical values.

Users can reorder features, parts, and assemblies by dragging them up and down in scene browsers. Models in Iron-CAD are not generated from or controlled by history trees.

For one thing, it sports a drag-and-drop 3D interface that lets users conceptualize designs faster. And geometry manipulation is a breeze because parent-child relationships don't govern the model. Users can simplify or reorganize assemblies and parts with no danger of damaging design intent, destroying models, running into regeneration errors, or worrying about failed features, regardless of whether models are native or imported.

For example, I'm currently working on a particle accelerator for Oak Ridge Labs in Tennessee. The accurate positioning of accelerator components is critical, so geometry in my model seems to constantly change. IronCAD helps speed the design by making it simple to remove unnecessary components. I can delete or rearrange geometry without hours of rearranging parent-child relationships. And models seamlessly import using a wide variety of included translators. Additional native translators are available for reading and writing Catia V5 and PTC's Granite, which supports Wildfire.

Also helpful is the TriBall, IronCAD's patented positioning tool. Its three-axis directional capability lets users place geometry anywhere using numerical measurements or visual cues. For example, select an axis and this restricts part movement and rotation on, or about, the chosen direction. Right-click menus provide shortcuts for aligning objects and can even generate linked, independent copies, or patterns of geometry.

Other notable features include SmartAssembly, DesignVariations, and IntelliStretch. The latter lets users quickly expand an entire part or assembly along a defined direction. For example, a user might have to extend the length of a steel-tube frame that consists of multiple parts and assemblies. A history-based CAD system would force users to predict such changes before building the frame — not a simple task. IronCAD, on the other hand, lets users define a stretch target by simply using a plane and typing in an amount of stretch.

Another plus is the software's design analysis. It includes Algor's DesignCheck FEA program, which directly loads IronCAD parts. Any changes to parts are updated in DesignCheck, while maintaining the applied mesh and loads. IronCAD also works with other Algor programs for advanced analysis.

In addition, the CAD software makes it simple to analyze interferences and generate full-motion scenarios. Users create these by adding constraints to parts and assemblies and "running" the mechanism mode. Dragging a part that might be a driver, such as one link in a four-bar linkage, lets users see the motion of follower parts in mechanisms. Designers can add animations to visualize full motion, testing real-world function without expensive prototypes.

Lastly, IronCAD handles large data loads such as projects containing anywhere from 400 to 3,000 linked parts. Users can save project data in a single file, eliminating the requirement for links and making data more portable. Thus, they don't need an additional PDM system to manage individual part and assembly files.

The software comes from IronCAD LLC, 700 Galleria Pkwy., Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30339, (800) 339-7304,

Shannon McCall

Shannon McCall is president ofMultiple Discipline TechnologyGroup (, which provides engineering, homeland-security, alternative-energy research and development, and construction and information-technology services.

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