MCAD Tech News #144

4 May, 2005 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

IronCAD and Inovate

A Unique Design And Visualization Combination

If you've used other 2D or 3D CAD packages, some of the processes and terminology in IronCAD may take some getting used to. For example, unlike virtually all other design packages wherein you start by creating a new part, assembly or drawing, in IronCAD you start by creating a new drawing or scene. A scene is the environment or workspace where most of the design work takes place.

Two Design Methods
With IronCAD you have two different design methods available for different purposes: visual and precision. These different techniques are available for virtually all phases of working with parts — building, assembling, rendering, drawing and so forth.

The visual method is best suited for getting a lot of ideas down quickly in the conceptual phase of a design. The precision method is best suited for the detailing phase. It involves selecting one or more items in a design and manipulating them with a mouse and visual feedback, and it involves more accurate tools for measuring, positioning, sizing and so forth. It's easy to switch from one method to the other based on the tools you choose. Understanding each of these methods helps provide a better understanding of what IronCAD is all about.

The precision method relies heavily on the TriBall, a versatile tool for repositioning, copying and linking shapes, parts, groups, assemblies and attachment points. With the TriBall, you can move these items in any direction and rotate them around any of their three axes using its translation and orientation controls. You also can use it for orienting shapes relative to each other and for measurements.

IronCAD's 3D Design Process
Because most parts consist of more than one shape, the easiest way to add shapes is to drag-and-drop additional IntelliShapes onto the original shape. You can visually position them, or use sizebox and shape handles to locate them more accurately. The shape handle can also be used to resize shapes. You can add or remove material from a part by using IntelliShapes that are either positive (by dropping a solid on a shape or part, material is added) or negative (by dropping a hole on a shape or part, material is removed).

As you define your part, moving shapes into the proper positions becomes more important. Regardless of the positioning technique you employ, you must be aware of where shapes are anchored, where and how they can be moved and what they can be attached to.

In IronCAD, you create an assembly by selecting and joining parts and shapes and either using the Assemble menu or the Assemble tool on the Assembly toolbar. The menu and toolbar also include options for disassembling an assembly and inserting additional parts. And you can also create assembly/multiple part features that are in essence machining operations (found in the Tools catalog) that affect multiple parts of an assembly, such as extruded cuts and custom hole shapes.

As for modeling capabilities, IronCAD's strong suit is definitely solids modeling. Surfaces are used primarily for enhancing solid models. You can create or import surfaces for trimming solids, or you can create surfaces to form closed-volume solids for enhancing normal solids-modeling techniques. What this all means is that if you don't have heavy, complex surfacing requirements, IronCAD (priced at $3,495) should suit your needs.

Inovate 7.0
Inovate 7.0 can be used standalone — or preferably, in tandem with IronCAD. Think of it as "IronCAD Lite," although it's far from that. It's actually a very capable conceptual design and collaboration tool for users who don't demand the full-blown IronCAD. Its ideal use is as a design exploration tool for quickly creating, rendering and animating design concepts before committing them to a formal detail design process. Import and edit designs in Inovate to quickly explore different design possibilities in a collaborative environment.

With few exceptions, Inovate's interface is almost identical to IronCAD's, so users of one should be able to pick up the other in relatively short order. While Inovate has somewhat fewer selections, it can still perform a portion of the design creation functionality found in IronCAD. Inovate, however, is intended for the front-end of the design process, leaving the heavier back-end for the more advanced production capabilities of IronCAD. At $795, though, Inovate is a actually very well-priced.

For those users who need to only view design created with either IronCAD or Inovate, the company offers two free viewers — the 3D IronCAD Scene Viewer and the 2D IronCAD Drawing PDF Viewer.