Phil Foley, Contributor
When reviewing new software, I’m always carful not trust my first impressions as they can prevent you from seeing important features and capabilities. With IronCAD this rule of thumb was important.
In reviewing IronCAD I was surprised at how cool and powerful it was. IronCAD reminds me of many cad packages. It feels like AutoCAD was out drinking with 3dsMax, and Inventor felt cheated on by AutoCAD so it started dating Rhino3D. Revit called IronCAD to get together, and while they were driving to the movies their car was hit by Sketchup. The surface models of the cars did a Fusion 360 and due to IronCAD’s Houdini driving they were fine. After the movie they got pizza and Draft Sight. Onshape walked in to the pizza joint and everyone else was jealous because Onshape was the only one that had web access.
For the record, I am wary of software packages that rename functions, sketch commands or features that are the cornerstone of computer aided design. An example of this is the Fillet command; in IronCAD it’s called Blend Edges.
As an engineer, when I see this I get a bit worried that the software is being developed by non-engineers. I love development and enjoy breaking paradigms within design of machines, products and robotics. However, there are some paradigms that should almost never change. I really can’t believe I said that! When companies compete to convert users from one 3D package to the next its critical that the initial learning curve isn’t too steep. The quickest way to lose the attention of a new potential user is to rename items such as Fillet to something fluffy like Blend Edges.
One other feature I historically dislike has been drag and drop features; maybe because it reminds me of using TinkerCad. I feel TinkerCad is the annoying little brother of all the other parametric modelers. It’s like if AutoCAD and Inventor were going to the park to shoot hoop with their friends, Solidworks and Onshape, and Mom makes them take their annoying little brother, TinkerCad.
That said, I’m glad I broke through the TinkerCad viewpoint and gave IronCAD Drag and Drop Modeling a try. It’s a slight departure in my typical design flow, however, it was a great time saver and they may have converted me. If you give it a try I think you will incorporate this into your future workflows. I am looking forward to spending more time exploring IronCAD.
But I think there is an identity crisis with IronCAD. I thought I was opening a modeling package specifically developed for mechanical engineers designing sheet metal parts, machines, and products, however, it’s so much more. This package is extremely flexible for mechanical engineers, architects, game developers, animators and product rendering specialists.
Using IronCAD’s Catalog Browser, I opened every tab as if I were exploring a new frontier. The list of shipped catalogs was expansive and fun to review. The tabs are located at the bottom right of the screen, which allows for quick access to your most useful 3D models.
I initially didn’t like the Selector Wheel because I was expecting different right click results, but continued to use it, and found it useful. This can be turned off and edited as well.
IronCAD puts out regular improvement updates, and they are free! There website is clean and organized showing summary updates and product offerings.
The Export options were not vast like Rhino3D, but they hit all the standards and a few surprises such as Visual Basic files, 3D PDFs and Raw Triangles. IronCAD has been built to be flexible and scalable. Add-Ons are available for several CAD packages such as CATIA, Solidworks, SolidEdge, Pro /E and Inventor. They also offer a Native CAD Translators that run alongside with IronCAD that I’m excited to check out.
The IronCAD package competes with all the heavy weights in the industry, however, their product offerings and price tags are the best in the industry. I looked up pricing as it’s not listed on the IronCAD site and here’s what I found.
IronCAD Draft: $559
IronCAD Inovate: $1,199
IronCAD Inovate/USB dongle: $1,395
IronCAD PRO XT: $615
IronCAD Translate Add-On: $659
One of my favorite features in IronCAD was the ability to Save All as External, which will create a new single file for each part within your design and locate in a selected directory. In the early days of parametric modeling this was a chore. However, today we see similar functions in Solidworks such as Pack-and-Go. I opened the Awards tab in the Catalog Browser, dragged in every model and then used the Save All as External, Selected the destination folder and presto!, it created a nice neat directory of every model.
To sum up my experience of IronCAD; it exceeded my expectations and left me wanting more.