Compare Traditional 3D CAD To IronCAD

We are happy to be compared in detail to any CAD system, as we think IronCAD will usually come out as the winner by a large margin. Below is a table of differences, and some quotes from our customers.


Traditional 3D Other CAD


Ease Of Use

Takes weeks to months to learn.

Takes days to learn.


People often do lengthy training courses just to get confident using traditional 3D CAD systems, and still it often takes months before they are productive.

You can get confident using IronCAD in just days, sometimes even in hours. This is due to IronCAD’s intuitive tools that approach design in more natural way.

Overall Speed

Often takes double the time IronCAD does.

Often does the same job in half the time.


Overall speed in traditional systems is limited by their design methodology and difficulty making major design changes to complex models. In tests they often take twice the amount of time as IronCAD to do the same thing.

The overall speed of IronCAD often enables the same job to be done in half the time of a traditional system. This is due to IronCAD’s unique workflow and design methodology, which skip a lot of steps that are required in traditional software. Imagine the time and money saved when you double the amount of work that can be done in the same period of time. Yep, it’s a lot.

Overall Methodology

Slow approach to 3D design.

Fundamentally more innovative approach.


Traditional CAD systems model the “traditional” 3D CAD way, which once seemed quite fast, however is now a much slower approach. This involves creating planes, starting with 2D sketches, unnecessarily constraining many sketch lines, designing parts multiple individual files, history-dependent design rules and more. This traditional methodology slows down the design process and gives you far less control. Learning this method can also take a significant amount of your time, and once learnt you still don’t get the speed or flexibility that IronCAD’s tools provide.

In IronCAD, you start with a catalog of 3D shapes that you can drag and drop into your model. You can then simply push and pull to make precise changes in seconds. When (and if) needed, you can also go into a 2D sketch that drives the shape, all without ever creating a plane or doing an extrude command. You can then use IronCAD’s patented TriBall to position and pattern anything in 3D, all without needing to create or use reference planes like traditional systems. IronCAD is built to let you design the way you think, with easy to understand tools and features to provide a natural extension of your imagination.

Feature History

History dependent, difficult to make changes.

History-independent, easy to make changes.


In traditional software, you model with history-dependency. This means everything you do is automatically constrained by whatever you did before it. This may not be a problem if you know exactly what your design will look like before you start (and all the steps to make it), but in almost every case you’ll want to make changes along the way. Because of these constraints being applied without choice, making design changes later can be extremely difficult and often leads to model crashes which can take can take hours to fix. All in all, this approach will usually slow you down and decrease your productivity, especially when editing previously made models.

In IronCAD, you model with a feature based history tree, but features are independent. This means you can choose when and where to apply constraints, giving you the control to make changes when and where needed without the problems common in traditional CAD systems. This gives you a much more versatile modeling environment and lets you make design changes without worrying about the effect of earlier modeling choices. IronCAD even allows you to switch on and off the same type of history-dependency as traditional CAD systems. However, in almost every case, the IronCAD way will be much faster, give you more control, and ultimately be more productive.


Separate part and assembly files.

Unified design environment. One file.


In traditional systems, part and assembly files are different. You model all your parts in separate files, then combine them in an assembly at the end. This means you have to deal with many separate files that can easily be lost or misplaced on a computer and are hard to share. You also have to go through the tedious process of mating and aligning all these parts to assemble your assembly, fitting them into their correct positions after in a completely separate process to when you made them. Even if these parts aren’t moving parts, you’ll likely still need to mate them to lock them down. Designing this way also means in most cases you’re not designing within the context of the assembly, so it’s harder to see how your changes affect the entire model, which creates an overall worse design experience. Parts made in a separate file can often not fit correctly the first time, so you have to spend unnecessary time going back and forth changing these parts.

In IronCAD, part and assembly files are the same. You can build 1 part or 1 million parts in the same file. So you can design in the context of your overall assembly and design. Sizing parts to fit to other components in your design, and making them fit perfectly first time. This is also a much more natural way of thinking about your design, you can think if the design as a whole working system. You can also still isolate individual parts to work on them, all whilst in the same file. This also means you don’t have to go through the tedious process of mating all your parts together to make the assembly, everything is already in the right place and fits perfectly first time. The only potential positive of the traditional way is that when you have one part in multiple assemblies, you can link it to update in every assembly when a change is made. IronCAD allows you to do this external linking without having to do it for every single part, simply choose the ones you want to save externally and you’re done. So you get the good without the bad. IronCAD provides a far better system from the ground up and still gives you the option to use the only beneficial feature of the traditional part system. Furthermore, you can create separate or combined technical drawings for every individual part and assembly, all from the one 3D file. IronCAD also has a bulk drawing tool, so you can very quickly generate drawing sheets with predefined views for every part in your model, drmatically speeding up drawing time.


Basic catalogs, minimal features.

Customisable catalog system.


In traditional systems, only some parts are available in catalogs and these are often ‘standard’ parts and not your own custom parts. All parts you create are opened individually to edit, or brought into an assembly as they are. This is an unnecessarily slow and tedious approach to work with multiple parts and assemblies.

In IronCAD, you have IronCAD’s industry famous catalog system. Any part, any shape, or any assembly you create can be drag and dropped into a custom catalog in seconds. It’s like a painter’s palette for CAD data, just drag on and off what you need. You can even use IronCAD’s SmartAssembly technology to create intelligent auto-positioning parts and assemblies. So when you drop a part out, it automatically positions itself, and resizes if needed. SmartAssembly can even be used on an iPad in the field to create customised modular assemblies in seconds, you can even add prices to components and get a complete summary of the project in seconds. This system makes IronCAD absolutely excel at modular based design, with almost limitless capabilities for what can be built into an IronCAD catalog.

Moving / Copying

Slow constraints and patterning tools.

IronCAD’s patented (& award-winning) TriBall.


In traditional systems, to move, position and pattern things you will often have to go into a 2D environment and define the pattern or go through multiple dialogue boxes and features. This is time-consuming and unintuitive. Additionally, when positioning parts in an assembly, you will have to mate parts or use other slow methods to get the parts into their correct locations, unnecessary time that could be spent designing the product.

In IronCAD, you can use the patented TriBall productivity tool. The TriBall allows you to parametrically position, move, and pattern anything from sketches to shapes to parts and assemblies. The TriBall has become famous for its huge benefit to CAD productivity over the years and continues to be one of the most productive and useful single tools in any 3D CAD system. The difference the TriBall makes to CAD design processes around the world is simply amazing.

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