Home / MCAD / Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express: A Free Push-Pull CAD Modeling App from PTC

Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express: A Free Push-Pull CAD Modeling App from PTC

Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express inherited the Copilot (directional arrows for moving and rorating features and faces) from CoCreate.

Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express lets you select and move faces and features without concerns for their parametric history.

In Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express, part and assembly modeling environments are just a tab away from each other. Right from the Assembly environment, you can create and complete a new part.

A few weeks ago, we got the first glimpse of a PTC Creo app, in the form of a free paint and draw program called Creo Sketch. This week, PTC comes out swinging again, with a free direct editing application called Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express (CE/Direct Modeling Express).

If you’ve seen or used Co/Create, PTC’s push-pull CAD modeler, you’ll find yourself in semi-familiar territory. CoCreate’s Copilot (the control arrows for moving and rotating features) greets you from its new home, CE/Direct Modeling Express. You may think of CE/Direct Modeling Express as a trimmed down version of CoCreate, derived from the same underlying technology. The software allows you to push, pull, rotate, and move faces and features with little or no concerns for feature history or parametric history — a freedom that’s ideal for exploring design concepts before committing to production or manufacturing.

CE/Direct Modeling Express’s flexible modeling approach is not just for 3D modeling; it extends to 2D sketching as well. The software is quite good at guessing your desired constraints, so if you push lines and arcs around in 2D, you’ll find nearby segments reshaping according to how you’re moving the geometry.

In CE/Direct Modeling Express, part modeling and assembly modeling are just a tab away. The software makes little or no distinction between the two. You can, for instance, create a new part within the assembly environment by sketching a profile on a new work plane and extruding it into a solid. It’s a lot easier to design interlocking parts (for instance, creating a shaft that must fit into a hole in an existing part) when you don’t need to launch a new modeling window to create a new part.

The software’s present import, or 3D reading, is limited to neutral formats mostly. So if you want to work on a SolidWorks, Inventor, or Solid Edge file, you’ll have to convert it from its native format to a neutral format (IGES, STEP).

CE/Direct Modeling Express has Realism Enhancement options for you to activate ground reflections, shadows, background colors, and rendered surfaces. It’s not as refined as ray-traced rendering, but it’s sufficient to give you a good idea of the finished product’s aesthetic appeal.

CE/Direct Modeling Express and its predecessor Creo Sketch serve as proof of PTC’s plan to drastically reform its CAD and PLM strategy, shifting from an all-inclusive package to a series of standalone modules. For quick concepts in 3D, or quickly reshaping imported 3D CAD data through a neutral file format, CE/Direct Modeling Express offers more than enough functions — far more than what you could rightfully expect from a free program. There is, however, a limit to the number of parts you can work with in assembly — it’s 60.

The limit is removed once you upgrade to the commercial version, Creo Elements/Direct Modeling. The commercial version also gives you sheet metal tools, along with decal (embedding 2D images in your design), photorealistic rendering, and exporting STEP and IGES files.

For more, watch the video report below:

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. The 60 part limit makes this not a free product but a teaser product at best.

  2. Hi Bill! Thanks for the comment!
    To be fair, you can still create a lot of simple assembly within the 60-part limit, and the software is quite robust in feature set.

  3. I have been using the tutorial that comes with the software to get up to speed on direct modeling now that Creo Direct & Creo Flexible Modeling are available. I am used to parametric (SW & Pro/E) and there are some differences that took me a while to get over (model tree?? or right, Direct!) but when it comes to working with STEP & IGS files at minimum, Elements/Direct is unbelievable. I no longer have to rebuild the parts for complex design changes. I can’t wait to see what other areas I can save time at.

  4. Though I can appreciate the thought behind Creos/Elements of being able to change and manipulate other CAD data, whether it is imported out as STEP or an IGES. The problem I have is, most companies still have to make drawings and Creo doesn’t have any dimensions on these sort of files. You can add them, but they are not automatic. I think the advantage that Creo has given us is a need for Dumb solids to be easier to change and manipulate. For us drawings are still very much needed. Obviously dimensions can be found, so why can’t a dimension be auto attached? The Con – There are no safe models out there anymore. We will all need more security for sending files to customers.

  5. The 60 parts limit is not important, because parts can be combined together to avoid this limitation. Anyhow 60 parts is a good enough to create professional designs. The software is very strong.

  6. I wonder about their requirement for an internet connection to register the software every 72 hours. I would be eager to take the time to become proficient with their product but what if this internet connection is in reality just a means for them to “pull the plug” at some point for any reason. I would be willing to pay a reasonable amount for the license if I could be assured that the installation was permanent.
    Does anyone know what this requirement is all about?


    What’s the best way to learn how to use this program? I’m proficient with sketchup, that’s it.

    This is my first “real” cad program, and I’m having trouble figuring it out. Youtube hasn’t been exreamly helpful.

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