Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

Contract Manufacturers Are Still Wasting Time With Broken Geometry

Posted by John Agoglia on Thu, May 26, 2016


Today's contract manufacturers are spending (wasting?) a lot of time redrawing their customers' data and fixing broken geometty. This cuts into your ability to dive profits and grow your business. Take a look at these sobering stats, and click on the picture to download an eBook on how to take this negative and turn it into a positve. 






Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, Manufacturing, 3D CAD, parametric modeling, Manufacturing CAD, Direct CAD, Engineering Design Changes, contract manufacturing

Why I Write About Changes

Posted by Andrea Giles on Thu, May 19, 2016

I've written a lot about changes in recent years.time-for-change-typewriter.jpg

Many of you probably didn't know it was me at the time, since much of it came in the form of emails and webinar descriptions we promoted here at Kubotek. I did my best to educate you (and in some cases, maybe entertain you).

But why write so much about changes?

Partly, it's because changes are going to happen, whether you want them or are able to adequately respond to them. It's life. Especially if you're a designer or manufacturer. Mainly, however, it's because Kubotek has a lot of technology that, in my opinion, makes tackling changes so much easier.

Design Change Communication Modernized

In an article published in MoldMaking Technology, I wrote about the ways CAD comparison and direct modeling technology have improved design change communication processes to ultimately help you improve product quality, and ultimately, profitability.

The opening paragraph says it best:

Technology — including CAD technology — has changed dramatically since the 1980s. As soon as new technology is developed, it is integrated into products and our way of doing business. In the manufacturing world, CAD software versions are released at regular intervals with product design and manufacturing processes integrating the new CAD technology as soon as it becomes available. However, even with all this new technology available at a moment’s notice, companies continue to compare and manage design changes as they did in the 1980s.

Say what? It's 2016, people. Maybe it's time to investigate alternatives to manual paper overlays and other outdated methods. Seriously, what do you have to lose - except all that scrap, wasted time and lost profits.

Reusing CAD Data

In another article that appeared in MoldMaking Technology, I wrote about being smarter in the way you use current technology so you can stop wasting time and actually reuse CAD data when a change becomes necessary.

And yes, I know it appeared in a mold industry publication. But you don't have to be a mold maker for this information to ring true. Replace mold making related processes or job titles with whatever industry you like. It doesn't change the core of the argument: A true direct modeler can help you work more easily with customer design data and any changes that need to be incorporated into a product design for any reason.

Many of you need to alter customer-supplied designs and do it frequently. Maybe it's an outright engineering change because the customer changed their mind or they redesigned a part. Maybe it's a small draft angle you want to add to a product so the part ejects from the mold better. Or perhaps you're trying to defeature a product design just so you can set-up your tooling.

Regardless what the scenario is, you need to make a change to a CAD file. And what makes me want to slap you upside the head (gently) is that so many of you think it's easier to start over from scratch and redraw the CAD model. D'oh! You're reinventing the wheel each time you do this. 

Changes Today and Tomorrow

I chose to write about changes in this, my final blog at Kubotek, because I know changes can be a pain in the butt for many. However, changes aren't always bad, it just means you have to get used to them sometimes.

For 8 years, I've worked with the team at Kubotek to help educate the CAD community about Direct CAD and our related technologies, and even to some degree, educate our users on the breadth and depth of tools we offer that get overlooked. And I'm proud of what we've done.

However, I know that I'm passing the reigns to a Marketing Manager that has new ideas that will make a good thing even better (although probably without my brand of snark and occassional sass). You'll be seeing more of his name in the coming weeks and months. (Check out his first blog post here: Overcome These 5 Common Challenges Facing Independent Designers)

If you must know, I'm heading back into manufacturing. I cut my teeth working for a high performance materials business and I'm happy to be headed to another company whose product is also classified as a high performance material. It's another new industry to learn, new products to become familiar with, and new challenges to face. And while I'll miss my KeyCreator family (yes, even that weird cousin no one likes to talk about), I'm excited for the changes.


Topics: Direct CAD, Engineering Design Changes

Overcome These 5 Common Challenges Facing Independent Designers

Posted by John Agoglia on Wed, Mar 23, 2016
  • Independent designers need to juggle lots of different aspects of business beyond the creative.
    Photo: Pong/

    Independent modeling designers are a mash-up of an engineer, creative artist, geometrician, and businessperson. This creates some opportunities, some confusion and also some hurdles that go above and beyond your design skills

    But by understanding these difficulties facing designers, you will be able to not only survive, but thrive in today’s competitive market.


Issue #1: Business Skills

A business person — yes, you are one whether you call yourself a consultant, freelancer or independent designer — needs to have his or her back-office systems in place to run efficiently. While most model designers are creative first and foremost, having your business hat on will help you turn those skills into a profitable design firm.

  • Create a business plan. Know if you will work in a particular niche or industry. Will you charge hourly or by the project? Even if you have a business plan, or have been in business for years without, the process will make you better at your business.
  • Set budgets and financial goals, billing and spending. This includes either hiring financial people or using software like Quickbooks or Freshbooks to keep you on track.
  • Automate your invoicing and collections as much as possible.
  • Set your rates. This is the tough part for many independent designers. Search the competition or look for rates guides on the web to make sure you are competitive, but profitable.
  • If you don’t use software for accounting, or if the one you use doesn’t have time tracking, get time tracking software such as Toggl or Rescue Time. This helps to ensure you are earning what you are worth for the time put into the projects.
  • Take it a step further and invest in project management software — especially if you work with a team.


Issue #2: Marketing and Selling

You don’t have to like to market and sell, but you had best be ready to do it. People come to independent model designers for several reasons: they don't have the time to come up with a solution, they don't have the people, or they don't have the expertise. But they have to find you among the masses. Unfortunately, many design consultants aren’t the best at this. To compete, you need to be proactive in reaching your target market.

  • Set up a website. You’d be surprised how many don’t.
  • Blog about topics that your customers are interested in and show them solutions to create awareness and drive leads to your website.
  • Showcase your best work in a gallery on your website.
  • Get customer testimonials and post them on your website (Have you noticed a trend?).
  • Network online and off. Utilize LinkedIn, and join local groups such as BNI. Make sure to attend conferences and tradeshows in the markets in which you specialize.
  • Ask for business. Don’t be afraid to sell. You offer a special skill-set that a business needs, and they will pay you for it.

Issue #3: Clients’ Expectations

Often design consultants think they can do it all. What’s worse is that prospective clients believe that you can do it all yesterday — especially if you don’t tell them you can’t. Manage clients’ expectations from the beginning to protect reputation, which is your strongest selling tool.

  • Start by making sure your bids are realistic. Don’t let the heat of competition or desperation to fill your schedule move you to overpromise.
  • Execute an agreement for every project that includes a timeline, with contingencies.
  • Communicate with clients. There will be changes, revisions (sometimes they’ll be drawings on the back of napkins), and issues, it is important that there are regular meetings and calls to keep all parties on track.


Issue #4: The Right Tools

Whether you design for consumer goods, the automotive industry, aerospace or any combination of those and countless other industries that need your modeling design skills, you’ll need some basic tools to get the job done. Of course, you know geometry. Sure, you are a creative enough to see the client’s vision (and revision), but you are only as good as your tools. Make sure your CAD software allows you to be quick and profitable by looking for some basic features such as:

  • Allows you to import and work on files from other programs.
  • Quickly make changes on the fly.
  • Ease of use and short learning curve.
  • Available continuing training.
  • Easy avenue to communicate changes.
  • Know the cost of upkeep.


Issue #5: Work-Life Balance                                                                                               Image: chanpipat/ 

This is a significant issue, especially if you are a solopreneurConsulting and freelance CAD designers can struggle with work-life balance. . A driving force for striking out on your own, be it after 20 years on staff at a company or right out of college, was to be in control of your time and your destiny. Unfortunately, as with most entrepreneurs waking a work-life tightrope, keeping your balance isn’t always easy. You may be pulled by family in one direction, colleagues in a different direction, clients in another and friend in yet the opposite direction; this makes the work-life balance for an independent designer perhaps the hardest thing with which to keep a good design.

  • Set firm office hours, even if you work from home.
  • Build enough lead time into projects for life events.
  • Delegate the easy stuff, even if you don’t have a staff. If it costs less to have someone do it than you make an hour on a project, hire someone – even if it is for stuffing envelopes or mowing the lawn. This will free up your time for more worthwhile endeavors.
  • Appreciate the little things. A 15-minute coffee break with a friend. Hugging your kids when they get home from school, etc. Then get back to work.                                                                                                 



The rewards of working as an independent designer are numerous. But the challenges faced are equally as plentiful.

What challenges do you face in your day-to-day work? We’d love to hear!


Topics: Independent Designer, Business Solutions,, Design Consultant, Freelance Designer

Poo-tacular Fun with a KeyCreator Trade Show Geek

Posted by Andrea Giles on Thu, Mar 10, 2016


I'm all caught up from my recent trip to Grapevine, Texas. I was there for the Design 2 Part trade show where Kubotek exhibited, highlighting KeyCreator Direct CAD.

I made good use of my downtime (see above). And I had fantastic conversations with Design 2 Part show attendees and (fingers crossed) future KeyCreator customers. I couldnt' ask for more.

From start to finish each day at the show, I stayed busy. 

As with any show I staff, if I'm not talking, I'm mentally tracking two things among visitors: who has the best shoes and who has the best/wildest/most unusual product.  For example, I've spoken with an individual who designs and manufactures rat mazes for pet owners and research labs. I guess someone has to make them, right?

This year at Grapevine, I spoke with a few individuals who could have won the top product prize. But I'm going to give it to US Pets LLC for their battery-powered pooper scooper for dogs ideally 30 pounds and under. (I'm glad they clarified the size restriction to me right away. I'm sure the look on my face told them I have experience with much larger dogs.) Check out the Poo Pal on Youtube.

Anyway, they are working to get their product off the ground and into the hands of small dog owners. The product concept is similar to a mini dust-buster the size of an iPhone. Only, it's for poo.

They showed me a sleek, rendered product image as they explained how it would work. Then they showed me what the product looked like after someone tried to recreate their design in Solidworks. And while the two product images had some similarities, they were no where near the same. The best way I can explain the difference is to look at today's car body styles. And then look at the car models of the 1980's. The same, yet totally not.

So, while we talked about dogs and poo, we also discussed their design challenges. One of their complaints is working with someone else to make their designs. Their wants and needs aren't always fully communicated and they still need to make modifications to files they receive. It's that back and forth that wastes a lot of time and it costs money. Why pay someone to do all that work for you if they aren't able to give you what you want in the first place?

If US Pets LLC had Direct CAD, they could do one of two things: easily design the product themselves, because of how easy it is to use or import the files they do have to quickly edit them. And then, because Direct CAD is such a great collaboration tool, they can easily work with manufacturers to get to a final build. And since they plan to eventually create a pooper-scooper that can work for larger dogs, too, they can easily scale their designs accordingly. That's pretty poo-tacular! 

People attend these shows for all sorts of reasons. Some just want an excuse to get away for the day. Others because they need to source a new supplier or have a specific product or manufacturing need to fulfill.  And then there are designers and manufacturers who want to see what's new "out there" - those are my favorite conversations of all. These are the people who are open to ideas that can save money and improve their productivity. They can entertain the thought of breaking away from the stale status-quo. It's exciting, in my geeked-out trade show mind.  And while KeyCreator isn't a new product by any means, to many people, the concepts of Direct Modeling are ground-breaking.

For us, a trade show is the best kind of advertising there is.  Not only do we get our name out to hundreds of people at a time, we actually get to speak with people and learn about their day-to-day design challenges and victories.  For that, no ad in a magazine can compete.

If you're out at a show this year, put on some nice shoes and look us up.  I, for one, want a chance to talk to as many people as possible. And if you do nothing else, keep your mind open to new possibilities.

I hope that maybe, just maybe, the people I spoke with in Grapevine were happy they stopped by our booth to learn more about the crazy "new" 3D CAD modeling techniques they were seeing on our video monitor. And for the free KeyCreator bottle opener.


Kubotek 2016 Trade Show Schedule

March 30 & 31

Design 2 Part Atlanta, GA

Booth 232

April 13 & 14 Design 2 Part Secaucus, NJ

Booth 228

May 11 & 12

Design 2 Part Schaumburg, IL

Booth 217

June 8 & 9 Design 2 Part Santa Clara, CA

Booth 210

September 12-17 IMTS 2016 Chicago, IL

Booth E-3027

September 28 & 29 Design 2 Part Marlborough, MA

Booth 314

October 12 & 13 Design 2 Part Akron, OH

Booth 136

October 26 & 27 Design 2 Part Long Beach, CA

Booth 258

November 9 & 10 Design 2 Part Nashville, TN

Booth TBD



Topics: KeyCreator, Direct CAD

We dropped the price of Kubotek Validation Tool. Here's why:

Posted by Andrea Giles on Thu, Feb 11, 2016

We introduced new list pricing for several of our products recently, including Kubotek Validation Tool. That in and of itself isn't really blog-worthy. However, the reasons behind why we did so might be.  Read on...

Superior technology shouldn't have to cost you more.

Many of our Kubotek Validation Tool customers come to us because they need to meet the Boeing D6-51991 Quality Assurance Standard for Digital Product Definition (DPD). 

As part of this quality specification, Boeing suppliers need software to validate their CAD data against the OEM issued master file. A validation report is processed to assure that no changes have been introduced to a file at any point during the manufacturing process. The biggest fear is that a random, unintentional change could negatively affect product quality. The validation report provides traceability.

There are two technology types available that can do this validation.  One is a points-based system, wherein random points are placed throughout a CAD model.  The same point pattern is applied to the master file. If any of the points don't match, it's flagged as a difference. That works if the points are placed in the correct location. There is, however, still a risk that a point will not be located on a section of geometry that is, in fact, different. 

The other type of validation software, Kubotek Validation Tool, uses geometric pattern recognition technology that mathematically compares two CAD models, regardless of file type. This sort of comparison ensures that two models are geometrically identical and is far more accurate due to the mathematical calculations that run the software. You can't cheat the math.

Most people would assume a more accurate software should be more expensive, that if you want the better product, you have to pay more. But that logic doesn't sit well with us. Why should manufacturers have to choose between quality and price? That's one reason we lowered the price of Kubotek Validation Tool - so manufacturers could get the better product at a better price.

Superior technology and a lower price also satisfies finicky purchasing agents

Providing justification to your purchasing agent is easier when the better product is competitively priced. By lowering the list price of Kubotek Validation Tool, we are making the RFP process less painful.

A lower price makes it less cost prohibitive to be in compliance.

Even though CAD Validation software is just one check-box that needs to be checked in order to pass the Boeing D6 audit, it's a requirement that must be in place to pass the audit and achieve OEM approval.

In essence, that kind of creates a cornered market. Customers have little choice but to buy a software tool and avoid an audit failure if they want to be a Boeing supplier.

Sure, we could have jacked up the price, but that would be wrong and not at all the way Kubotek works. I refer back to my point above. By lowering the prices on our end, we want to make it easier for suppliers to meet their compliance requirements.

Lowering the cost of one of the audit elements may make it more affordable for a smaller organization to compete.

We know that companies come in all shapes and sizes. We work with many smaller businesses on a daily basis. Their size is by no means indicative of their know-how and ability to deliver quality products. 

Meeting quality requirements for a D6 audit already requires a number of elements. And yes, we know validation software is only a small part of that. But we don't think it's fair that many smaller companies choose not to compete for contracts simply because they can't afford a pivotal piece of the puzzle that would allow them to play in the Boeing arena. 

Reducing the cost of one of the audit elements may make it more affordable for a smaller organization to compete and win business.

Lower costs mean better quality for everyone.

With all the talk about Boeing D6 standards (and other aerospace OEM's that are beginning to adopt this type of quality requirement), we tend to lose sight of the real value of CAD validation.

CAD validation software can certainly be used by organizations for internal audit purposes. Organizations that need to be 100% confident in their design elements, for both their internal and external customers, will find that a product like Kubotek Validation Tool in their design check process will ensure the highest level of product quality.  

When it needs to be perfect, it needs to be validated. And when it needs to be validated, why not make it affordable. In the end, better quality products shouldn't have to mean inflated prices. Prices that I would assume would be raised to cover the cost of assuring that quality. 

I seem to have brought my thoughts around full circle, haven't I? 

Now it's your turn. Do you have any thoughts or knowledge you care to share? Post them in the comments section!



Topics: CAD Validation

Defense wins Championships (and more business)

Posted by Andrea Giles on Wed, Feb 10, 2016

Congratulations to the Denver Broncos Super Bowl win! And congrats to the Super Bowl 50 MVP, Von Miller.

Are you surprised I would say that, seeing that I live and work in New England? You shouldn't be. I'm not a native New Englander. Therefore, I am not a die-hard Patriots fan. I could never achieve that level of...obsession? I don't even know what to call it, honestly.

Yes, I cheer for the Patriots from time to time (depending on the match-up). I root against them just as much, though.

But the thing you need to know about me is, I was born in Massillon, Ohio. Massillon is right next door to Canton, Ohio and the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I'm pretty sure football is in my DNA. Where I grew up, high schools big and small, districts rich and poor, follow football religiously. It's a Friday Night Lights sort of life.

So, when I watch football games, I'm very keen to not only who is winning or losing, but also to who is making good plays and who is not. I'm not by any means the most knowledgeable about the sport, but I love to watch and I can recognize a heck of a lot on the field.

I love to watch a good defense. Linebackers are probably my favorite players on the field. Why? Because I think they are smart, fast, capable of working with nearly any play formation and prepared to take advantage of any offensive slip. 

Which isn't unlike KeyCreator Direct CAD software.

  1.  KeyCreator Direct CAD is smart. Kubotek’s unique face logic and feature recognition technology allows users to extract all the necessary information about a design model on the fly, regardless of who or what created it.  There is not such thing as dumb or unusable geometry in KeyCreator's world.  It can work with anything 3D model thrown its way...
  2. ...and work with it quickly. There is no time wasted trying to recreate a model from scratch. No history-tree means no wasted hours just trying to fix a file just so you can get to a usable geometry. 
  3. KeyCreator is capabable of working with whatever your business need is, such as verifying a model prior to manufacture, or prepping for NC operations or FEA Analysis. KeyCreator quickly lets you get to the job at hand. Or, if you need to work on some conceptual designs, nothing is easier than Direct CAD technology that lets you "virtually sculpt" your design without having to first worry about the order of construction steps. 

And one of the biggest advantage to KeyCreator as a great defensive weapon? It allows you to be ready to take advantage of your competitor's offensive slips.

Potential clients often give your competitors a chance to run with the ball, but your competitors often fumble the hand-off.

Think about the time your competitors waste just trying to get a job bid submitted because they can't work with the customer-supplied part file. Your competitor will spend hours working on a file (often recreating the entire file from scratch), just so they can review and interrogate a file before they ever submit a bid. (Keep in mind, they haven't even won the bid yet, so these are effectively wasted man-hours.)

So, not only will KeyCreator let you get your bid in faster, you can also use the numerous querying tools to analyze a model, exposing vulnerabilities in the design, things that your competitor might not get to quickly enough.

For instance, if a customer over-built a design, you could easily suggest ways to save on material costs.  Likewise, if would-be customers designed a part that isn't quite manufacturable, you'll be the hero that gives them value-added insight to make their design a quality product. All during the bidding process, which makes you an MVV (Most Valuable Vendor).

And then, once you've won a bid and start on a project, your lead-time will be greatly reduced because you don't have to add in so much "engineering" time needed to fix their supplied geometry. With KeyCreator, you receive their file, any file, and run with it, from kick-off to end-zone.

You'll always have competition. You'll always have the potential to be under-bid. But if you want to win more business, you need solid defense (like KeyCreator). And defense wins championships. Just ask the Denver Broncos.



Topics: CAD, Direct CAD

Questions for the New Kid on the Block

Posted by Andrea Giles on Tue, Feb 02, 2016

This morning, I read a promotional email from the new CAD kids on the block, Onshape.

I usually scan through these types of emails quickly and then move on. This time, however, I actually paid attention. And as I'm reading the information, I found myself asking some questions.

But first, I want to congratulate Onshape for releasing their product. It seems like they did it overnight, but that's just because my sense of time is totally off. Jon Hirschtick (of PTC and Solidworks fortune and fame) has assembled a great team of knowledgeable experts. And it's great they are looking at ways to make design and manufacturing more effective and productive. That's why we're all here, right?

But anyway, back to my story. I found that I had a lot of legitimate questions bouncing around in this noggin of mine. So I wrote them down.

Question 1.

I find this one pretty ironic.  And quite honestly, it's my biggest concern.

If Onshape provides full cloud based modeling on a web browser, what happens if you have poor internet connection? 

The irony in my questions lies in this:  as I'm trying to view their informational video, my internet connection was so poor that the video actually cut-out. I had choppy audio and no visual other than fuzzy lines on a black screen.  No joke.

And since I'm assuming CAD files and modeling are on par with 2 minute marketing videos, how do you cope with poor connection speeds? Do you just have to work at excruciatingly slow speeds? 

Or what happens if your internet connection just suddenly drops?  Do you lose your work?  Or do you only lose the work completed after the last auto-save. (Their video explained that they are constantly saving your work as you go.  I assume this is an auto-save feature, so that's what I'm calling it.)

Internet speeds vary widely across the country (and sometimes across the office). My biggest concern with using a cloud-based modeler is speed and connectivity.

Question 2.

The Onshape information I received says you can " without worrying about overwriting someone else’s work." But can you simply break someone else's work? While you're both working on it? At the same time. I'm imagining rebuilding errors the likes that history-based CAD users experience.

Question 3.

Another huge pet-peeve of mine. I spend a lot of time crafting something. Mulling it over. And when I finally figure out what I want to do and then..."Sorry, your session has timed out due to inactivity." And so you go through the log in process again. Argh. And there goes your great idea. Just curious. Will your sessions ever time out due to inactivity?

Question 4.

I've received two emails from Onshape with the following subjects: Are you frustrated with Desktop CAD and Frustrated with CAD file incompatibility? 

Please explain what you mean by frustrated. Frustrated how and with what exactly? 

And how does Onshape address CAD file incompatibility? I assume you mean that will go away once EVERYONE uses Onshape? Because other than having your entire design team, vendors and customers using the same product, I don't see how Onshape addresses the issues of a multi-CAD environment. I see it as just another CAD tool. Maybe even something similar to Adobe Acrobat.

I know your website says everyone can share your files with anyone, who can then freely view/edit the file, or download it to another format. I'm also reading this to mean everyone has to become proficient with your program to make this scenario work, right?

Question 5.

Onshape mentions over and over how it improved processes over "traditional CAD." I dig that. But maybe I'm reading between the lines. Is Onshape really just cloud-based traditional CAD?  Or history-based CAD with some streamlined features and a different naming scheme? 

With all the new technologies and know-how available today, I hope it's more than just the same old stuff re-purposed and put on the cloud. With the fire power the Onshape team seems to have, that's what I would expect.

Question 6.

If your subscription runs out, do you lose access to your old files? Where do they go? If all your files are stored in the cloud, how do you access them off-line? Or do you? I assume you can save them locally, but you won't be able to do anything to them unless you're connected. Or have files saved-off as another format so you can edit them on a different software.  I'm thinking there are still going to be people and places that just don't have access to the cloud for a variety of reasons.

My two cents.

Onshape is a full cloud based system. They should be able update their product on a frequent basis. Being able to deliver product updates periodically can be very helpful. In my experience, it can often be maddening, too.

I use cloud based systems every day (I can name 4 of them, at least), and I'm used to having new features being introduced suddenly that just totally screw up my productivity. Sometimes things get moved, sometimes features go away completely.

Deep down, I know they are trying to fix things and make them better. However, they just totally screwed my process. It can be frustrating and frankly breeds mixed feelings about the products' companies. Some days I hate them. Other days I love them.

I also know that using cloud-based programs comes with the risk of outages, slowness, madness, etc with the reward of being able to access data from anywhere, on any device. Like I said, I use several cloud-based applications and I use them often. So, perhaps some of my questions to the New Kid come out of my experience and wish-list of what cloud software could/shouldn't do.

If anyone else has received emails from Onshape, or read any articles about them, did you think the same things?

PS. Given the time, I'm sure I could really dig deep into Onshape information or sign up to get access to their product. But I need to get a few more things done first...

Topics: CAD, CAD Software

The Stuff KeyCreator Advocates Are Made Of

Posted by Andrea Giles on Tue, Dec 22, 2015

adHub-final.jpgWe have a small, yet growing, group of KeyCreator users who actively advocate for Kubotek products. Most of these advocates participate in our exclusive VIP community called Kubotek Champions - a website that gives the group more opportunities to engage with us and each other.

Kubotek Champions can be a lot of fun and provides just enough fodder for that mental break we all need from time to time. But it isn't all fun and games. Sometimes we ask our advocates to give a little more of their time and themselves.

michael-dean-lavelle.jpgEnter Michael Dean, CAD Designer at Lavelle Industries, Inc., in Burlington, WI. Lavelle makes custom rubber and plastic molded parts from consumer goods to automotive applications. The company also has its own line of plumbling related products.

Dean is pretty active in the advocate community and has a lot of insight into the ways in which CAD software is used, not only in his company, but in design and manufacturing in general.

As a member of Kubotek Champions, Dean has happily agreed to help us out in a number of ways, including being a reference for any new-to-KeyCreator customers. He's also referred KeyCreator to other CAD users because he believes so strongly in the product.

What Dean probably wasn't expecting for his efforts was to be asked to write a blog. For that, he truly stepped up his advocacy efforts.

It's one thing to write a blog if you write them all the time. It's another thing to write one when your day-to-day job doesn't require it. So, writing a post, and saying all the things you want to say, can be rather daunting.

Don't feel too sorry for Dean, though, because it turns out he can write some pretty good sh--tuff via email.  And this is just conversational email. Not at all what he was intending for a debut blog. But I liked what he had to say, and darnit, I wanted to use it! And even better for Dean because he doesn't need to suffer needlessly through writing a blog post. Leave the suffering to me!

Why KeyCreator?

At Dean's company, he is the person who works with imported files from customers because they inevitably need someting done to them to make them manufacturable. He'll also suggest/make changes to help customers save money-something for which they are grateful.

Being able to do these things is exactly why he chooses to use KeyCreator Direct CAD.

Nearly all the files Dean receives arrive as STEP files, regardless of what system originally created them. Making necessary edits to the dumb geometry (without having to start over from scratch) is a hallmark of Direct CAD. Says Dean, "I use KeyCreator to make dumb solids smart again."

KeyCreator can also help Dean heal imported native files. He recalls importing parts and seeing things like vertex gaps and missing faces. Dean says, "It’s very rare that KeyCreator won’t heal the model." 

Of course, other modelers can heal parts, but he says it's not always easy. And the more complex the fixes, the harder it becomes, if it isn't impossible without starting over. 

Dean also reported that some engineers ask for his help with imported models when things like an edge blend or corner fillet need to be removed and the parametric modeler they are using can't do it. (Dean doesn't gloat with this happens, but I'm pretty sure I would.)

Speaking of removing blends and fillets, Dean says he occassionally uses KeyCreator to help prep customer part files for finite element analysis (FEA). KeyCreator is extremely good for defeaturing models for downstream operations like FEA or other manufacturing operations. So good on Dean for highlighting that!

What Makes KeyCreator Different?

Dean, of course, has had experience with other modelers, including a popular parametrics based software. (Solidworks, if you really must know.) He finds one sharp contrast in the way KeyCreator works versus parametric modeling - that being Direct CAD has no set formula in how you design. 

With KeyCreator Direct CAD, you design in the manner that's best for you and your team or processes.  As long as there is geometry, the steps used to create it are irrelevant. KeyCreator provides options and freedom of design. It allows you to work quicker, yet with no less accuracy.

Based on his experience, Deans says, "Parametrics sound real slick at first. It’s so easy to just go back into a feature and change the sketch. But if you think about it, there are some serious booby-traps lying in wait."

He explains, "Let's say, for instance, you have a feature that has other features further down the tree constrained to it. If you make a change that alters or breaks that constraint, your model may develop serious errors. You’ll have to go into each of the errors and fix them, one by one. (Only after you finally figure out exactly what the error is in the first place.) Which, when doing so, may cause OTHER constrained features further down the tree to develop errors.

In other words, every fix you make could create new/multiple problems. The more features your model has, the more you risk these kinds of problems. In the end, you may spend more time fixing your model than you did creating it in the first place."

I wonder if Dean has read an eBook available on our website that talks about the time engineers waste each week fixing broken geometry? His experience matches up with the findings of The 3D Collaboration and Interoperabilitiy Study. If you're curious, you can read the eBook here.

KeyCreator Advocates Are...

Dean's email conversations were actually a lot longer than this blog post. I learned some interesting things about KeyCreator vs. parametric-based modeling. I also learned Dean likes the Green Bay Packers and is an aviation buff. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Just kidding! I made that last part up.

But overall, I learned that our KeyCreator advocates feel strongly about their CAD software because of all that it allows them to accomplish. Could they accomplish the same things with other software? Sure, but it would probably take them longer and cause unnecessary stress and rework. 

To me, KeyCreator advocates are the kind of no-nonsense, no-frills, get sh-tuff done kind of people. They are also all kinds of nice and made of sugar and spice and heaps of CAD and product design knowledge. It's a good thing, too, because otherwise, you wouldn't have a blog post to read.



Topics: CAD, CAD Software, FEA, KeyCreator, Kubotek, Direct CAD, CAD users, CAD reuse

Using Direct CAD for Detailed Mechanical Design? Yes, you can!

Posted by Andrea Giles on Mon, Nov 30, 2015

I have a confession to make.

My desk is usually a complete and utter mess.

To my right, I've got stacks of thoughts and ideas, to-do lists, phone numbers, etc. written on pads of paper and sticky notes. The really important ones get tacked to my wall.  To my left are the stacks of magazines and mail that mysteriously seems to arrive whenever I'm not at my desk. In other words, you can't even see the surface of my work space.

Don't even get me started on the crumbs. 

Periodically, though, the piles get too big, the clutter encroaches and I start to get too self-conscious of my self-made mess.  So, I purge. 

It was during one of these purges that I came across an article in Desktop Engineering that I had saved because at the time, it ticked me off.  And when I read it again after its resurfacing, it still made me no less miffed.  Perfect blog fodder.

(Another thing you should know about me, I tend to carry grudges.)

The article was titled "Onshape Beta Goes Live," by Kenneth Wong & Beth Stackpole.  Both of these authors are well known in the CAD industry.  They both know about us and KeyCreator Direct CAD, have spoken with us and have even written about us and our products in articles and blog posts on their respective site(s).  So, it's not like KeyCreator Direct CAD is completely off their radar.

So, that should give you a small clue about why I wasn't happy.

It's the third paragraph of this short article that did it.  I'll quote it here for you so you don't have to go looking for it:

"The software [Onshape] has some direct-editing tools, but they're limited -- that is, in comparison to software like SpaceClaim, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology or Autodesk Fusion 360 that operates primarily as a direct-editing program. That's a reasonable compromise, since a parametric program's purpose is usually not quick concept exploration but detailed mechanical design."

Whoa.  So, first point I want to raise:

1. Why don't they mention KeyCreator, a program that existed well BEFORE any of the aforementioned Direct Modeling technologies.

Like I said, it's not like the authors don't know about us. And KeyCreator was doing the Direct CAD Modeling thing before anyone else thought it was cool. Do I sound like I'm whining a little bit?  Good, because I am.  Being ignored can get to you.

But what really stands about the paragraph is what I think is a blatant misconception about what Direct CAD really is:  "...a parametric program's purpose is usually not quick concept exploration but detailed mechanical design."

Is that really saying that Direct CAD is ONLY useful for conceptual design and NOT detailed mechanical design?  'Cause that's what it says to me. And that really presses my buttons.

I know that SpaceClaim touts itself as best for upfront conceptual design, mostly, I gather, because they are lacking depth in their modeling tools.  I give them that because they were also bought by a company that is integrating it into the front end of their FEA Analysis software. (What else it plans to do with the software, I have no clue.  I guess I'll just wait and see like everyone else...)  But just because that's their focus doesn't mean it's true for everyone.

So let's get another point straight:

2. KeyCreator Direct CAD is great not only at conceptual design, but as a full-featured CAD modeling package, it's very, very capable of detailed mechanical design.

In fact, with KeyCreator Direct CAD, you can do:

  • conceptual design
  • CAD comparison & design collaboration
  • full multi-physics FEA analysis (add-on product)
  • 2-3 axis machining (add-on product)
  • photorealistic rendering (very inexpensive add-on product), and
  • detailed mechanical design.

With KeyCreator Direct CAD, you can model in:

  • 2D
  • 3D
  • surfaces
  • solids
  • wireframes
  • fully-associated assemblies and layouts,
  • light-weight assemblies
  • referenced assemblies
  • assemblies in one file
  • multi-level assemblies and files
You can start with a sketch, you can start with primitive shapes, or you can even start with someone else's model, regardless of who or what created it.

You can use KeyCreator to interrogate imported parts and derive your manufacturing and/or tooling models.  Easily create molds, or rapidly de-feature models to prep for downstream applications like the aforementioned NC or FEA, or for packaging or documentation. 

Need to share your designs?  Use a variety of export options, including 3D PDF.

I'm sure I'm missing some things, but I'm running out of breath.

So, please. Tell me.  What is it about KeyCreator Direct CAD or Direct Modeling in general that can't be used for detailed mechanical design? Hmm?  Someone please tell me. Because whatever B.S. has been fed to you that says Direct Modeling can't be used for this type of work is clearly just that.  Just ask our customers who are doing all these things and more.





Topics: CAD, FEA

Risks & Rewards in Life and Direct CAD

Posted by Andrea Giles on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

I took a risk last week, taking my 8 year old daughter to see a concert in Boston. And in doing so, we saw more than we bargained for.

The show was a Tuesday night. A school night. I really wanted to see both the opener and headliner. I bought the tickets back in July when they were first available. At the time, I planned to drag my husband along. Fast forward four months, and of course, schedules changed and he effectively bailed on me.

That left me with two tickets and three possible options: don't go; find a sitter and go by myself; or take my daughter with me.  (As a side note, I'll add that most of my friends aren't fans of "my" music.)

So, back to my options and I'm not ashamed to say I used bribery and the vague hope of a day off of school on Wednesday to rope my daughter in as my sidekick.  Did I mention, I really wanted to see these bands?

But sometimes, you get more than you were expecting.

We are on our way to the show. Two blocks away from the theatre, we roll up to a stop light.  At that light, a car is stopped with doors ajar and people on cell phones.  I don't immediately grasp what's going on until I see the man laying face down in the road.


I can't tell you exactly what happened, but the "event" clearly had happened minutes before and help was on the way.

I recall thinking that maybe my daughter wouldn't notice. (Yeah, right.) Just as I manuever to get around the stopped cars and out of the way, the man lifts his head, exposing that he's indeed bloodied up.

"Mom, is that man laying in the road?" My answer is interrupted by, "Mom, he has a bloody nose! Did he trip and fall? Did he get hit by a car? Is he hurt? Could he have been killed? What happened?"  I'm sure there were other questions I missed in the barrage that was thrown at me.

The little mom voice in my head (the one that I thought I left at home) tells me to be truthful and use it as a teachable moment.  I tell her that he likely did get hit by a car and that help was on the way.  And that's why we need to be very careful when crossing the street in the city.

Vivian with Trisha Gene Brady of The Black Lillies
Vivian with Trisha Gene Brady of The Black Lillies

I looked at the night as a way of exposing her to some awesome live music and talented artists. I think music is something that's just as beneficial as getting a good night's sleep or spending a day at school.  Maybe more, because I also think seeing musicians at work provides a love of music that will last a lifetime. That's a huge reward in my view.

So yeah, I was a little worried about keeping my daughter up late on a school night. I'm sure I got plenty of looks (that I ignored). Was I expecting a life lesson on why you should be careful crossing the street? Nope, not at all.  I just knew that no matter what, we'd be glad we went and would recall a fun night.

Sometimes you gotta face some risks, even unknown ones, if you want to reap the rewards. That's true in life and even when it comes to adopting a new, Direct CAD software.

If you're considering adding Direct CAD, be prepared for:

  1. The unexpected. It happens, even with the best planning. Something is going to crop up that you can't ignore and you're going to need to address it. It could be part of the learning curve.  It could be an install gone awry. It could be your users throwing a tantrum or asking a thousand questions. No matter what it is, I can assure you that our Support Team will be there to help you through it.
  2. Funny looks.  When you tell people that you're ignoring the "popular" CAD (or music) in favor of something a little less mainstream, I give you permission to ignore the looks, the jokes and other heard-it-all-before comments that are sure to come.  What matters is that the software (or music) is what floats your boat, not theirs.
  3. Loosing a little sleep. Anything that requires some planning might cause you some worry. And there might be some late nights as you make the switch, but I know it won't be long until you can share some of your success stories with the naysayers.
  4. The rewarding sigh of relief when you know, deep down, you made the right choice for you and your business.

To paraphrase some of our Kubotek Champions (aka KeyCreator Advocates), they've clearly owned up to the fact that they used other CAD software. Some were even dismayed to be forced to move to KeyCreator. But now?  They love Direct CAD and the ease of use and freedom it affords.  They have also noted that some contrary coworkers are using KeyCreator more and more, even though they might not openly admit it (yet). 

I'm sure some of our newer users can relate to the risks vs. rewards they faced when getting up and running with KeyCreator.  I'd love to hear from you about your experiences in the comments section. 

Has anyone else faced similar risks vs. rewards decisions in life?  Did you get more than you bargained for? What was the end result?

PS. We did have a great night, got home late, went to school/work the next day, a little groggy, but with a few stories to tell, no doubt. And my 8 year old, music loving sidekick? She officially turned 9 today.  Happy Birthday!




Topics: CAD, CAD Software, Direct CAD