Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

To the moon! (With KeyCreator Direct CAD)

Posted by Andrea Giles on Mon, Sep 21, 2015

Space travel and fitness.  They go together, right?

Sure, it's just like that recurring dream you have where you're trying to run to catch the school bus, only you're moving like you're running in space.  (Or is that just me?)

Fitness and space travel, however, do have something else in common. That something is KeyCreator Direct CAD.

The Honeymooners
KeyCreator, Baby. You're the greatest.

I told you we recently signed on some new and interesting customers. Any guesses about who these cool customers might be? If you guessed SpaceX and Fitbit, you're absolutely right (and you should be playing the horses).

SpaceX is using KeyCreator for work during early stages of design.  The main user from SpaceX actually learned about KeyCreator through work at a previous company. You may of heard of them. General Atomics?  Small company. I'm told they used CADKEY (KeyCreator's forerunner) to design the Predator drone.

(According to Wikipedia, The Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that has seen use since the 1990's.  Primary users include the US Air Force and CIA for reconnaissance-type missions. It has also been used for a wide range of civilian related work, too.)

Anyway, back to my story. I poked around in the Account Manager's notes. The Mechanical Design Engineer likes the benefits of using 2D computer drafting versus using hand drawings and 3D models for preliminary work.  And what's great about KeyCreator is that no matter if you want to design using 2D, 3D, wireframes, solids, surfaces or even test the waters with assembly modeling, you can do it all within the basic version of the software. You can use the design environment that's right for your project. You know, like building a space rocket.

Also, this Mechanical Design Engineer knows he can use KeyCreator to easily build out his 3D models from his 2D designs once the concept is ready to launch. (Sorry. Lame pun, but I had to use it.) And he obviously gets that being able to reuse design data is a huge time saver. Why spend all that time trying to get to the final design, only to have to start over from scratch to build it into a 3D model?  Oh, and having fully associated layouts and 3D models in KeyCreator is pretty helpful, too. Once you have a drawing and model that are related to each other, any updates you make in one file will automatically carry over to the other.

Fitbit came to us via another long-time user who has been using KeyCreator for many years. According to our Account Manager's notes (see, I'm totally nosy), the engineer uses KeyCreator for quick design changes and for conceptual proposals.  In addition, she uses KeyCreator to help communicate with tooling vendors.

It's obvious she knows the ease-of-use Direct CAD offers. She doesn't waste time trying to fight with CAD software and a model's parametric constraints when she wants to do something simple, like make a quick edit.

And as for communicating with others, KeyCreator gives you many options to communicate your design, including extensive file import/export capabilities. Someone sends you a native file format, simply pop it into KeyCreator to review, regardless of who or what software created it. Plus, being able to export screen shots, 2D/3D PDFs, as well as prints/layouts are extremely helpful with communication. You can even use integrated CAD Comparison to communicate design revisions. And by the way, all these tools are built in to KeyCreator that require no additional add-on purchases.

The point is, if you want to communicate quickly and accurately, KeyCreator Direct CAD gives you plenty of tools to do just that.

For things that require a little more heavy lifting, like conceptual design, Direct CAD makes it easier because you can let you mind wander to all the possibilities your design could be. You aren't weighed down with building the part to account for any - at this point, likely unforeseen - changes as the design progresses.  And as we all know, conceptual designs can quickly develop into something completely different from where it started. When you want to show several concepts, you'll never find yourself having to start over from scratch to make a variation.  Using Direct CAD to propose design changes and alternate designs makes total sense.

Both of these new customers came to us with some KeyCreator knowledge under their belts.  It just goes to show that the power of Direct CAD has long term and lasting value. 

Topics: Direct CAD, KeyCreator Direct CAD, design communication

What Your Boss Doesn't Know About Meeting Deadlines

Posted by Andrea Giles on Thu, Sep 03, 2015

Every business manager knows that you need to meet your deadlines if you want to make money.

Every CAD user knows that in order to meet your deadlines, you need to get to an error-free model as quickly as possible so real work can begin.  That might be easier said than done in some cases.

And I'm sad to say that time spent making CAD usable isn't helping your business. And it sure isn't helping you meet deadlines.fixing files lci ebook

According to the 2013 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Study, 52% of engineers spend between 4 and 24 hours a week fixing geometry. That's fixing the file.  It's not time spent designing tooling, estimating costs, preparing job bids or doing other value-add work.  There's no other way to put it: that's just time wasted. Thrown away. Lost forever. Gone for good. Good and gone.

I'm sure some of you are saying, "Well, duh. Of course CAD plays a major role in meeting deadlines."  You build design time into your proposal anyway.  Fair point. 

But what happens if you don't build in enough time? What happens when you get a file that needs, for lack of a better word, work?  How often does this happen?  And how does that affect the manufacturing workflow and meeting deadlines?

This lost time also starts to creep into other aspects of your work, making it harder to get work done correctly, on time, the first time.  Many shops report they order incorrect parts (27%), need to perform extra rounds of prototyping (23%) and miss project milestones (25%).  All of this because a CAD file needs "work?"  What is wrong with this world?

If you're perplexed like me, you should check out a new eBook from Chad Jackson over at LifeCycle Insights. The eBook details not only how too few companies actually work well with 3D models, but how 3D models can negatively impact other areas of your business.  The eBook isn't all doom and gloom. The good news in all of this is that 3D models really are the key to meeting your deadlines, and in turn, achieving profitable growth - something all businesses want. You'll find out more... (you guessed it!) in the eBook.  

Read more now!


Has KeyCreator Direct CAD Gone to the Dogs?

Posted by Andrea Giles on Fri, Aug 14, 2015

gracie harrierRest assured, KeyCreator Direct CAD hasn't gone to the dogs.  We have, however, signed on some new customers recently that I wanted to tell you about.  Because, doggone it, they are pretty cool!

One of our Regional Account Managers, Brett Castellano, reported that he signed on Dog-ON-It-Parks out of Everett, Washington.  As you can probably deduce, they make dog park equipment and other pet friendly products. Their mission is to " communities become more pet-friendly by providing solutions for dog parks, off-leash areas and everywhere else dogs are welcome."  Can anyone say "bring your dog to work day?"

And being the kind of person that I am (nosy), I had to ask Brett about them and why they chose KeyCreator Direct CAD.

According to Brett, their primary designer was using a highly customized version of another CAD software package intended for designing playgrounds, but it just wasn't making his tail wag.

He wanted to use something that would allow them to more easily create custom designed pieces and work better with organic shapes (think dog bone shaped bench seats or faux log tunnels for starters). So, given his prior experience with KeyCreator Direct CAD, he gave us a whistle.

So now, Dog-ON-It-Parks uses KeyCreator to customize their designs however they want (or their customers want), and still be able to access and reuse their library of files from their old CAD software - two things KeyCreator is legendary for.

As many of you already know, KeyCreator Direct CAD lets you import and edit nearly any native CAD file format intelligently. Already have a design that is kind of similar to a new design you want to create? No problem, import that file and start making modifications.  There's no worry as to which order design features were created or what changes may or may not be allowed. KeyCreator Direct CAD gives you tools to make as many dynamic variations, modifications and corrections as you want - without ever having to start over from scratch. 

Additionally, designers want to be off-leash when it comes to having the flexibility to create shapes without restrictions. KeyCreator offers a complete solution for shape design. Whether you want to work in 2D drafting, 3D solids, surfacing or even wireframe, KeyCreator seamlessly integrates all of these into one easy-to-use design environment.

KeyCreator Direct CAD lets you, as the designer, concentrate on the design rather than the software. And treats. Lots and lots of treats.

What about you? Do you have any cool applications you use KeyCreator Direct CAD for? (Anyone make cat parks?)

PS.  That's a picture of our dog Gracie. She's a Harrier.  She is NOT a Beagle on steroids.

Topics: Direct CAD, CAD data reuse

Job Shops are Losing Money Using the Wrong CAD

Posted by Nicole Curtin on Wed, Aug 05, 2015

benjamin franklin $100 bill

You’ve heard the expression, “Time is money.” It’s credited to Ben Franklin, and it couldn’t be more true. You can’t get time back, no matter how hard you try.

So…if 52% of the respondents of the 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Study spend between 4-24 hours a week fixing geometry, that loss of time is costing contract manufacturers money, plain and simple. This even happens when the files are in the same CAD application. The complexity of that file can make it impossible to make modifications—and let’s face it—modifications are the norm. This is why direct modeling is becoming more and more important for the future of job shops. And organizations that rely on Direct Modeling have a competitive advantage since they can open it in native formats and dramatically reduce the time spent fixing broken geometry.

We may not be a polymath like Ben Franklin—but you can focus in and solve the problems you see in your shop. Don’t let your design engineers waste time recreating models!  Learn more about saving time and money with the eBook: Working with 3D Models: The Contract Manufacturer’s Key to Profitable Growth


Topics: Manufacturing Design, CAD, 3D CAD, Job Shop, Direct Modeling, CAD for Manufacturing

4 Things to Think About to Help You Work Faster with CAD Models

Posted by Andrea Giles on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

I’m not an engineer, but I’m surrounded by them at work and at home.  I’ve even been accused of thinking like one—which knowing the context of when it was said, I take as a compliment.  So, with all this immersion into the ways and minds of engineers, I can’t say I'm surprised when I hear a talented engineer say something like, "I've been using your software for years.  I don't need any training.  I already know all that I need to know." 

Oh, really. I bet you dimes to donuts, you also utter phrases similar to “who was the idiot that designed this?” or “I’ll figure it out as I go,” and "how hard could it be." On top of that, these phrases are more likely to come out when you're in a hurry. And doesn't that seem counter-productive?speeding resized 600

Nearly every engineer in the world today has one thing in common: they are pressed for time.  They need bigger, better, faster and they need it yesterday.  Sound like you?

I don’t care if you’re a manufacturing engineer, design engineer, an R&D engineer, a sales engineer or a domestic engineer.  I’m sure you, like everyone, are looking for ways to improve on the status quo and get things done quicker. 

But sometimes just doing what you're currently doing, only doing it faster isn't the right answer. I guarantee that many, many things (like software) have changed and improved in recent years, all for the betterment of you and your processes.  And if you aren't spending time - even just a little - to keep up, you're really missing out.

What are the things you should realize if you find yourself racing against time?

  1. Know your time is a limited commodity.  You need to find ways to use it wisely.  Have you heard the saying, "sometimes you have to spend time now to make-up time later?" (Probably not because I just made that up.)  But it makes sense, doesn’t it?  You're never going to improve unless you put the time in to make improvements. 
  2. Realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. That even applies to the most talented engineer.  We can’t be an expert in all things. Seek out those who are.  After all, there are some people whose main objective is to know more about CAD software than you do. 
  3. It’s okay to stop and ask for help if you don’t know how to do something.  Sure, you might be able to figure it out on your own.  But you could end up wasting a lot of your time trying to figure it out.  Be honest—you know that if you ask the right source, you’ll likely get an immediate answer.
  4. Take advantage of the resources available to you: technical support, online lessons and training classes, video tutorials, tips & tricks, webinars...I could go on, but the point is, you might already be paying for these things, so use them.  And even if you aren't paying for them, take advantage of what's free.

So, what does this boil down to?  Figure out what fits your schedule and then either do your research, get educated or ask the question. Yes, you might have to spend a little money. And you're certainly going to have to spend some of your time. But you should leverage the resources that are already available to you. (Ahem. Like maybe your CAD software vendor?)  Maybe with any luck, you’ll uncover things you didn’t know and figure out how to use that knowledge to get your job done and get it done fast. 

PS.  So yes.  Kubotek offers a variety of CAD training courses for KeyCreator Direct CAD. Kubotek University is also another place where loads of resources and expertise reside - and it's available for free to customers current on their maintenance contract. Also check out our numerous on-demand webinars, available for free on our website.

Get in there and see if you can uncover ways to use powerful functions, new and old, to get your job done.  It will be time well-spent.

photo credit

Topics: CAD training

KeyCreator Direct CAD is not a key creator. (Friday Office Funnies)

Posted by Andrea Giles on Fri, May 01, 2015

We hear a lot of things when we are speaking with customers, engineers, designers, execs, CAD jockeys, etc. We hear things that make us want to laugh out loud.  We hear things that totally blow our minds. (Who knew you could support yourself and your family by designing and building rat mazes. Because seriously. I met this guy at a show in California last year. Kapow. And you know what, Direct CAD was totally up his alley.)

And then there are times we hear and get asked about things that are just...just...dumbfounding. For instance.  We are makers of KeyCreator Direct CAD.  That means our CAD software is of the history-free, direct modeling variety. If you want to design from scratch, you can do so by simply manipulating shapes and geometry on the screen itself. Sort of like real-time electronic sculpting.  You can also drive changes through dimension driven editing, or, if you need to, you can import a design from any other CAD format and begin editing it.  No worries about who or what orginally created the design.  If there is geometry, we can work with it.

What we don't do is make keys. There. I said it.  Key. Creator.  We've heard it more than once.  (However, if you want to design something fancy, then of course you can use Direct CAD software to make all sorts of funky shaped keys).

Share our pain and laugh with us in this short video:


Topics: Direct CAD, KeyCreator Direct CAD

KeyCreator 4D is here!

Posted by Michael Cole on Wed, Apr 01, 2015

Here at Kubotek, we’re constantly working on giving you the best Direct CAD software we can. That's why we are proud to announce the launch of KeyCreator 4D! Step aside 3D CAD. Your time is over 2D CAD.  Make way for the future. Yes, that's right. Make way for 4D CAD.

KeyCreator 4D will be the world’s first ever 4D CAD solution, and it will be the last 4D CAD you’ll ever need.

So, what is 4D CAD?  It's quite simple, really. KeyCreator 4D takes all of the elements of KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD and adds the ability to travel in time.  Easily create eternal, timeless structures whenever you want.  Dynamic and dimension driven editing are very powerful design tools, but imagine the power your designs will have with the free, fully integrated fourth dimension of time. Thanks to true direct modeling technology, our software has always been a time saver. But now you can literally save all the time you need! That's because with KeyCreator 4D, there are no deadlines. You can use 4D editing on a timeline stretching back to the beginning of…well, time itself.

Have you ever heard of the Colosseum in Rome? We have a team who created that so it will be able to stand for more than 2000 years!  The Pyramids?  That's us too, thanks to KeyCreator 4D and a brand new 4D printer.

One of our beta testers said, “I was just playing with the 4D interface, and trying out some basic shapes. I didn’t have a particular design in mind, so I just made a few and scattered them around.  Later that day I was hearing about this thing called ‘Stonehenge.’ Apparently my design became a big deal. Thank you KeyCreator 4D!”

One fallback of 4D CAD is that in ten years from now, some of the history-based CAD software will begin dabbling in 4D as well.  Unfortunately these companies still can’t get their history timeline to run without rebuild errors. The result? The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Lost City of Atlantis. And because they cannot read native CAD file formats, the Inca Empire will still not exist.

It’s alright though, thanks to KeyCreator 4D’s translators we can easily import and fix those problems before they even happen.  Because really. Everyone knows that towers shouldn't lean.  And how do you lose an entire city (unless it wasn't built right in the first place)?  By the way, Atlantis really is the best aquatic city in the world.  We take all of our employees there for our yearly retreat, and it’s glorious.

Check out this new KeyCreator 4D video now!

Topics: CAD Software, CAD Software Revolution

Naming your KeyCreator License - New Video Posted

Posted by Michael Cole on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

Many customers don't realize they can personalize their KeyCreator Direct CAD license name.  It makes it a lot easier to keep track of who has what.  We put together this quick video to show you how it's done. 

Topics: KeyCreator Direct CAD

Want to buy KeyCreator Direct CAD online? Now you can!

Posted by Andrea Giles on Mon, Mar 09, 2015

We kind of slipped one past everyone a few weeks ago.  Did you notice? Kubotek Webstore

If you make a habit of checking out our website, you probably already figured out we officially launched our new webstore.  On it, you can purchase several of our available software products including our ever popular Spectrum CAD Viewer, as well as our flagship offering, KeyCreator Direct CAD.  Current customers can also use the webstore to renew their Kubotek Software Maintenance. 

The webstore is great for anyone who wants as little human interaction as possible. (You know who you are.) You can simply go to the store, and in a few clicks, make your purchase.

In fact, there a lot of good things about our new webstore.  The list prices are available for everyone to see.  You can quickly use your credit card to make a purchase. (Or use PayPal® - absolutely your choice.) You avoid having to play phone and/or email tag with anyone.  You get the satisfaction that only on-line purchasing can bring.

So what’s bad about our webstore?  We can’t deliver your product via a drone. Total bummer, I know.  In some cases, you might have to wait a business day to receive the proper licensing from our system. (Soon you will receive your purchases instantly.  Be patient.)  Not all our product offerings can be purchased on the webstore. If you’re looking to buy any KeyCreator Direct CAD add-on modules, you need to pick up the phone (1-800-372-3872) or email us

By no means is the webstore meant to replace our stellar sales and support team.  We just wanted to give our customers another way to interact with us.  We also hope that offering this mode of e-commerce simplifies some of the business transactions we make with our Direct CAD brethren.

Moral to the story:  Check our website often. You never know what we might slip in there.

Topics: KeyCreator, Direct CAD, CAD Viewer

Free CAD Viewer Downloads - Think Before You Click

Posted by Andrea Giles on Tue, Feb 17, 2015

Problem:  You need to view a CAD file. 

More problems:  You need to view various CAD files. 

Problem magnified:  You need to view various CAD files day in and day out, but you can’t remember which program views which file. You have several to choose from, one for each file type. 

Okay, we get it. Most of those viewer programs you have were free downloads.  Everyone likes free, me included. Even Kubotek offers a free viewer called Spectrum Lite. In fact, our Spectrum Lite download page has been viewed 42,225 times in the last couple of years. It gets downloaded close to 3,500 times a year. In the last six weeks alone, it’s been downloaded 422 times.

What those numbers tell me is that a lot of people are looking for CAD file viewers.  It also tells me a lot of people are looking for a bargain - something cheap, preferably free.  But even though you aren’t spending money, you are spending something else just as valuable: time. While you might get your KeyCreator/CADKEY viewer for free (because that’s all Spectrum Lite will view), I have to make the assumption that you’re also searching for, and downloading, CAD viewers for all the other files that cross your desktop. Hour glass on computer keyboard

Using the hunt and peck strategy to find the appropriate CAD viewer can be disruptive to your productivity mojo. You have to shift gears from the work you were currently focused on to search for, download, install and then run your free CAD viewer software. By the time that was all done, good luck figuring out why you needed the viewer in the first place.

And you know what? This all gets compounded when new file versions are released. Need to view the latest format? Start your CAD viewer hunt all over again. 

It’s also true that not all CAD software vendors even offer a viewer for their file formats. I’m not going to name names (CATIA, UG/NX, etc.), but your searching just got a whole lot more complicated if you want to view some formats for free.

Oh wait. Lest we forget!  Are other members of your team also using CAD viewers for quoting or planning purposes?  Boom – that time-suck just drained more of your resources. 

Let me point out a solution to this rapidly expanding problem. Why not own a single CAD viewer that can view, manipulate and print the most popular 2D and 3D CAD formats like SolidWorks, AutoCAD, NX, CATIA, Pro/E, IGES, STEP and many others? Think of the time and sanity you’ll save if you have a single go-to product to do all your CAD viewing dirty work, including the ability to measure and calculate mass properties. 

The pros of owning a single premier CAD Viewer are evident. So what are the cons? I can think of two.  One, you’re going to have to spend a little bit of money - but not a lot.  When you add up the cost of those hours spent looking for free software, you break even pretty quickly.

Depending on your file viewing workload, you are looking at $199 - $599. These are the costs for Kubotek Spectrum CAD viewer. The difference in cost is based purely on your need to view CATIA V5 files. The Spectrum CAD viewer with CATIA V5 read abilities retails at $599, while the base viewer product that views everything else under the sun will only set you back $199.

The second con? When file formats are updated/added, you need to repurchase the software. That isn’t so bad when you consider that file formats typically only get updated once a year. Plus, you only have to update one software product, not ten.   

Spectrum CAD Viewer does its job like no other —and it does it for a very reasonable cost. Consider Kubotek Spectrum CAD viewer for all your CAD file viewing needs. Spend a little now, save a lot later.

Topics: CAD Viewer