Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

From CAD Design to Prototype--A Look at 3D Printing File Formats

Posted by Michael Cole on Thu, Nov 10, 2016

3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing is an up-and-coming technology.  Obviously, CAD is going to be a big part of this process for many prototyping shops, and additive manufacturers.  We’ve been following all of the newest developments, and find it both interesting, and—if we’re being honest— pretty cool.

We’ve found lots of interesting, different uses, from printers that had been modified to print delicious chocolate shapes to massive scale printers that print concrete castles and other large structures. the type of file used for your 3D CAD design for Output matters

One of the big things that we’ve been looking into is compatibility, as we want you, and our software to both be prepared to make the leap to any new technologies that come to the industry.  The most specific issue with compatibility is the array of different file types.  So far, we found that there are four major file types used with 3D Printing, and we’d like to take a minute to explain them all to you.  So take a look at the different pros and cons of the various file types, and hopefully, it will help you to determine how to purchase your 3D printer.

The two most common file types are .obj and .stl.  These files are used exclusively with consumer-level 3D printers handled these files .  These files are fairly simple, and .stl files, for example, cannot handle multiple color printing, and if you get a printer with a better print resolution, your .stl files can become enormous having to break your geometry down into more and more triangles.

An issue, for some, concerning both .obj and .stl files, is that they are surface only file types.  This is fine if you do not need to print something with an intricate skeleton, or inside structure.  Again, this is a case of most consumer level printers being for people who don’t need to do this.  Is it a deal-breaker?  That’s up to your needs and uses for 3D printing.

While a consumer-level 3D printer might work for some aspects of design and prototyping, most commercial shops need something a bit more robust. When dealing withcolor printing, and higher resolution, most industrial and manufacturing users will need to work with .vrml files.  KeyCreator can output to .obj, .stl, and vrml.  This makes your CAD designs compatible with nearly all printers except those with their own proprietary file types.

Of course, there will be times you may want to reverse enigineer a product to be printed out using a 3D scanner. 3D scanning, can be a useful tool in taking in an object, making changes to it with KeyCreator, and then printing it out.  This can help speed up the prototyping process, but it still represents a fairly small portion of the 3D printing industry.

While researching, we did find a fourth file type. that is used when working with 3D scanning.  Many 3D scanners use a file .ply, which unfortunately KeyCreator doesn’t import, however we found that most scanners are able to output to .step, .iges, and .stl, all of which we are supported.

Interoperability and ease of use is what is nearest and dearest to us. We’re going to continue watch the 3D printing and scanning market so we not only keep up with the curve, but get ahead of it. We’ll be sure to update you as we find out what’s new. 

Have you begun to do prototyping with 3D printers at your shop? Let us know in the comment section below. 


 Want more insights on Direct CAD and 3D printing? Check out our On-Demand Webinar: 3D Printing Hacks Using Direct CAD

 I Want to Hack My Way to 3D Printing Success

Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, 3D CAD, KeyCreator, Direct CAD, contract manufacturing, CADKEY, Business Solutions,, Engineering Design, 3d Printer, Business Success, Interoperability, 3D Scanner, Reverse Engineering

7 Things to Do in Chicago During the IMTS Show

Posted by John Agoglia on Mon, Sep 12, 2016


Let’s face it. Often the most exciting part of tradeshows is what goes on around the tradeshow. That’s not to say we aren’t excited to head to IMTS this week because we are. But, we may be just a tad bit more excited to head to Chicago and experience some of the best things the Second City has to offer to visitors from across the globe.

But, like most travelers, we hadn’t a clue as to what to do this week. So, we did a bit of digging –OK, we asked Siri and she did a Google search. Here are a few of the great activities and attractions we found while visiting Chicago.



 adler_pl.jpgAdler PlanetariumNo science fan’s trip to Chicago would be complete without virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater. 





360 Tilt.jpgChicagoIf you haven’t been to the Windy City in a while, the name may not be familiar, but the building will be. Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago offers dining, sights and Tilt, which offers unique, downward facing views from 1,000 feet above the bustling Magnificent Mile. 



LP_Zoo.jpg Lincoln Park ZooSome 1,200 animals from apes to zebras call this free zoo [one of the oldest remaining] home.


Millennium_Park.jpg Millennium ParkIf you want to get your walking outside the show hall, or just get a bit of nature, this park features 24.5 acres of artwork, wildlife and flower gardens.

other-free-navy-pier-and.jpg Navy PierThe 100-year-old tourist hot spot features shops, restaurants, an IMAX cinema and a boatload [yup, that’s a pun] of sightseeing boat tours in addition to the 150-foot-high Ferris wheel it is famous for.

Shedd_aquarium.jpg Shedd AquariumFeaturing species from the Amazon to the Caribbean, this 75-year-old institution [which is younger than the Australian lungfish that calls it home] provides sea life lovers a break from walking the show floor.

Wrigley.jpg Wrigley FieldThese aren’t your dad’s Cubbies. The team is leading the league and expected to compete for the championship. They play the Brewers Thurs. – Sun.


There you have it. Of course, there is plenty to do at the show and, while walking the show floor, feel free to drop by booth E-3027 and visit us and see how KeyCreator Direct CAD can help you Improve Productivity, Reduce Costs, and Deliver More.

If you, can't make it to the show, you can still learn more by checking out our Interactive Guide to Direct Modeling by clicking the button below. 

 I want my Interactive Guide



Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, KeyCreator, Direct CAD, contract manufacturing, CADKEY, Business Solutions,, Engineering Design, IMTS, 3d Printer, Business Success

Keeping Your Eye on the Prize

Posted by John Agoglia on Fri, Aug 12, 2016



Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water. The Newton MessagePad. Crystal Pepsi. The Edsel. New Coke. 

What do these, and hundreds of other examples, have in common? Well, since they were all part of Time’s 10 Worst Product Fails of All Time list, the easy answer is failed products [if that was your answer you get 1 point]. The better answer is that they are all signs of a company that lost focus on its main product at that time [if that was your answer you get two points].

However, take it one step further. These are all case studies of companies that in the light of day and deep introspection, realized they were a bit off course. They are also examples of companies that refocused their energy and resources on flagship products and helped make their current and new customers very happy [if that was your answer, we might have a corner office with your name on it].

We recently released KeyCreator 2016. While, at first blush, not as big or robust of a release as we would like due to having to pull some enhancements back after issues were identified in the final few weeks of testing; it actually may be our biggest release ever.

This release signals a renewed focus on KeyCreator Direct CAD that was missing the last couple of years as we tried to extend our product offerings and took our eye off the engine that makes our company go and our customers more successful.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some useful new features in Version 14.0. The new version includes enhancements/upgrades to the translator sets, new hyperlink functions, compatibility with AMPS 7.0, and free access to the Trace Parts library. You can learn more by checking out What’s New in KeyCreator 2016 Version 14.0 or attending our Online KeyCreator 2016 Version 14.0 Update Training on August 23 –don’t worry, if you can’t make it you can still sign up, it will be available on demand as well starting August 24.

Our development team is reinvigorated and armed with suggestions from current and former users and ready to put their energy, time, passion (and big brains) into KeyCreator; don’t worry, we’ll still be working on new and existing products, just not at the expense of our bread-and-butter. We are planning our next release in January 2017 and are committed to delivering new features and enhancements twice annually moving forward.

Add in our partnerships with companies such as Synergis, TraceParts, XMD, QBuild, and Reverse Engineering (see the full list here), and KeyCreator is poised to bring contract manufacturers and independent CAD designers the most complete Direct CAD design software solution, allowing them to increase productivity, decrease costs and deliver more.

If you’re a current customer, we encourage you to upgrade to the new version and see the changes first-hand [and give us feedback so we can keep making KeyCreator better]. If you’re not a current customer, why not take us for a spin? Click the button below to get a free trial and see for yourself how KeyCreator Direct CAD can make your life a little easier and your business a little better.

Now, about that Coors Sparkling Water….

 Get a Free Trial


Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, KeyCreator, Direct CAD, contract manufacturing, CADKEY, Business Solutions,, Engineering Design, 3d Printer, Business Success

Manufacturers and CAD Designers Can Do More With Less

Posted by John Agoglia on Fri, Jul 15, 2016

I read the U.S. jobs and unemployment numbers every month — it’s the old business journalist in me. There is a lot of ID-10044536.jpginformation buried amid the numbers. In fact, the most recent report, which I read in the Wall Street Journal, showed that Manufacturing grew by 14,000 jobs in June. Pretty good; that’s lots of people getting hired in manufacturing. However, a deeper look shows that there were 16,000 cut a month earlier, and overall manufacturing jobs are down by 42,000 since the beginning of the year. That’s a lot of unfilled jobs.

Conversely, data shows that the ISM Manufacturing Index, which tracks U.S. manufacturing activity, climbed for the second straight month in June, hitting its highest level since February 2015. Great, that’s a positive trend for business.

Then I got to thinking, which I do on occasion. If work is up and jobs are down overall, it sounds like there is much room for growth of staff. It also sounds like there are many people absorbing the work of those unfilled jobs. It also sounds like manufacturing productivity may be less than optimal. Then I got to thinking about the people we talk to the most and it makes sense that part of that slack comes from the engineering design department, especially with contract manufacturers. Often, smaller job shops and CAD designers are asked to do more with less. Less time, less help and less money.

So, the question is, how can you and your designers do more with less? Here are four ways to get your job [and let’s face it, maybe the job of a couple of others] done with the resources you have:


More done in Less Time

Product development is constantly under a time squeeze. Shortened timelines often force engineers to pull the trigger on their first design to ensure they hit a deadline. This can lead to bad designs, or at the very least, lead to lost opportunities. The faster CAD designers can make and tweak designs on the fly, the shorter the design process is and the faster they can deliver top-notch models. This is where using Direct CAD to push, pull and drag geometry directly can help cut time and hit deadlines, rather than wasting it dealing with a history tree in traditional parametric modelers.


Simulation for Success

CAD simulation allows engineers to set up and run analysis independently. The advantage here is the ability to set up and execute simulations that provide direction for common design decisions and alternatives. Virtually testing product performance for supporting design decisions and exploring design alternatives is a time and money saver, allowing you to do more with less.


Printing Prototypes

Sure, you may add virtual simulation, but there is still something about being able to test something more tangible. The ability to test a product virtually doesn’t mean engineers can’t also improve how they build and test physical prototypes and build functional parts. As product designs become more intricate—and expensive to produce—the traditional build-and-break prototype process may prove too risky in today’s manufacturing environment. Additionally, organizations are moving away from traditional subtractive manufacturing and moving toward additive manufacturing to save time and costs [read more in our blog on 3D printing]. The idea is to build smaller scale partial prototypes more frequently to check performance progressively. 3D printing allows engineers to print parts and even assemble them into subsystems, within hours, depending on the complexity and printer. This dramatically cuts the time and costs of taking testing from your desktop computer to your actual desktop.


Cut Time Fixing Broken Geometry

Findings of Lifecycle Insights in our eBook:  Working with 3D Models: The Contract Manufacturer's Key to Profitable Growth showed that in general, 66 percent of engineers say they spend at least 4 hours a week fixing broken geometry. That’s a lot of wasted time for understaffed and overworked designers. This long-standing time drain is still a big issue for many contract manufacturers and independent CAD designers that work with files from different clients, each using different software. By utilizing Direct CAD to push, pull and drag geometry to make the necessary changes, many find that they are spending less time fixing and more time creating.

In contrast, a look at the results of the first ever weekly poll on our website [there’s one on the home page now, give it a try] showed that our poll respondents spent less time working on fixing broken CAD geometry then the industry average [could it be the KeyCreator Direct CAD factor?].


How many hours a week do you spend fixing 3D Models?

  • Less than 4 hours a week—55%
  • Between 4 and 8 hours a week – 41%
  • Between 8 and 24 hours a week – 0%
  • More than 24 hours a week – 3%


There are never enough hours in the day, especially when you are understaffed. However, using the right tools and tactics that can cut time and costs from your manufacturing design and production process can make the hours you have more profitable.


How has the economy impacted staffing at your company?


If you'd like to take KeyCreator Direct CAD for a test drive and see how it can help you do more with less, click the button below. 

 Try KeyCreator and Do More 

Image by jscreationzs at

Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, Direct CAD, Engineering Design Changes, contract manufacturing, 3d Printer

Do you know what to look for when hiring a CAD designer?

Posted by John Agoglia on Thu, Jun 30, 2016

I’ve hired a lot of people over the years. I’ve hired journalists and editors. I’ve hired personal trainers. I’ve hired salesDesign_help_1.jpg
people. I’ve hired commercial housekeeping staffers and I’ve hired independent contractors for various jobs professionally and personally. I’ve always tried to live by the adage of you hire for character (attitude, personality, etc.) and teach skill. The same can go for hiring a designer for your manufacturing process.

In fact, one of the worst reasons to hire a CAD drafter is because he or she has a technical skill or because they know a specific tool – like SolidWorks, for instance. That would be like me hiring a writer because she knew how to use MS Word (or a typewriter in the old days) or a housekeeper because he uses a specific vacuum. The job is more than using a certain tool.

I’m not saying designers can get away with no skill. They, of course, need to know geometry, basics of design, be comfortable with technology and a few other things, but they don’t need to be proficient in your business, they just have to be willing to learn (one of the traits I’ve always hired for).

So, what should a manufacturer look for when hiring a designer? Just rememberCALCULUS with these 8 traits that can help you pick the right designer for the job and it sure is easier than:

  1. Curiosity. The best CAD designers are curious. They want to know what works. Why it works. And maybe, most importantly, what would work better.
  2. Advocacy. Sure, you want a CAD designer to listen and adapt to your needs. But, he or she is also good at what he or she does (or should be, if you are going to make the hire). This means she may have an idea about how to do something better and will advocate for it. He may think of a way that is cheaper when it comes to production but will uphold the standards you set. Either way, you don’t want a wallflower or yes person if you want the best quality end result.
  3. Listening. A good CAD designer is able to check their ego (and some certainly have egos, as do all talented people). Good designers are able to listen to wants and make sure that a product delivers what is needed to put out the best results.
  4. Contextual. A good designer will understand how to integrate his idea with various technologies and aspects of a solution into a product. If you are working on one piece of a product or assembly, the designer has to understand what needs to be done and how his or her work needs to fit within the finished product.
  5. Utility. Leading mechanical designers (or those that will be) have a desire to take what they know and work to improve upon it. They are truly adaptible to changes in technology, design and other skills associated with the profession. They are also willing to work with manufacturers to make changes to the design to meet the needs of the project.
  6. Learner. Every job comes with a learning curve. Someone who is dedicated to continual growth in their job is more often than not, the right person for the job.  They should always be staying on top of new technology and learning more about work, whether that is designing for the Internet of Things (IoT), getting and learning updates to the new software releases or learning new technique for design for manufacturing (DFM). There is nothing that a good learner cannot be taught, especially by a manager or owner that is willing to take the time.
  7. Unbound. Designers need to understand the that there are limiting factors due to technology, the manufacturing process, marketing and the needs of the client. However, a real problem-solver is not handcuffed by these limitations. They find a way to work within them. He or she is unbound by what has come before and is willing to chart a new course.
  8. Solver. CAD designers are responsible for finding solutions. All the observation, listening, adapting (well, you get the point) would be a waste of time and effort if it didn't lead to a design solution. It is vital that the designer is willing to not only learn the problem you are trying to fix, but is able to take action to help produce a part or product that works for the needs of you, your customers and the end-user.

In the end, there is no perfect manufacturing CAD designer. Heck, there is no perfect employee. However, by looking for the foundation of a really good designer and taking the time to develop the technical and other company- and job-specific skills, you’ll be on your way to having someone that is pretty darn close.

So what do you look for in a CAD designer? Let us know in the comments below.



Topics: 3D Direct CAD, 3D CAD, Direct CAD, Engineering Design Changes, 3d Printer

Power Combo of 3D Printers & Direct CAD Saves Manufacturers Time & Money

Posted by John Agoglia on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

If you’re not using a 3D printer in your manufacturing process yet, odds are you soon will be.  

According to the  Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide released earlier this year, the 3D printing industry is going to expand rapidly in the next three years. 

The Guide predicts that 3D printing will expand globally at a 27% compound annual growth rate and that the nearly $11 billion industry in 2015 will balloon to $26.7 billion by 2019. (Source: IDC)  

The continuing growth of this technology is helping contract manufacturers with something that is very near and dear to our hearts: speeding the process of prototyping and designing — and, in the case of 3D printing, increasingly production. 

Even with prices trending down, if you are going to invest in an industrial-grade 3D printer, it’s sti3D_printer.jpgll going to cost you a pretty penny. So, what are the real benefits of using a 3D printer in your job shop? 

Here’s a look at some: 

  1. Save Time: 3D printing allows ideas to develop faster than ever. Being able to 3D print a design the day you came up with it — or made a significant change — can cut your overall development time way down and helps you stay a step ahead of the competition. 

  2. Save Money: The costs of prototyping production runs and injection molds are prohibitive. The 3D printing process allows you to create parts and assemblies through additive manufacturing for far less than traditional machining.  

  3. Reduce Risk: On paper (well on screen) a design seems sound. Of course, until it’s an actual prototype or product you never know. Being able to verify a design before spending on production can make a difference to your bottom line. Moreover, if it isn’t quite right the first time, you can fix the geometry and print another prototype far more cheaply than altering an existing mold. Direct CAD allows you to easily make new iterations to your model and reprint, working well with additive manufacturing. History-based models, on the other hand, may need so much rework to get it right you might have to model all over again. 

  4. Clear Communications: Describing the product you are going to deliver to your customer leaves a lot to the imagination and may be misinterpreted. A 3D design is better than using your imagination, allowing them to hold the tangible product-to-be not only makes it more “real,” it reduces ambiguity when discussing design and changes. 

  5. Reduce Constraints: The limitations of standard machining have constrained product design for years, and as you know we hate constraints and other factors that limit your design. With the improvements in additive manufacturing, the possibilities are endless. Today’s additive manufacturing is much more tolerant of creative geometry than in years past. Direct modeling has no constraints other than the fact that if it’s impossible to build the model geometrically, it won’t let you do it. Some history based modelers will allow you to build models on the screen that physically cannot be made. 

  6. You’ll Fail Better: If you’ve ever played with a 3D model, you know how important getting the construction geometry correct is. If your construction geometry isn’t sound your model may look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But the truth is your designs don’t always work. Don’t feel bad, we all have issues that need to be reworked when creating something. In fact, his blog has been reworked multiple times. Being able to see what doesn’t work quickly and cheaply with a 3D printer allows you to hit fewer dead-ends and make more breakthroughs earlier in the process.  

There you have it, a few benefits of using a 3D printer in your manufacturing process, many of which fit well with Direct CAD for designing.  

Of course, though, no technology is without pitfalls. Manufacturers run into them all the time with 3D printing. From choosing the right materials to designing with additive manufacturing in mind, manufacturers are learning something new every day to make the most of 3D printing. In fact, we’ll be hosting a webinar next month that will show you hacks to overcome some of the most common 3D printer obstacles manufacturers face today.  

For more information and to register, click the button below.

Sign Me Up!  

Topics: 3D Direct CAD, 3D CAD, Direct CAD, Engineering Design Changes, 3d Printer