Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

KeyCreator CAD CKD Format Revealed – More Flexible Than You May Think

Posted by Andy Beaupre on Thu, Jan 05, 2017

It’s worth discussing the flexibility of KeyCreator’s file format. It’s a benefit that may not be all that obvious and requires a little bit of “out of the box” thinking. Let’s start by asking a few Questions:

  • How do you want to design your assemblies? Top Down? Bottom up?
  • Do you need to Design Parts in context with each other?
  • During the design process, before releasing a design, do you ever have a problem finding all the files that are referenced in your assembly?
  • Do you have issues ensuring that you’re using the correct version of pre-release referenced file?

Depending on the CAD system that you’re using, all of these tasks can pose challenges.

Flexible File Format

KeyCreator’s (.CKD) file format has some unique features that make all of these scenarios possible and easy to manage. With the CKD file format, you have a choice on how you manage your CAD data plus you don’t need to commit to a single strategy. You can change your file management scheme at any time then finalize the strategy before releasing the design.

Let’s take a look at the Anatomy of a CKD file and a few potential design management strategies.

Single Part or Drawing Strategy

In its most basic form, the CKD file contains a 2D drawing or a 3D part with an associated drawing.

 single part drawing 1.png Pic 5D.png

The first benefits of the CKD become apparent immediately. Different Geometry types (2D, Solids, Surfaces) all reside within the same modeling environment in a CKD file. Sketches do not exist. All geometry maintains its purest form allowing all geometry to be treated as if created natively, even if it was imported from another file format.  Additionally, a 3D part design and its associated 2D drawing can be contained within the same file. This eliminates the process of hunting for an associated drawing not saved where you thought it was or trying to figure out if an associated drawing even exists. Once a design is released, you have options as it can remain in the same file as the model or saved as in a drawing only file.


Single File Assemblies or Projects


Consider another design management strategy. What if you needed to design an assembly and wanted to save all of the parts within the same “project” file? The CKD format was designed to do this very efficiently. The key to this is that multi-body files are the norm for KeyCreator as opposed to being a specialized design technique (used in other CAD systems). The format was design to handle multi-body level managed designs (non-referenced assemblies). Similar to the single part strategy, a CKD can contain a complete assembly with an associated drawing.

Pic 5.png

Using this approach there are no referenced files, so file management is simple. There’s no better way to do in-context top-down assembly design. There’s no dependency between parts designed in context, so it’s easy to save off parts to their own files as needed; there is no commitment to a single design management strategy. An assembly design using this strategy is also easy to share since it consists of a single file. Another not so obvious fact is that with this strategy, detailed associated drawings of each part can also be contained within the same file.

The next management strategy is unique to KeyCreator. The CKD file can Pic 2.pngcontain multiple independent parts, each within their own separate modeling environment and with an associated drawing.



The next management strategy is unique to KeyCreator. The CKD file can contain multiple independent parts, each within their own separate modeling environment and with an associated drawing.Pic 3.png

The application of this strategy may not be as mainstream as the others but offers some compelling benefits of its’ own. Consider a scenario where you’d like to keep a library of commonly used 2D profiles that you could import into a design and use to generate extrusions, pockets or cuts. You could save time by reusing profiles instead of re-creating them for each design. The multi-part CKD strategy would be perfect for this application. All of your profiles would be saved in a single, time-saving, shareable CKD file. 






Referenced Parts

When your design process requires you to have separate files for each part in an assembly (like many mainstream CAD systems work), that’s not a problem for the CKD format. The CKD format is built for bottom-up assembly design as well. CKD files can be referenced in other CKD files which facilitates the creation of designs using file-referenced lightweight assemblies.                        

With this strategy, each file can be released and revisioned independently. Don’t forget that a referenced assembly can easily be converted to a single file assembly. You’re never restricted to a single design management scheme. KeyCreator along with the CKD file format was designed to ensure maximum flexibility regardless of your file management needs.

We’ve discussed a few of the design management strategies that KeyCreator and the CKD format have to offer but the possibilities are endless.


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Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, KeyCreator, parametric modeling, Direct CAD, Direct CAD vs Parametric CAD, History-based CAD, history based modeling, history tree, contract manufacturing, CADKEY, Business Solutions,, Engineering Design, IMTS, Business Success, CKD

Break Free of the CAD History Tree

Posted by John Agoglia on Thu, Dec 01, 2016

We’ve heard it time and again from future customers “Rebuild errors are costing us time and money." So have others. Another CAD company recently did a blog about the problem and were even so kind as to show a very broken parametric history tree. In fact, they even demonstrated how the software highlighted the broken geometry. Basically, the history tree is what is broken, and they show it. history tree.jpg

That’s great. But our question is, “Why worry when you don’t have to?”

Direct CAD, such as that used in KeyCreator, eliminates the need to not only worry about rebuild errors. In fact, it removes them altogether. 

When you’re working in a traditional, history-based parametric CAD system, you are held captive by constraints and limitations, so every change — and let’s face it, there are always changes during the design process — needs to be considered and first steps need to be rebuilt to ensure the geometry works.

Typical rebuild errors occur when attempting to edit and continue design on someone else’s model.  You need to fully understand and comprehend the parametric history tree to be able to make modifications without causing rebuild errors. Essentially, if you don’t understand HOW somebody designed the model, you cannot work with it. This can slow down the process and the profits of a company.

When your 3D CAD software is Direct CAD, you are not working on the history tree; you are working on the part directly (see how we did that, you work directly on the model with Direct CAD). That means an 11th-hour change or a quick change during prototyping won’t fail because of a step made weeks earlier not being updated.  Reworking a file to get it ready for production won’t require changing a line in the history tree that is a hundred or thousand steps back because you are changing the model, not the history tree—kind of like working with clay.

And contract manufacturers know the pain of receiving files that are already full of broken geometry that can take even more time to fix.

As with any creative process, everyone has different approaches to design; therefore, wasting a lot of time on restarting models from the ground up due to the inability to work with others’ models. It would be like rebuilding a house because you need to fix the roof. That’s a lot of time and money lost on what is essentially unnecessary rebuilds just because you aren’t sure the development of the foundation was originally done. Thincomputer error.jpgk of it as having to study and perhaps rebuild the electrical system of your house every time you need to change a lightbulb. Sure, you could do it.  But why?

Direct modeling gives you the capability to easily and quickly copy/add/remove/duplicate and edit features without having to design each element individually so your time is spent more usefully designing, manufacturing and obtaining more jobs.

So, while you could still be using a typewriter, carrying a 1,000-page book, and using the Encyclopedia Britannica. You’re not. You use a word processing program, carry 100 books with you in your Kindle, and Google the answers to life’s greatest questions. So, why are you still worrying about rebuild errors?

Maybe you should Google that one.


Learn more about the power of Direct CAD in our Interactive Guide Direct Modeling 101

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Topics: CAD, Manufacturing, KeyCreator, parametric modeling, Direct CAD, Direct CAD vs Parametric CAD, History-based CAD, history based modeling, history tree, contract manufacturing, CADKEY, Business Solutions,, Engineering Design, IMTS, Business Success

How is KeyCreator different from SolidWorks?

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

One of the most common questions that we receive when at trade shows or from prospective customers is:  How is KeyCreator different from SolidWorks?

A complete answer to this question could go on for many pages, but let me try to make the comparison as simply as possible.

First, how are they the same?

Both KeyCreator and SolidWorks are CAD software programs.  You can use either program to document the design of a product or mechanical part. Both can create drawings, both will get the end result completed. 

Notice that above I used the phrase "document the design."  In SolidWorks, you can indeed design a part, but its best if you already have a design in mind, on a napkin, in a 2D sketch or somewhere else before you begin to describe it in SolidWorks. Conceptual design, the creative process of developing your design, can be done in SolidWorks, but it can be very cumbersome and time consuming, requiring starting new designs from scratch for multiple design iterations.

Why isn't SolidWorks a good conceptual modeler?

The reason is that SolidWorks is a history-based parametric solid modeler1. (See Wikipedia's definition below).  In SolidWorks the relationships between the objects and features are programmed into the design. This is called design intent.

And with history-based parametric modeling, objects, features and their relationships are represented in a History Tree.  This keeps track of the order, location and relationships that are programmed.  Programming the design can be difficult. Determining where to start the design and how to program the relationships requires a lot of skill and practice. If changes are desired while programming of the design, or if modifications are needed in an existing design, then it is necessary search the history tree to find the objects and relationships where the changes would need to take place within the history of the design. In a complex part design, this may mean searching through 100's of features or more.

Partial History Tree in SolidWorks

Once the features are found and if the design was programmed to accommodate the changes, then the system rebuilds the design to the new specifications.  Sometimes rebuilding errors occur or the software crashes. Then the change must be made another another way, or it is necessary to reprogram the design from scratch. No programmer is going to be able to anticipate every change that may be required in a design. This is why designs get reprogrammed many times when changes are required.

If designers are working with very mature designs that need few changes and if programmers are very skilled then SolidWork's history-based parametric approach will work fine for the organization.

Why is KeyCreator a good conceptual modeler?

KeyCreator is a Direct CAD Modeler2. (See Wikipedia's explanation below)

What does this mean?  It means there is no programming involved.   There is no history tree involved in the design.  The design is strictly defined by the geometry contained in the design.  Relationships are not fixed.  They can be changed at any time in the design.  This makes KeyCreator an excellent conceptual modeler.  There is no rebuilding, because the design is always up to date.  This means that a designer can make as many changes and try as many options as their mind can conceive. This inevitably leads to superior designs in less time.

KeyCreator Direct CAD not only allow ease of conceptual design, but it also allows ease of comparison of CAD designs based on the geometry of the design.  Comparison tools graphically show differences between to similar models to check for changes in designs - intended or unintended.  This allows manufacturers in the supply chain to confidently plan for changes or to communicate suggestions for enhancing the design to improve quality or cost.

KeyCreator's Direct CAD architecture also enhances the ability to optimize designs for machining and tool making.  And with KeyCreator's integrated machining package, changing designs in KeyCreator carries through into KeyCreator Machinist.  This allows the machinist to try multiple designs and machining strategies in a seamless manner.  This leads to better design and better machining strategies.

Lastly, today's leading edge designers are optimizing their designs up front in the design cycle by using CAD simulation.  KeyCreators fully integrated KeyCreator Analysis program allows the designer to try many approaches to the design and quickly run multiple analysis without the need of exporting and importing files into another software package.

There are many other differences between KeyCreator Direct CAD and SolidWorks history-based parametric CAD.  Feel free to mention some in your comments.

Thank you for reading.



1. Computer-Aided-Design Wikipedia 3D

parametric solid modeling requires the operator to use what is referred to as "design intent". The objects and features created are adjustable. Any future modifications will be simple, difficult, or nearly impossible, depending on how the original part was created. One must think of this as being a "perfect world" representation of the component. If a feature was intended to be located from the center of the part, the operator needs to locate it from the center of the model, not, perhaps, from a more convenient edge or an arbitrary point, as he could when using "dumb" solids. Parametric solids require the operator to consider the consequences of his actions carefully.

2.Computer-Aided-Design Wikipedia 3D

Some software packages provide the ability to edit parametric and non-parametric geometry without the need to understand or undo the design intent history of the geometry by use of direct modeling functionality. This ability may also include the additional ability to infer the correct relationships between selected geometry (e.g., tangency, concentricity) which makes the editing process less time and labor intensive while still freeing the engineer from the burden of understanding the models. These kind of non-history based systems are called Explicit Modellers or Direct CAD Modelers.

Topics: Direct CAD, Direct CAD vs Parametric CAD, SolidWorks vs KeyCreator