Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

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

The Evolution of CAD Tools for Manufacturing - Are We Better Off Now?

Posted by Matt Carr on Fri, Feb 07, 2014
Matt Carr is VP of Sales and Support at Kubotek. As a 30-plus year veteran of CAD industry, both as a user and from the vendor’s side, Matt has witnessed a fairly complete history of the CAD industry.


Why would anyone in manufacturing industry not use direct modeling CAD tools?  (Or any design discipline, for that matter?) I was thinking about this and how there are still so many shops unaware of the CAD “alternatives,” or they still struggle to open their blinders.  After all, they are already using a mainstream history-based solution and believe it to be the best and only solution.  But is it?

So this got me to thinking about the evolution of CAD tools for manufacturing, and how the “new” generation of Direct CAD is still relatively unknown.  How many people still do not realize what a highly productive alternative or even complement to the current CAD products Direct CAD can be.  In particular I wonder how many contract manufacturing firms have considered the effect on overall performance and bottom line by not having direct CAD in their arsenal.

A major reason manufacturers should consider Direct CAD is how we conceive and create Engineer at Computer with Drawingsdesigns.  Not that long ago, pencil and paper (or drafting) was the primary method of capturing such design intent. (And it still is the primary method for many!) Conceptualizing and immediately putting ideas down on paper offered a very natural way to visualize and create our designs.  This is a pretty straight forward process in that we imagine, and then simply draw our ideas - depending on our skill - to express ideas in the form of blue prints.  Of course this evolved into electronic layout drawings or 2D CAD which gave us a new ability to cleanly express our ideas (no need for good artistic skills), and perhaps, more importantly, it gave us quicker ways to edit/recreate design intent – and thus, the first “Direct CAD” modeling was born.

This ability to capture our thoughts easily in electronic form was in fact “direct” since we could interact directly with the geometry by deleting, trimming, breaking, moving, etc.  Eventually the new generation of direct dynamic editing tools allowed us to “physically” work with complex 3D design content – the ideal approach for manufacturers since it is the most intuitive approach.  This is particularly important given that manufacturing is downstream from product design and must produce tooling (and products) with never-ending pressure to do so for less money and time.

But early on, CAD technology diverged into another modeling method: history-based feature modeling.  This was not just a disruption to the current process, but it created a veritable storm in our creative process, not necessarily a good storm.  It came about when PTC finally launched Pro/Engineer, the first commercial history-based feature CAD system circa 1988.  The world was understandably awed by the seeming magic of being able to edit 3D designs without tediously having to break apart and reconstruct complex geometry – particularly 3D geometry. 

While direct geometry modeling was still evolving based on the work of a few pioneers (HP’s Solid Designer, CADKEY, etc.) no one could stem the rush to history-based methods once it got rolling. And so from a market share view, the yet unfulfilled promise of Direct CAD essentially went into hibernation for a number of years.  

From the software vendor’s side, we probably should have considered how much we were offering in the way of improved tools to create, engineer and manufacture products.  For the most part everyone blindly charged like a buffalo stampede down the path of “history” modeling, all attempting to offer similar tools, yet with all the same burdensome, costly restrictions…  

Anyway history is history (no pun intended) and as a result, I am convinced we lost significant flexibility which in turn has had significant impact on how productive we are – particularly from a manufacturing view.  And how much has this cost us?

Meanwhile the next big “change” in the CAD industry primarily involved lowering the cost of the software and offering it on relatively inexpensive PC’s – while this was a very effective business model it further put the awareness and promise of direct modeling in the background. 

But did we really understand how much we lost by unilaterally embracing what is arguably a very unnatural way to work with CAD?  To achieve the “magic” of editing complex 3D models using history-based methods, manufacturing users had to try and work with overly complex, order-dependent, formulaic, and rigid constraint-based files to build tooling assemblies and fixtures – a difficult, inflexible process at best.  Even worse, this method further locked users into fewer and fewer vendors with less opportunity to effectively share data.

Perhaps the biggest downside of this approach was the lack of effective ways to manipulate files from different CAD systems (aka “dumb” geometry) without essentially rebuilding designs from scratch.  This has proven to be much too costly whether trying to manage up-front design change, or more importantly for those manufacturers dependent on this history-constrained data.  So what were their options: purchase a number of different CAD systems, then hire and maintain all the staff/expertise to operate these different CAD systems?   Clearly not effective either.   And the notion that if most of my customer files come in one format, then I simply need to use the same system is equally false.  While the vendors love, and still very much promote this idea, it is also bad for number of reasons – it prevents the “data openness” needed for manufacturers to take on more types of work to become more productive and profitable. 

Before all the champions of history-based CAD come at me with your torches and pitchforks, telling me how your superior expertise makes you masters of your parametric universe (and BTW, I consider myself as having been such an expert once), tell me how effective are you at handling models created by co-workers, let alone projects from outside your company?  From my own experience (and for those willing to admit it) it can be challenging to manage even your own designs, particularly as the complexity grows – debugging history, constraint and mate errors often lead us to throw up our hands and start projects over.  Again, how much lost time and productivity has this cost all of us? 

The good news is since true Direct CAD works explicitly on the geometry and does not rely on any history order dependencies for recognizing and making changes, it alone offers respite from the tedious drudgery of history-based modeling’s arcane work methods.   In fact, it is the most natural transition from the aforementioned pencil and paper.   Direct CAD alone offers the industry the most open and flexible toolset to work with different CAD formats, and does so using physically intuitive tools that truly save considerable time – this is a gold mine for manufacturing. 

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, Direct CAD, Direct Modeling, CAD for Manufacturing, KeyCreator Direct CAD

10 reasons why assembly management in Direct Modeling is the BOMb!

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Sun, Jun 26, 2011

Direct Modeling 101 ebook

So you thought Direct Modeling was just for parts?

Well, just as you get ultimate flexibility in part modeling and editing from Direct Modeling, you also get ultimate flexibility in your assemblies.  Since different direct modelers handle assembly modeling differently, I will speak just about KeyCreator Direct CAD assembly modeling here. Feel free to add your own knowledge about your direct modeler below.

1. In KeyCreator you have a choice of creating assemblies as either flat (basic solids) or referenced assemblies. And KeyCreator can even read in assemblies using either method from other native CAD formats.

2. KeyCreator Direct CAD offers both level managed and reference managed assemblies.  Level managed assemblies are very intuitive using very simple drag and drop part organization.  This allows for ease in managing the assembly. And better yet, both methods can be used concurrently for the ultimate flexibility.

3. The file structure for assemblies is the same as the part file for KeyCreator Direct CAD.  This keeps things very simple and easier to use than the rigid file/part hierarchy method of history-based modelers.

4. Referenced parts can be converted to flat solids and flat solids can easily be converted to referenced assemblies.  Choose the method that works best for you or change to fit your needs.

5. Accessing and editing parts in an assembly is easy and will not result in complex rebuild errors of whether parts are referenced or not .

6. KeyCreator Direct CAD's ability to recognize patterns of parts allows the user to easily convert them to references on the fly or conversely break the references.

7. Mating and constraints are kept simple and will not cause rebuilding errors.

8. A referenced assembly can be burst down all the way down to its components or even solid  bodies and then can be reorganized at will.

9. You can selectively view and open the components in the assembly structure.

10. The Bill of Materials (BOM) can work off of referenced assemblies or multi-body level managed assemblies.

Interested in learning even more about Direct Modeling? Check out the new ebook here: Direct Modeling 101 interactive ebook

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, 3D Direct CAD, 3D CAD, Direct CAD, Direct Modeling, Assembly Modeling Direct CAD

Nurturing technology with Direct Modeling

Posted by John Agoglia on Mon, May 16, 2011

This article by Tim Hartford: The Airplane That Saved the World-What the RAF's World War II Spitfire can teach us about nurturing innovation and radical ideas. got my imagination working overtime--wondering what these guys looked like, what kind of minds and hearts they had to drive them, and of course, made me wonder what they would be like in today's design settings.

In short, the article discusses how aviation engineers were asked that "Rather than rely on known abandon their orthodoxies and produce something completely new."  The end result was the Spitfire--and probably the saving Grace to England and the allies in WWII. And in some ways, the birth of the Spitfire also indirectly (or directly, depending on how you look at it) lead to the development of the Lockheed Skunk-Works and similar type of innovation teams

The article also discusses the lessons learned by assessing technology-and hoping technology can help solve problems.  The lesson learned?  Don't put all your eggs into one basket--try variations. While not all results will be the next Spitfire, you still need to give space and encourage ideas to grow.

In today's world, would these gents be willing to put up with software constraints as they manically designed their so-called "radical" ideas?   Would they accept a corporate mandate to use only "brand A" CAD because it was sanctioned by the company?   Would they be okay starting from scratch if a design needed to be massaged?  Instead of molding an idea like a block of clay, would they find instead that it felt like molding an idea out of popsicle sticks?  My imagination shouts a resounding "hell no."

I don't seem them being bound by corporate strings, but often butting heads with the higher-ups to get their way--and I bet sometimes just because they could.  And I suspect they would most likely be champions of Direct Modeling.  I think they would like the freedom it gave them to do whatever the hell they pleased, especially if it meant they could focus on the design and not the software that TOLD them how to design.  I think they would like that, in a moment of brilliance, they could dive right into their model and make a change, big or small, and keep the wheels of progress moving forward.  And who cares what anyone else thinks, says or does.

Topics: 3D Direct CAD, Direct Modeling

A good day of Direct Modeling is like a good day of Fishing.

Posted by John Agoglia on Tue, May 03, 2011

And we all know a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.  So that leads me to conclude that a day with Direct Modeling can beat the snot out of a bad day at work.  Are you following me?  Good. 

If you've stopped by and chatted with us at any of our recently Kubotek KeyCreator 3D Direct CADattended tradeshows (or seen our emails inviting you to get out of your office and visit us), you have likely noticed some sort of contraption displayed on our booth graphic.  Not only can you see a larger than life image of this thing, but the actual "thing" is displayed in person at the show, right there for you to man-handle to your heart's content.  So what is it, exactly?  And furthermore, how does it relate to direct modeling? That, my friend, is why I'm writing this...

First of all, that "thing" is a Rapid Release® quick-release fishing rod holder, designed and manufactured by KeyCreator customer Damon Weaver of XCentric Mold. The product is fully designed using KeyCreator.  We even use bits and pieces of it as part of our test drive guide - a PDF you can download to help walk you through the functionality of KeyCreator Direct Modeling.

So, of all the "things" we could have displayed on the KeyCreator Direct CAD booth, or used as part of our test drive guide, why did we pick a fishing rod holder?  Is it because Damon is a really cool dude and a long-time KeyCreator user - and he likes the added publicity for both XCentric Mold and the Rapid Release.  Sure.  But that's not the only reason.   

Think about it.  Kubotek customers span a gamut of industries and professions.  Our customers design and/or produce all kinds of goods like jets and aerospace products (too big to carry with us), outdoor power equipment, medical needles (squeamish factor), all sorts of tooling, die, molds and sheet metal products (hard to narrow it down), even flying cars and boats.  Out of everything out there, what could a majority of our customers relate to (okay, besides an ice cold brewski)?

Fishing.  The sport of drowning worms.  It appeals to young and old (I would know, the Easter Bunny brought a Barbie fishing pole to our house this year - and it's been a hit).  Everyone from novices to experienced outdoorsman knows the basics of fishing.  You can go solo or with a group.  You can pick up your pole at any point in the day, or near any body of water and get right to it. I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone out there who has never cast a line.  Or pretended to.  Or for that matter, played a rousing game of Go Fish.

To me, that sounds like Direct Modeling.  Doesn't matter who uses it - experienced CAD jocks or the occasional user.  It can work anywhere in the design-to-manufacture process, in companies large and small or by individuals and hobbyists.  You can be up to your hips in CAD projects all day, or you might simply only dabble in CAD from time to time.   Just grab a mouse and make changes on a model quickly and easily.  No worries.

A good day of fishing also means you didn't get your line all tangled up in the nearest tree or get hooked into your buddy's arm.  Same sentiment is applied to direct modeling; it won't produce a tangle of parametric steps that only cause headaches.  If you're not able to respond to nibbles quickly enough, direct modeling will make you agile and flexible enough to speed time-to-market to land the big fish--I mean accounts.   And nothing is worse than having to drop everything and rebuild a model from scratch (or drop everything for a visit to urgent care to get that hook removed).  Direct modeling won't do either of those to you.

So, Why not give direct modeling a try?  Once you've tried direct modeling, we're sure you'll be hooked by all it has to offer. 

Topics: Direct Modeling

How the Royal Wedding is like Direct Modeling

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Fri, Apr 29, 2011

royal wedding

OK, I know what you are thinking - one of these things is not like the other: Royal Wedding And Direct Modeling?

Like many other red-blooded males in this country and others, I have been getting sick to death of hearing about the royal wedding.  And I had a brief conversation about it yesterday with a colleague at work.  Basically our wives and significant others are extremely excited about the event, while we could care less or are even annoyed by it.  I even tried to confirm our sentiments by issuing a linked in poll on many of the design and engineering sites on linked-in and, well, there are many more males than females on the sites and nobody cared enough to even take the simple one question poll.

So this AM - the alarm went off as usual at 5:45 and the TV went on.  What was on every channel? The royal wedding.  When we turned the TV on, Kate was just arriving at Westminster Abby.  So the wedding was about to take place.  We watched on.  I actually found it quite fascinating... go figure.  I've never been to Westminster Abby and I was quite impressed by the size and magnificence of the cathedral. And then Kate herself, well do I need to say that she is quite a strikingly beautiful woman, and Pippa looked pretty hot in her form hugging dress.

So like Direct CAD, many of you may be dreading the prospect of learning to use a different type of CAD tool.  But once you get exposed to it, you may very well get drawn into its simplicity and flexibility and actually find it quite fun, yes fun, to use.

I also learned that the last royal wedding, of Prince Charles and Princess Dianna was in 1981, a whole generation before. In 1981, History-based Parametric programming was the king of CAD.  Today in 2011, there is a new generation of CAD; Direct Modeling is the "Prince" of CAD and soon to be the King.

So, as much as I tried to avoid the royal wedding, I could not, and happily it drew me in and I embraced it.  And I guess I was foolish. Why poo-poo such an important worldwide celebration?

And as much as you might try to avoid Direct Modeling, it's probably best to embrace it.  It is here to stay and will make your product development experience much easier, smoother and yes, enjoyable.

So I was pleasantly surprised by the Royal Wedding today and I know you will be pleasantly surprised by Direct Modeling.

Want to learn more - download the Free white paper - Direct Modeling 101


Thanks for Reading,



Topics: Direct CAD, Direct Modeling, royal wedding, Direct Modeling Royal Wedding

One Step Assembly Configurations with KeyCreator

Posted by John Agoglia on Mon, Dec 06, 2010
Content of this Blog provided by  describe the image

This KeyCreator Power Play provides a powerful example  of why in many assembly design situations KeyCreator is a better solution than the super-sophisticated feature based modelers like SolidWorks.

We’ve all seen demos of configurator files built in SolidWorks that allow a user to create entire families of parts. They are certainly impressive but they do require a large investment in developing link variables and driving spreadsheets to make them work. Unfortunately, all of this background work seriously interrupts the normal creative design flow and in many cases has to be substantially redone as the design goes through successive iterations. (No one likes to talk about the big bear in the room when you are using a feature-based modeler: That is, in many cases substantial design changes result in a feature tree that will not regenerate without errors. This then necessitates a partial or complete reconstruction of the model.)


Users of feature-based parametric modelers love to demonstrate how they can create an assembly like the stainless steel workstation at right and then develop a driving spreadsheet that allows them to make a family of products. (In this case, benches are different widths.)

Now seeing a canned demo of this is really impressive. All you need is a box of popcorn and you sit back and watch as multiple versions of the product appear!

The problem is that for any decent assembly, you have to spend a substantial amount of time creating the spreadsheet, checking the relationships, and testing to make sure that everything works. That’s why you always see this as a canned demo. You would finish the popcorn and fall asleep if you had to wait while the spreadsheet was built!

There are 32 components in the basic assembly illustrated above. In order to build a product configurator in Solid Works (That’s what they call it. It sounds impressive so you feel like you got something for all the money you spent!) you would need to control the dimensions and positions on all of these components. That makes the process tedious and creates a lot of room for errors.Using KeyCreator for One Step Assembly Configuration

More importantly, creating the spreadsheet requires the designer to break the creative train in the design process. I can tell you from experience that that’s the last thing you want to do when you are on a creative binge.

In addition, more often than not, you will wind up making iterative changes in the design several times between the beginning of the project and release to production. Every time, you’ll need to update the spreadsheet to make the magic happen. If this is starting to seem like you’re a hamster, running on a wheel, you get the picture!

In KeyCreator, you can instantly configure any number of bench sizes without creating a spreadsheet or interrupting your creative flow in any way! Let’s say we want to add 9 inches to each side of the 24 inch wide bench to make a 42 inch wide bench.

You simply switch to an elevation view. (In this case the Front View.)

Then, using the powerful Xform Box-Move Function, you drag a describe the imagebox around the left side of the entire assembly. Then type –9 for the x value.

The entire bench is stretched 9 inches to the left. Parts that lie completely within the selection box like the left legs, left horizontal beams, left drawer slides and rollers simply move 9 inches to the left. Parts that are partially in the selection window like the counter, shelf, and drawer front are stretched 9 inches in length.

Repeat the process by dragging a selection window around the right side and moving it 9 inches to the right and you have a 42 inch wide bench.

If you use the SaveAs Function to make a copy of the file before each configuration change, you’ll have a family of benches created in no time at all.

And remember that all of the associated layouts for the model will also instantly update as you stretch the assembly.

Now, I’ve used a workstation table with a drawer as an example but this approach works equally well with conveyors (Change a 12 inch wide conveyor to an 18 inch wide one) or any other assembly where a series of discreet sizes is needed. describe the image

So when you need to configure multiple assemblies fast- - -

Come to KeyCreator where the solution is just a Box-Move away!

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, CAD Software, KeyCreator, Direct Modeling

Kubotek's Own Top Secret Project

Posted by John Agoglia on Fri, Oct 29, 2010

So, yesterday, we sat in the presentation of a competitor's much hyped project.  There was a lot of fan fare, but we were left wondering... are the really doing anything that's different?  Spicing up their cafeteria with some Creole fixings, I will admit, is decidedly unheard of for New England.  But, are they really changing and revolutionizing direct modeling?  All this thinking gave us a great idea!  What if we used our heads, coupled with some teamwork to come up with a great new technology?  We're still in the beginning stages, but we're working hard to make it stick.



Topics: Direct Modeling, Announcements

Mummies more productive with Direct CAD over History Based CAD 3 to 1

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Fri, Oct 22, 2010

zombieRF123 resized 600


In the first ever study of its kind, Engineer Mummies all over the world were given a variety of History Based CAD programs and Direct CAD modelers and were closely observed and asked to give their feedback on which style of CAD was more productive, creative and intuitive for them to work with.  This study was conducted over the course of many years and was kept "mum" and under wraps until today!

The Mummies' activities where monitored to unravel the the facts: which CAD Software is king of the hill or I guess king of the pryamid, Direct or History Based?  This was done both quantitatively and qualitatively. First, they measured the Mummies keystrokes and mouse movement along with the time that they spent on the CAD software programs.  In addition, the CAD models that they created were also studied. Here's a video of a very creative car designed using Direct CAD software by a mummy: Coffin Car

These studies showed that the Mummies spent less time (and used less clicks) creating their models by a factor of 3 to 1.  Additionally, when the judges entered one crypt  several of the computers running the History Based CAD software were shown to still be “Regenerating” the CAD models after changes were made. Judges furthermore witnessed several keyboards and monitors being smashed to little bits that were running the History-based CAD as well.  One mummy was heard to describe the History based CAD as "decrepit" and another called it "rotten."

A panel of judges assembled to review the models that were created using both Direct and History-based CAD modeling found that the Direct CAD models were more creative and more thoroughly designed due to the fact that there were more iterations of the models.  The models were also found to be faster and cheaper to manufacture.

The Mummies were then interviewed about their experiences using both History Based and Direct CAD.  Here were some of their responses:

                “The Direct CAD just slew me man!  I loved it.  It made me feel so creative and Alive.”

                “History based CAD made me wait so long to rebuild models, I could almost die waiting for it, and then boom it crashed and burned!”

“I was able to design an entire new crypt in no time, giving me more time to go out and hit the links!”

Would you like to try some of this "Killer" CAD Software?  Here is a free trial of KeyCreator Direct CAD software . See for yourself if it isn't just "to die for."

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, CAD Software, 3D CAD, Direct Modeling, Zombies CAD, Zombie CAD, History-based CAD

Direct Modeling in Today's Manufacturing World

Posted by Mark Parent on Thu, Oct 08, 2009
I've been hearing a lot of discussions out on the blogs about how the manufacturing world thinks the vendors (like Kubotek) need to provide better tools to help them compete on a global market. I wonder how serious the manufacturers really are about adopting change to make their businesses stronger and more competitive on a global scale.

The Direct Editing and Direct Modeling tools that are available today are a tremendous help to any manufacturing company. Time to market is important, right? Altering the design to improve the product is important, right? Being able to use any geometry of any model is important, right?

Manufacturers are probably the most ingenious and effective businesses in the world. So how can we help them understand that there are tools out there today that can make them better.

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, Manufacturing CAD, Direct Modeling, Direct Editing