Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

To the moon! (With KeyCreator Direct CAD)

Posted by John Agoglia 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

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

Posted by John Agoglia 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

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

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

Jersey Shore House Designed With KeyCreator Direct CAD Survived Sandy

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Fri, Nov 16, 2012

Today I received an email from our infamous head of training at Kubotek - "Doc Walt."  He recently completed the building of his house on the Jersey Shore.  He feels fortunate that his house survived and chalks it up to both providence and designing the house in KeyCreator to withstand such a storm.

Here is the story in his own words and unedited:


Jersey Shore House destroyed by Sandy

Neighbors House doesnt withstand Sandy's fury

Hi Gang

There are literally hundreds of houses like this or much worse on my street and the surrounding streets at the shore.

Over half of the homes were damaged or suffered serious water and wind damage.

In some places the house is partially collapsed into the ground like this but still there.

In other cases there is debris on the lot where the house once stood.

In the worse cases even the lot and part of the street are gone with water from the bay and ocean filling the location.

So we were unbelievably lucky. I’m still a little dazed.

As Stella and I walked down the street, climbing around sinkholes and mounds of debris we met neighbors staring in disbelief at the remains of their lives.

It was like being for real in the middle of one of those disaster films.

There was also a capricious twist to the scene. Often a house would be standing intact with the ones on either side destroyed.

By a combination of unbelievably good fortune and a well-built structure our house came through without a single shingle misplaced, no siding or window damage, no structural damage.

Walt's Shore House Designed in KeyCreator CAD

Walt's House - Unscathed by Sandy

For reference, if you ever build a house at the seashore do what I did when I built this one: (Even some of my family and friends shook their heads at my extra precautions.)

  1. I designed the house in KeyCreator, evaluating each construction step.
  2. I added almost three tons of additional concreate cribbing and several hundred feet of ½ inch reinforcing steel bars in the cribbing to completely encircle the house piers.
  3. This prevented erosion of the sand around the foundation.
  4. All siding was installed with nails every 8 inches instead of the typical 30 inch spacing used.
  5. Roof shingles had 6 nails to the shingle instead of four with special drip edges along rakes and soffits.
  6. I added over five hundred special steel structural straps tying all rood rafters and joists to wall farming and created special truss walls in the attic to react to extreme wind loads.
  7. Every joist to wall tie had both Florida hurricane straps and California earthquake slip plates installed. All the extra steel only cost a few hundred dollars and three weekends of extra labor.
  8. So design your house with KeyCreator, spend some extra time adding reinforcements, and say a prayer.

I provide the above information with a sense of gratitude, hoping that anyone else contemplating a building project take the time to add a little extra in their efforts to prevent a future catastrophe.

Once you finish off a house structure it is virtually impossible to add these extra goodies

 Our first floor is 7 feet 5 inches above mean tide level and the water surge reached exactly 7 feet, 5 inches.

We know that because when we opened the front door there was the equivalent of about three gallons of water that had just started to seep through the door sweep onto the tile floor.

I have to remove and replace the waterlogged insulation batts in the floor joist spaces of the first floor but that is a simple job compared to what could have been.

Best regards and thanks for your concern during this crisis.


Topics: Jersey Shore House, Superstorm Sandy, KeyCreator Direct CAD, KeyCreator Designed house survives Sandy, House survives Sandy on Jersey Shore