Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

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