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KeyCreator 2011 in 64-Bit with More Dynamic Edits

The use of Dyna-Handles to push, pull, rotate, and move faces and items in KeyCreator 2011, a sign that the interface overhaul has begun.

The use of Dyna-Handles to push, pull, rotate, and move faces and items in KeyCreator 2011, a sign that the interface overhaul has begun.

Using the Dynamic Free Array command to duplicate and position an item in different places.

Using the Dynamic Free Array command to duplicate and position an item in different places in KeyCreator 2011.

Kubotek‘s KeyCreator (previous CADKEY), credited with being a pioneer in direct editing, never really left the 3D mechanical modeling scene. But new kids on the block have been hogging the blogs so much that, at times, KeyCreator seems to be on the sideline. Perhaps, secure with a core group of loyal customers, KeyCreator never felt the pressure to stir the pot and rock the boat.

This February, the software returns as KeyCreator 2011, with 64-bit performance gain and more dynamic editing.

In previous releases, KeyCreator preserved much of its original interface, which relies on menu options and overhead text prompts. In contrast, subsequent direct modelers like SpaceClaim, Autodesk Inventor Fusion, and Siemens PLM Software’s NX and Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology let you directly manipulate your geometry: pick a face and you’ll be given the options to push, pull, or rotate it via control arrows; pick an edge and you’ll be prompted with a series of options to blend or chamfer the corner; pick a hole or a boss and you’ll be prompted with the options to resize it or move it along an axis; and so on. This makes KeyCreator’s younger rivals seem — for the lack of a better term — more direct.

In Release 2011, KeyCreator still retains its menus and overhead prompts, but it also adds much more dynamic editing functions: the ability to push, pull, and rotate faces on your solid models. KeyCreator’s Dyna-Handle, you’ll notice, works in the same fashion as the move-rotate control handles found in SpaceClaim, Inventor Fusion, and Synchronous Technology. One of KeyCreator’s original inventions — resizing solids and features by editing their displayed dimensions — remains intact. Coupled with the newly added push-pull modeling functions, it gives you easier ways to create and edit geometry.

Two new commands debuting in this release — Dynamic Free Array and Dynamic Linear Array — let you quickly place identical parts in specific locations. Free array allows you to select an item (for instance, a screw or a bracket), then select the positions where you’d like to see the same item duplicated, and execute the command. Dynamic Linear Array lets you select a single item (or several), then create a series of duplicates in a structured pattern (for instance, along a straight line or an arc). You can treat the entire series like a patterned feature, snapping them into place along an axis or an angle. Though the initial group you create with the Dynamic Linear Array command moves in unison, you may also isolate any individual item to manage its placement independently. The previews you get before executing the command gives you a clear idea what the results will look like.

Like many other direct modelers, KeyCreator gives you a flexible way to reshape imported geometry without the confines and limits of a history-based, parametric modeling program. It reads a number of 3D formats, including STEP, IGES, ACIS, Parasolid, Autodesk Inventor, and DWG/DXF.

Along with the features mentioned above, KeyCreator comes with a wealth of visual display options, drawing creation tools, surfacing tools, and assembly mating tools. One notable command in its assembly environment is Transform Dynamic, which lets you rotate or reposition certain sub-assemblies without worrying about the mating conditions applied to internal components. For example, if you rotate a gasket, the rings nested to its holes (in other words, mated to the holes at the center-points) will realign themselves to the new position.

The interface improvements — particularly, the adoption of push-pull handles — are expected to reduce the learning curve. You can still see remnants of the modeling methods many have done away with: for example, the requirement to click Accept to confirm or validate some simple operations, or the need to select an operation from a drop-down menu before clicking on the geometry to execute the command. (Francis Traylor, a KeyCreator reseller, points out that, if you turn preselect “on” as your normal setup, you can select geometry first, then execute the command you want. See his observations in the comments below.) Nevertheless, the latest release contains enough proof to convince me that Kubotek has launched what I think is KeyCreator’s rejuvenation process. The question is, will the transformation be fast-paced enough to challenge its rivals with a head-start?

For more, watch Kubotek’s demonstration videos, available at KeyCreator 2011’s launch site.

Note: I wrote this blog post based on a WebEx demonstration of the software. I have not personally tested it yet.

The use of the Dynamic Linear Array command to dupicate a single item into a series that can be moved and placed in unison (like a patterned feature).

The use of the Dynamic Linear Array command to dupicate a single item into a series that can be moved and placed in unison (like a patterned feature).

The use of the Dynamic Linear Array command to place a series of screws along an arc.

The use of the Dynamic Linear Array command to place a series of screws along an arc.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

3 comments

  1. A couple of minor quibbles:

    Importantly, standard import also includes SolidWorks parts and assemblies and 3D PDF.

    You noted “… the need to select an operation from a drop-down menu before clicking on the geometry to execute the command).” This is only true for some operations. If Pre-select is ‘on’ as your normal setup, you can select geometry first, then the operation.

    The interface is so flexible, you can set up your own version of a ‘ribbon,’ with commands grouped as you wish. Or, set up hotkeyed toolbar menus which appear when invoked, and disappear when an option is selected. Or, use gestures. Or, set up your right click menu with the commands you most use (and which then work on pre-selected geometry). Or, set up individual Workspaces which are pre-loaded with the commands necessary for 2D drafting, surface modelling, solid modelling, layout mode, model import (with diagnosis and healing), point cloud import and manipulation, mould design, etc, etc.

    To be honest, I think Kubotek would do well to simply create some Workspaces to reflect the richness of the interface and to give the new user a series of views of different ways to work. Having said that, I do look forward to seeing what comes next in the UI.

    You captured such a good grasp of KeyCreator from a Webex demonstration. You need to beat Scott up for a demonstration copy for you to get a hands on look. :-D

    As a KeyCreator VAR, I want to thank you for taking interest in KeyCreator and writing about it. You’re right – other products really do seem to be hogging the limelight. It’s high time KeyCreator has a turn!

  2. Francis: Thanks for the input! I’ll revise the blog post to reflect your point about “pre-select.”

    Many others CAD programs have migrated toward the Ribbon-bar style organization, where the default tabs show only the most commonly used tools, but additional commands show up when you hover your mouse over each tab. I think this approach would work well with KeyCreator, especially for new users, because, at a glance, the present KeyCreator default GUI could be a bit overwhelming for someone meeting it for the first time.

    Yes, I too look forward to future releases!

  3. Nice to see a decent review.

    While I don’t dissagree with some of the criticisms I would like to add some important points.

    I am a small indepent person that does solid modeling. I have looked at the other packages such as Creo direct, Fusion etc. They are nice and do have some advantages in areas. I went with KeyCreator in the end as I simply couldn’t justify the extra cost of the others. KeyCreator does everything I need and does it well. That is not to say that it is some cheapo stripped down CAD package, it is not. There is allot of “hidden power” of things that don’t show up in a 1 hour play around, but as you drill down you discover these powerful features. When I compared everything in the end I couldn’t beat the power to price ratio of KeyCreator. It may be one of the best deals around for what you get.

    As far as ribbon bars – I hate them! I use Inventor at the office with them and they do nothing but slow me down. With ribbons you have to click the tab first, then the icon. With the Keycreator I just click the icon. The trick in KeyCreator is configuring and customizing the menus properly (the default is admittedly not so great), when you do they are much more productive to me.

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