direct modeling

DesignSpark Mechanical, a Free 3D Modeler Derived from SpaceClaim

Next Monday, when a free 3D modeling software called DesignSpark Mechanical is released by Allied Electronics and RS Components (the trading brands of Electrocomponents plc.), some of you might find the product a bit familiar. That’s because the modeling technology of DesignSpark Mechanical comes from SpaceClaim, a household name in 3D design.

“Allied and RS are partnering with SpaceClaim to launch DesignSpark Mechanical, which combines the power and ease-of-use of direct modeling technology from SpaceClaim with access to the massive library of standard parts from Allied and RS, trusted by millions of engineers around the world,” said Rich Moore, VP of business development for SpaceClaim. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Creo Direct 1.0, A Brand New Direct Modeler from PTC

Creo Direct 1.0, part of PTC’s Creo app family, was “built from the ground up,” in PTC’s own words. That warrants an explanation, as PTC already has a robust, commercial-class direct modeler. Under the campaign to remake itself as the house of Creo, PTC renamed CoCreate as PTC Creo Elements/Direct. In fact, PTC now has not two but four direct-modeling alternatives: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Faster, Easier Metalwork with SpaceClaim 2011+

The suffix plus in SpaceClaim 2011+, the latest upgrade from SpaceClaim Corp., may be a reference to the new sheet-metal functions added to the software. Many CAD users have discovered — like I did — that using direct modeling tools to create and edit sheet metals is a lot easier than using a classic parametric modeler. The ability to push, pull, and rotate sheet-metal plates and corners without worrying about their feature history gives you a lot more freedom in how you work. (You don’t, for example, need to worry about regeneration failure when you need to reposition a plate past the bend line you’ve defined previously.)

In SpaceClaim 2011+, you’ll find that you can drop many standard sheet-metal features (like gussets) into your design, slide them along a surface or an edge to position them, then anchor them with a click. With other features like double-sided walls, rolled edges, and teardrop-shaped edges, you can select the feature from the main menu, specify the surface or edge where you wish to apply the feature, and finish it with a click. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

KeyCreator 2011 in 64-Bit with More Dynamic Edits

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.

SpaceClaim’s Snappy Return with STL

Push-pull modeling returns with SpaceClaim 2011, this time with some snappy actions to help you put your STL files to better use. In this release, you can use an imported STL file or mesh model as your guide to develop a new part, or recreate an old one. With this function, you can place sketch planes right against the surface of a mesh model, trace the outline by snapping your lines and arcs to the STL model’s edges, then extrude the resulting profile into a solid body.

In 2011, you get real-time previews of your sweep operations before you execute them. The added function makes it easy for you to predict the shape you’ll get when you sweep a series of profiles using, say, the ruled-segment option, the rotational-blend option, or something else. If you generally draw Splines, either as guide curves for sweeping or as profiles for lofting, you now have the option to put a check mark in the box “Draw Continuous Spline” (the option appears in the Sketch Option tab once the Spline tool is selected). This lets you draw the Spline, not as a series of curve segments but as one long squiggly line, in an operation much closer to how you might use a pencil to draw such a line.

If you’re creating symmetrical parts (say, a bike handle with identical geometry on both left and right sides), you may use the Move command to move, shift, and rotate these faces and features simultaneously. In other words, you’ll be applying a transformation to both sides, as though they are mirrored parts (for example, tilting a pair of identical faces in left and right). With tighter integration with KeyShot rendering, you can drag and drop materials directly to your SpaceClaim model, then launch KeyShot to start rendering it.

SpaceClaim 2011 remains one of the easiest 3D mechanical modeling programs to learn and use, especially for those with little or no training in parametric or history-based modeling. The push-pull modeling method it championed significantly reduces the learning curve, making its operations much more intuitive and predictable. With no reliance on a history tree, it gives you the freedom to edit, refine, and correct imported 3D CAD geometry with greater speed.

In addition to conceptual modeling, SpaceClaim also targets those in the analysis field, where pre-test preparation often requires removing unwanted features. Often, such operations are made more difficult than necessary by the nature of parametric modeling, as minor edits may involve significant reshuffling of the historical modeling steps. In a direct-modeling program like SpaceClaim, these edits are comparatively easier to make, as it’s free from the constraints of history-based modeling. STL-snap function in 2011 is another indication that SpaceClaim’s developers are actively seeking ways to make working with mesh models easier.

(For testing, I used a review copy of SpaceClaim Engineer 2011, provided by the company.)

For more, watch the video clip below: