Manufacturing

Cadalyst Labs Review: KeyCreator 5-Freedom to Do Things History-Based Systems Can't

1 May, 2006 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

Kubotek offers a refreshing approach to modeling that has a place in today's modeling repertoire.


You can't please everybody. The last time I reviewed KeyCreator by Kubotek, some people took me to task for not hating it: "It doesn't have parameters." "You can't do sketches." "I thought you were a modern modeler." To all of which I respond, "So?" KeyCreator 5 is not a history-based modeler, which means it doesn't follow the currently popular methodologies. Big deal.



I remember when no one had ever heard of parameters and sketches. We still got work done. We still shipped our products to market. We just became good at using the tools we had. Kubotek offers a refreshing approach to modeling that I think has a place in today's modeling repertoire.

KEYCREATOR 5
KEYCREATOR 5

But just because Kubotek hasn't jumped onto the parametric bandwagon doesn't mean it has stagnated. The company continues to advance and improve KeyCreator's powerful functionality (figure 1). KeyCreator 5.2 features tons of cool new stuff, most added in direct response to user requests. With changes in modeling, drafting and assemblies, Kubotek is raising the bar to new heights.

Figure 1. A top-down view of an all-composite flywheel housing from a model D rowing machine designed by Concept2 (<a href=www.concept2.com). The company used KeyCreator to evaluate different flywheel shapes to meet customer requests for reduced noise. Image courtesy of Concept2."/>
Figure 1. A top-down view of an all-composite flywheel housing from a model D rowing machine designed by Concept2 (www.concept2.com). The company used KeyCreator to evaluate different flywheel shapes to meet customer requests for reduced noise. Image courtesy of Concept2.

New and Basically New

Not all of the changes we'll be talking about are new to KeyCreator 5.2. Some came along in v4.5 and 5.0, but I haven't written anything about KeyCreator since v4 last year so they're new to me. KeyCreator 4.5 introduced interference checking. KeyCreator examines the selected bodies, and if it detects interference—either overlapping or by containment—it lights up the faces involved so you can see what's happening. It's a handy command that has saved my bacon plenty of times.

Also new to KeyCreator 4.5 was the Unbend All function. When a model describes a sheet-metal part, KeyCreator can unfold it into a flat pattern. The whole part will unfold. If you want only some bends unfolded, you can use the Edit Sheetmetal Bend command to straighten individual bends.

KeyCreator 5.0

KeyCreator 5.0 introduced icons with a newer, more modern look. The tool tips that come up when you hover over an icon now display the keyboard shortcuts for everything. When you open a drop-down menu, anything that has a keyboard shortcut shows it. You also have the option to make the icons larger.

New to KeyCreator 5 is universal face selection—you pass your cursor over a set of faces, and KeyCreator recognizes them. For instance, when the cursor passes over a cylindrical face, KeyCreator examines it, checks both of the ends to see how they are capped and decides what kind of feature the geometry most closely matches—in this case, a blend. You might ask what good is this capability for a nonparametric modeler? The Blend All command will look at the geometry under the cursor and select everything it sees with the same radius and combine it into one feature. You can arrange things so that if you change one radius, they all change. And as always, you have the prerogative to include or exclude whatever faces you want.

The Side command is very interesting. When a model has uniform wall thickness, you can select a face and KeyCreator identifies all tangent faces and recognizes that they all belong to the same side of the model, such as the inside or the outside. The Rib command recognizes sets of nontangent faces as ribs. The Pocket command recognizes all the faces that make up a pocket, and the Boss command, a boss. Once KeyCreator recognizes all the features on a model, you can group them in feature folders so you know what goes with what.

You also can edit the recognized features. Say you recognize a blend that includes multiple edges of your model. By changing one radius, you can change them all. This task generally is called feature-based modeling. Another advantage to grouping faces into features is that they can be suppressed or unsupressed. The new Replace Face command works much like Trim to Face. You select a face, and KeyCreator removes it and trims the adjacent faces to a new face you select. This command can change the flat top of a box into a freeform surface (figure 2).

Figure 2. KeyCreator s Replace Face command places complex freeform surfaces directly on a model. You actually can import a surface model of a face and mold your solid model to it.
Figure 2. KeyCreator s Replace Face command places complex freeform surfaces directly on a model. You actually can import a surface model of a face and mold your solid model to it.

The gardeners among us can use the Prune command to select a set of faces, say a pocket, and remove or copy it from a model. The Graft command recreates your pruned feature anywhere you want on the model.

KeyCreator 5 also adds dynamic drop shadows to help make models look more realistic. You can add an environment map to your model that enables you to see a bit-map image (or those infamous zebra stripes, as shown in figure 3) reflected on the faces of your model. This capability is great for presentations, but it also helps indicate how smooth the faces are. A new dynamic section plane is useful for finding things such as interferences and voids.

Figure 3. Applying zebra stripes to a model shows how its surface smoothness affects light. Car makers use this trick all the time, as do manufacturers of everything from cell phones to medical devices.
Figure 3. Applying zebra stripes to a model shows how its surface smoothness affects light. Car makers use this trick all the time, as do manufacturers of everything from cell phones to medical devices.

KeyCreator 5.2

KeyCreator 5.2 includes a really interesting Cover function. Users select a closed boundary of edges or curves to generate a G1 n-sided surface patch (figure 4.)

Figure 4. KeyCreator's Cover function creates very exact bounded surfaces from curves or edges. Use it to patch holes in a surface model or to add a new feature to a solid model.
Figure 4. KeyCreator's Cover function creates very exact bounded surfaces from curves or edges. Use it to patch holes in a surface model or to add a new feature to a solid model.

Pattern creation is enhanced with a new Align Copies to Curve/Edge option. This option makes a pattern of features along a curve or edge that maintains the position of the original copy in relation to the guiding geometry. Huh? If you have a feature to copy around, say a horseshoe shape, each copy stays oriented to the selected geometry as it goes around instead of maintaining the same orientation as the original feature (figure 5).

Figure 5. The Align Copies to Curve/Edge command copies features around a curve or edge so they maintain their relationship to the curve/edge instead of all being in the same orientation.
Figure 5. The Align Copies to Curve/Edge command copies features around a curve or edge so they maintain their relationship to the curve/edge instead of all being in the same orientation.

Now, some users out there like things the way they are. I was talking to someone about engineers just the other day. Engineers love to change things. It's what they do. But change the way their software looks or works, and they get quite testy. Kubotek obviously has had to deal with a lot of engineers because the company decided in KeyCreator 5.2 to allow users familiar with the previous icons to keep on using them. A toggle on the Tools menu brings back the old icons. This capability should please some of the people some of the time.

And speaking of things you get used to, KeyCreator 5.2 now provides a Restart Last Function. Users of AutoCAD will appreciate this ability. It allows you to do the same thing multiple times with fewer clicks.

Bottom Line

KeyCreator is a nonparametric application, but that isn't necessarily bad. It gives users the freedom to do all kinds of things to a model that they'd never think of doing in a history-based system. It can be a great timesaver when you need to get the model done yesterday. KeyCreator 5.2 is a great release for Kubotek and its customers. Highly Recommended.

Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is an industrial designer, artist and author based in St. Louis, Missouri.


About the Author: IDSA


About the Author: Mike Hudspeth


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