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Kubotek’s KeyCreator 8.5, the Other Direct Modeler

Kubotek's KeyCreator offers a dimension-driven editing system that lets you define how an edit will be executed by selecting the target faces.

Kubotek's KeyCreator offers a dimension-driven editing system that lets you control how an edit will be executed by selecting the target faces.

A seasoned editor once told me, “For every letter you receive, assume there are at least ten other readers who feel the same way but just didn’t bother writing you.”

When my article on direct-editing titled “Anticipating the Next Paradigm Shift in CAD” went live, I began accumulating emails from readers pointing out some of the software packages they felt deserved to be mentioned in it. IronCAD LLC.’s IronCAD, PTC’s CoCreate, and Kubotek’s KeyCreator topped the list.

But among them, KeyCreator users proved to be the most passionate.  One wrote, “I couldn’t help feeling a little frustrated at the lack of mention of CADKEY, now known as KeyCreator … I’d like to encourage you to contact Kubotek … I’m sure you will be writing again on the subject of direct modeling, and I would like to know that you have some exposure to a real pioneer of the technology.”

That means there are at least ten others who feel this way, I thought. So I promptly got in touch with Kubotek, which was quite accommodating. Company officials gave me not only a copy of the software (KeyCreator 8.5) but also an introductory tutorial.

Kubotek’s KeyCreator is unquestionably a direct editing modeler that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as SpaceClaim, Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology, or Autodesk Inventor Fusion. The software allows you to edit or modify 3D solids with little or no concern for how they were created.

What sets it apart from some of its rivals may be its emphasis on primitive solids. The customary method of designing a part — sketching a 2D profile and extruding it — is available here too, but KeyCreator makes it easier to create 3D shapes by combining and subtracting primitive geometric shapes.

For better or worse, direct editing has also become associated with the ability to push and pull faces and features to deform or edit them — something KeyCreator currently doesn’t offer. The software’s methodical approach requires you to follow a series of guided steps, via input dialog boxes and menu options.

On the other hand, I find KeyCreator’s dimension-driven editing system to be superior to many others I’ve seen. By simply selecting the left, right, or center area of the dimension-indicator arrows, you can control which face — or faces — will be affected by the edit.

Kubotek officials indicate they are looking for ways to improve the modeling interface. Adding more dynamic editing functions (the kind seen among its rival CAD programs) is certainly under consideration. But the company faces a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, it must appeal to the SketchUp generation with a simpler push-pull interface; on the other hand, it cannot alienate its loyal customers by deviating too far from the familiar interface. There’s no straightforward solution to this direct-editing conundrum.

Regardless, Kubotek’s KeyCreator is a stellar 3D modeler, a pioneer that deserves a closer look.

To learn more about KeyCreator, watch the video clip below:

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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.


  1. Nice web site, Kenneth.
    Keep up the good work.
    /s/ John

  2. I have used both KeyCreator and Inventor pretty extensively in my travels. Parametrics have been all the rage in recent years due to some slick convincing marketing. While parametrics do have their uses for certain areas where you can predict the changes, I use KeyCreator when I have a choice for customer driven designing. It saves me tons of time especially when a customer comes to me at the last minute with drastic unpredicted changes. With KeyCreator it amounts to a few minutes stretching layouts (can do many parts in ONE move and you didn’t have to know which one were going to change when building model) and a few window deletes, mirrored parts etc. The same changes would take me DAYS in Inventor as I would be spending time debugging sketches, part dependencies and history trees. If you do things that require frequent unpredicted changes and modifications you can’t beat KeyCreator’s freedom.

  3. Dave: Thanks for the input! There’s no question that the ability to change or modify the geometry of a design without concern for its feature history makes a direct-modeling package easier to use in such situations. Have you used other direct modeling products? If so, how is your experience with them different from your experience with KeyCreator?

  4. Like Dave I use KeyCreator along side a parametric modeler – in my case, Solidworks – and like the direct modeling of KC much, much better. In fact, the more I use SWX, the more I like KeyCreator. Especially when making changes. My biggest problem with parametrics is the parent/child relationship. It can take a lot of time to fix the errors that are created to subsequent features when a change is made to an earlier feature. And then more time yet if those fixes cause problems with features even further down the chain. The other issue is the time needed to “pre-think” what you want to do – in parametrics – to be sure that your first feature doesn’t get in the way of your second feature. (or third, or forth, or whatever down the line.)

  5. Kenneth:

    I have not actually used the others but I am familiar with them. The “push-pull” interface does have merit. It allows you to see in real time what effect your change will have. The advantage of the KeyCreator method is that you can change large groups of objects in one move and there is no need for tedious mouse work. Fo instance if you have an assembly with many parts you can just put a window (rectangular or poly window) and stretch hundreds of parts at one time. The “push-pull” approach would have you tweaking each part one by one which is time consuming. I suppose it depends what you will be doing as to which is a better approach. If you are working with a few parts at a time then push-pull is good. If you make mass changes to many parts in large assemblies the KeyCreator approach is a big time saver.

    I see no reason why there couldn’t be a push-pull command in KeyCreator too. It would be easy to have both and can see no reason why it would be a one or the other type thing. Just have a “dynamic edit” icon that allows you to do this. Instead of selecting faces connected to a dimension to edit, you could just pull them directly without the dimension. This would add to but not replace the current methods so every one would be happy. The code is there all is needed is a simple interface extension.

  6. Dave: I agree with you. You have a good point about the advantage of KeyCreator’s current input method for batch-edit or group-edit in assembly mode. I wouldn’t want to see KeyCreator replace its current input system with a strictly push-pull method. But adding the push-pull “dynamic edit” function to the existing interface would be a welcome change. In fact, many classic parametric products like Alibre Design, SolidWorks, and Pro/E are accommodating the push-pull function precisely in this fashion. Thanks for the comment!

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