Kubotek’s KeyCreator Compare – Review
By Matt Lombard
KeyCreator Compare from Kubotek intends to help find differences between versions of parts and assemblies — as long as you have KeyCreator installed.
Kubotek has released Compare, which joins its more extensive standalone products: the Validation Tool verifies that translations are correct, and ECO Manager documents changes between versions of parts, assemblies, or drawings.
In this review, I am working with the Compare add-on for KeyCreator. It lacks the advanced reporting and result sorting functions found in the more complete ECO Manager, as well as the special comparison algorithms available in the Validation Tool. (Matt Carr of Kubotek notes that limited report capabilities, such as automated screen shots, may be added to a future release of KeyCreator Compare.)
The Compare tool can be used to find differences between CAD geometry and point to surface differences; between two CAD models to potentially uncover translation errors; between new and old versions for ECO (engineering change order) documentation; and to find changes in 2D drawings.
Companies dealing with a lot of design changes need to ensure that they understand the changes made to manufacturing models during the data lifecycle. For example, if a mold designer has partially completed a mold design, and the original part designer makes a change to the plastic part model, then the mold designer needs to verify which faces changed and by how much. Knowing what changed allows the designer to provide a quote for the changes. Likewise, the ability to check versions of a mold assembly to make sure that the assembly or the individual parts in the assembly have not changed can save significant time and money.
KeyCreator reads files directly from AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, CATIA V4 andV5, Pro/ENGINEER, Unigraphics (NX), and interchange formats like ACIS, Parasolid, IGES, STEP, OBJ, STL, 3D PDF, and HOOPS. Some of the translators are not included in the base level version and cost extra, such as the ones for PRO/E, NX and CATIA 5.
Here’s how the process works:
- Set options
- Open models to compare
- Run analysis
- Visualize results
- Make changes
- Repeat steps 3-5 as necessary
The options are the primary key to getting the most out of Compare. For instance, when you want to compare solid models, then compare faces rather than points; compare edges when you have only 3D wireframe data. When you are comparing a scanned point cloud against a solid model, you should use faces and points.
When features are added to or removed from one version of the part, then the face count difference may help you identify the change. You can limit the results by focusing on only the important aspects of the model.
You can run a sequential analysis to look first at the changed parts in an assembly, and then at the face-by-face changes in each part of the assembly. Most analyses for small assemblies and medium complexity parts take just a few seconds to run, depending on the speed of your computer. So, it is feasible to look at parts and assemblies multiple times using different criteria.
Only with Validation Tool or ECO Manager can you save options settings to external files for recall should you need to do a similar comparison again. For example, to compare CAD model design revisions, you might have one set of options, while comparing raw castings against machined ones uses another set of options. Reusing saved options saves time, and avoids setup mistakes.
Open Models to Compare
To select files to compare, use the Compare Parts selection from the Compare menu or click the “Validate Parts” button on the Compare toolbar. (Kubotek tells me that the Validate Parts button was mislabeled and should read “Compare Parts”; that this will be remedied in an upcoming fix.)
The Compare Parts command opens the File Selection dialog. File Selection enables you to select from currently loaded parts or to browse for other files. You select one part to be the “is” version and another to be the “was” version, but there is also an option within the box to flip the order. Order is important, because it carries through to the Difference Results window.
Since this is the first version of Compare if you need help, the File Selection dialog box is the place to find it, because the main KeyCreator Help menu contains no help topics for Compare. Instead, click the Help button on the right side of the dialog to bring up the KeyCreator Compare User Guide. (Kubotek told me that the Compare Help will be better integrated in an upcoming version.)
Once you click the OK button in the File Selection dialog, the difference analysis begins running, using the options you set up earlier. A progress bar shows up at the bottom of the KeyCreator window. A part model with 2,300 faces took about ten seconds to run on my computers. Assemblies obviously will take longer.
To change settings and run the analysis again, first change the settings, and then click the Compare Parts button; answer Yes to tell the software to reuse the same parts as currently set up.
Visualize the Results
After the analysis is done, the Difference Results Window opens up. It shows the pairs of faces compared by the software, and the difference between them.
The Difference Results panel has several tabs along the bottom of the window, each showing a red ball when differences were found, a green ball for differences, and a gray ball if you didn’t set that criterion in the Options dialog. For example, I set up this example to look at total mass and centroid, so the Mass Properties tab has a red ball, showing something changed. But I did not ask for counts of planar or cylindrical faces, so the Geometry tab has a gray ball.
The main geometry windows are used to visualize difference results. Green areas are for differences in the Is condition, and red for Was. These can be shown side by side; the Synchronize Views command maintains the two views at the same orientation, so the differences are easy to see and compare. Rotate one view, click the Synchronize button, and the view of the other part snaps to the same orientation.
You can also use the Examine View button on the Compare toolbar to get a close-up view. It overlays the parts or assemblies, and so shows through color and transparency the Is and Was parts. This allows you to easily see changes between the parts. Compare does not, however, show a difference volume where only the areas of difference exist. If you want this kind of Boolean operation, KeyCreator does provide it.
A quirk with the Examine View window reveals the incomplete state of integration of this new add-on. Zooming (with the mouse scroll wheel) in the regular KeyCreator windows is backwards from zooming in the Examine View window. (Kubotek tells me that Examine View is a 3rd party window with different controls, and Kubotek has not had time to adapt it to the rest of the KeyCreator interface but an update is planned for their next major version.)
KeyCreator Compare also has the ability to compare assemblies. It makes comparisons at the BOM level, the part level, and the face level to show which parts in the assembly were moved or replaced, and which parts have changed geometry.
If you are looking for a sophisticated geometry comparison tool, then Kubotek’s KeyCreator Compare is a tool with a lot of capability. Compare combined with KeyCreator gives a very wide range of file types that you can work with, and as a direct edit modeler, you can also make changes to imported parts with ease.
While the software is powerful, you may find that it is not refined. Kubotek admitted that the integration of the Compare add-on was not complete in several cases, and that certain interface bugs or other limitations still exist in this version-1 software.
For a step up to make reports, access better sorting tools, and perform batch processing, then move up to ECO Inspector or ECO Manager.
The workflow is not intuitive from the interface. The Compare software has only four commands. I would have thought that they could have made the workflow so obvious to new users that we would not have to be shown how to use the software.
Beyond the usability issue, the biggest challenge for users of this software will likely be digesting the results. In some cases, Compare sometimes gives such a large volume of results that it can be difficult to sort through it all, then figure out which are the most important — and which have little or no relevance to the original question.
Overall, however, the Compare add-on for KeyCreator has a high level of sophistication for a tool in this price range. If you need the power, getting past the interface and usability limitations should be a minor hurdle.