Review of Kubotek KeyCreator Compare

The following is an article written by me for TenLinks, reprinted here with permission.

KeyCreator Compare Review

Kubotek’s KeyCreator Compare is intended to help users find differences between versions of parts and assemblies. Compare is available in three different packages:

  • As an add-on to KeyCreator to compare CAD models
  • combined with Validation Tool, as a method to verify that translations are correct
  • combined with ECO Manager, as a method to document changes between versions of parts, assemblies or drawings
Kubotek’s KeyCreator add-on Compare is a sophisticated tool to find differences between geometric data.

In this review, I am working with Compare add-on for KeyCreator. This lacks some of the advanced reporting and result sorting functions of the more complete ECO Manager and special comparison algorithms available in the Validation Tool. Matt Carr of Kubotek mentioned that some limited report capabilities such as automated screen shots may be added to KeyCreator Compare in a future release.

The Compare tool can be used for comparisons between CAD and inspection or scanned data, between two CAD models to find translation errors, or between new and old versions for ECO documentation. You can also use it to find changes in 2D drawings.

Companies dealing with a lot of translated CAD data need to ensure that they understand all 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, the mold designer needs to verify which faces have changed and by how much to be able 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 Compare’s Compare toolbar. The buttons are respectively, Compare, Synchronize Views, Options, and Examine View

KeyCreator can read direct files from AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, Catia V4 & V5, Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics (NX), and formats ACIS, Parasolid, IGES, STEP, OBJ, STL, 3D PDF, and HOOPS. Some of these are available at extra cost, such as the Catia translators.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Set Options
  2. Open models to compare
  3. Run Analysis
  4. Visualize Results
  5. Write report or make changes
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 as necessary
Options enable you to limit the results to only things you care about

Set Options 

The options are the main key to getting the most out of the Compare tool. If you are comparing solid models, compare faces rather than points. Compare edges if you have only 3D wireframe data. If you are comparing a scanned point cloud against a solid model, you will need faces and points. If features have been added to or removed from one version of the part, the face count difference may help you identify that. You can limit the results to focus on only the important aspects of the models.

Secondary options tell the software to count various entity types, or report on mass property information

You can also run sequential analyses to look at first the changed parts in an assembly, then at the face-by-face changes in each part in the assembly. Most analyses for small assemblies and medium complexity parts take just a few seconds to run, depending on your computer, so it is certainly feasible to look at your part or assembly using different criteria.

If you are using Compare as part of the Validation Tool or ECO manager, you can save Options settings to an external file, so that you can recall those settings whenever you do a similar comparison. This saves time and avoids set up mistakes. For example, to compare a CAD model against inspection data, you might have one set of options, while comparing a raw casting against a machined casting uses another set of options.

Open Models to Compare

Use the File Selection box to select models to compare. You can open several native formats

To select files to compare, use the Compare Parts selection from the Compare menu or the Validate Parts button on the Compare toolbar. Kubotek tells me that the Validate Parts button is actually mislabeled (the tooltip should read “Compare Parts”), and 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. This order is important and carries through in the Difference Results window.

If you need help on the Compare tool, the File Selection dialog box is the place to find it. Click on the Help button on the right side of the dialog, and brings up the KeyCreator Compare User Guide. The main KeyCreator Help menu does not contain help topics for Compare. Kubotek told me that the Compare Help will be better integrated in an upcoming version.

Run Analysis

Once you click the OK button in the File Selection dialog, the difference analysis begins to run using the options set up earlier. A progress bar shows at the bottom of the KeyCreator window. A part model with about 2300 faces takes about ten seconds to run. Assemblies obviously will take longer.

If you want to change settings and run the analysis again, first change the settings, then click on the Compare Parts button, and answer Yes to tell it to reuse the same parts that are currently set up.

The Difference Results panel for a comparison

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. Difference Results panel has several tabs along the bottom of the window, each showing a red ball if differences were found, a green ball if no differences were found or a gray ball if you did not set that criteria to run 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 also used to visualize difference results. Green is for the IS condition, and red is for the WAS. These can be shown side by side, and the Synchronize Views command keeps the views of the two parts in 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.

Figure7 Caption:

Examine View overlays the parts or assemblies and shows through color and transparency your WAS and IS parts and 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 third party window with entirely different controls which Kubotek has not had enough time to integrate fully into the rest of the KeyCreator interface.

Comparing difference faces from the graphics window

Comparing Assemblies

KeyCreator Compare also has the ability to compare assemblies. It can compare the BOM level, the part level, and the face level to show which parts in the assembly have been moved or replaced and which parts have changed geometry.

Differences between parts in an assembly are found by the Compare tool.

Summary

If you are looking for sophisticated geometry comparison tools, Kubotek’s KeyCreator Compare is a tool with a lot of capability. For a step up in the ability to make reports, better sorting tools, and batch processing, move up to ECO Manager. 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 very powerful, you may find that it is not very refined. Kubotek admitted in several cases that the integration of the Compare add-on was not complete, or that certain interface bugs or other limitations still existed.

The workflow for using the software that I’ve laid out here was not intuitively obvious based on the interface. The Compare software doesn’t do that much compared to the KeyCreator CAD software – it only has four commands. You might think that they could make the workflow somewhat more obvious, so that a new users would not need to be shown how to use the software.

Beyond the usability, the biggest challenge for users of this software will likely be digesting the results. In some cases, Compare gave such a large volume of results that it was rather difficult to sort through them and figure out which were the most important and which had 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.

5 Replies to “Review of Kubotek KeyCreator Compare”

  1. I am not familiar with SW Compare, but I am with KeyCreator in general and the comparison/validation features in particular.

    KC differes from others not only in features but in methods. It relies on internal intelligence that cannot be found in regular CAD systems.
    Typical comparisons are usualy made for known shapes, topology or other known features.
    Typical comparisons attempt to do it by boolean operations or elements count, whereas KC does it by automatically recognition of features. It has intelligence to compare parts and verify their equality, even if their topology or element count could be different – as long as the shape is the same.
    Boolean comparisons are mathematically limited. They are also not very efficient because the comparison algorythms with compexity of at least Square N (N = number of faces to compare). KC on the other hand, does it at complexity of NlogN which is practically linear. Therefore the more complex are the compared parts, further deeper is the advantage of KC over other comparisons.
    And then consider the ability to compare between totally stange files from different native formats, compare full assemblies, (components, trees or the whole thing), and much more.
    In summary, nothing compares to KeyCompare.

  2. @Kevin Quigley
    I’m not too familiar with the SW Compare, but I think the main differences will be that Kubotek handles a much wider range of data (solids, surfaces, wireframe, point cloud, mesh), and the semi-auto reports Kubotek does. The other difference is that the SW interface is much more developed. Not that it’s that important, your use of the interface is kind of minimal. I also like the SW difference volumes, which Kubotek doesn’t have.

    The price sounds like it hasn’t settled yet. I heard they had an initial offering for around $1500 (on top of KeyCreator), but the list was around $2500.

    The other advantage of Kubotek is the ability to get Compare in conjunction with the ECO Manager or Validation Tool, each of which can be much more expensive, but don’t need KeyCreator to run.

  3. Matt how does this differ from the Compare Feature in SolidWorks (Professional and Premium) (Tools menu>Compare>choose option?

    From what I’ve read in other sources this add in is something like $4000 on top of KeyCreator, is that right?

    I must admit I use SolidWorks Compare quite a lot – usually on imported files (comparing released CAD data to returned edited data from customers or toolmakers). It works well. Acrobat 9 Extended has a similar feature (though I’ve not upgraded to the Tech-Soft version so I don’t know if that is still available).

    Problem with all these compare only systems is that the information needs to be interpreted and acted on. I can see a need for this in CAM (where the toolmaker needs to work on a revised model from the designer) and data release/as built and apps like Delcam Powershape have this functionality built in for tooling design use (and have had since the 90s).

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