The printing machine demonstrates assembly capabilities in Cadkey Workshop V20.

By Walt Silva

The developer has rewritten the entire code in response to user requests and added hundreds of features to increase productivity. Improvements fall into several categories including interface customization, integration of functions that were previously add-on programs, entity selection, and display performance. They have also improved file handling and structure, importing and exporting models and drawings, drawing detailing, automatic creation of drawings from 3D models, and assembly management.

Many previous add-on functions are now incorporated into V20. The smart cursor, for example, was previously an alternate in the software. Power detailing functions in the traditional Advanced Drafting Module are now accessed in the detailing menu. Automatic dimensioning has been streamlined and is accessible from the main detailing menu. In previous versions, users had to constantly switch between the Cadkey palette that contained wire-construction and detailing tools, and the Solids palette with solid-modeling tools. This cumbersome arrangement is gone. Users can now display both program palettes at all times.

A smart-entity-selection system lets users select any entity by clicking on it when it highlights. This eliminates having to select the Single Option on the Conversation Bar at the top screen. Similarly, you can click and drag the cursor to select a group of entities without selecting the Window Option on the Conversation Bar. After adjusting to the new system, you can save hundreds of mouse picks and keystrokes in a session.

File handling has also undergone a major transformation. The new software eliminates the previous limits of 255 levels and 16 colors. An unlimited number of levels can be assigned and they can be indented, renumbered, and shuffled in a versatile part-splitter window that replaces the traditional Level List Dialog Box. Levels can also be assigned entity attributes when needed. Files can have up to 64 different colors. In addition, a Template File format makes it easy to create masters that save hours of tedious documentation work on projects.

The assembly of the printing machine shows a few right-mouse-button options. Picking parts with the right mouse button pulls up a table of options, useful when working on complex, multiple operations.

V20 uses a file format called Cadkey Design File with a .ckd extension. The old part (.prt) and pattern formats (.ptn) are gone. Design files can be imported into other design files, so there is no need for pattern files. And the new file format accommodates changes such as the unlimited, indentable levels, and an expanded color palette. Unfortunately, backward compatibility is sacrificed. In a pinch, users can export .dwg files for flat drawings or .sat files for solid models and then import these into a previous version. Bringing files forward into the new version is simple. The software just converts old part and pattern files. Mass conversions of many project files benefit from Batch Translations. Users select almost any file type for the "in" side and "out" sides. Entire folders of files can be dragged into the "in" box. Original files are left intact.

Renovated detailing tools are another big major change. Most users will see productivity improvements exceeding 50% when detailing drawings. Users see a dynamic representation of details as they are placed. Notes have full left, center, and right justification options, and additional text treatments such as strikethrough are standard. Many embedded symbol options are available when annotating dimensions or creating notes. There are also numerous additional options for detailing circles and arcs, and the ordinate dimensioning module is updated with dynamic feedback. They've added a tool for creating polyline paths from any true-type font, an advantageous to users machining text strings.Options in the dimensioning module instantly generate dozens of dimensions on a drawing with a few mouse clicks. Users can save configurations for automatic dimensioning that represent a preferred drawing look, thus "teaching the software" to dimension in a required style. Although this module does not create completely dimensioned drawings, with practice it can easily slash the time to takes to create a document.

Two powerful, new editing tools will help cleanup detailing work. The Generic Edit tool is like a Swiss army knife. Select it, click on a dimension, and the software instantly responds with a Dialog Box that lets users change text attributes, dimension characteristics, and other dimensioning tasks. Use the same tool on a piece of geometry such as a circle, and users are presented with options to change its diameter and location, or modify attributes such as color and line style and type. Generic Move has options for relocating entities on drawings.

Generating drawings from 3D models is improved with a completely revamped Layout Module. Users place rendered images directly as drawing views (called instances), eliminating the former two-step process of dimensioning an instance in wire mode, then rendering when the dimensions were completed. Smooth rendered instances are now created directly in layout mode. Selecting and placing views requires 50% fewer picks than previous versions.

There are also several new alignment options for drawing-view instances. Users crop instances, and dimensions are placed across two different instances. This makes it easy to create more sophisticated, broken-section views. New and improved detail-checking controls warn of disassociated and ambiguous dimensions with a streamlined supervisory dialog that lets users select the required level of intervention.

New assembly tools deserve mention. Cadkey users previously built multiple part assemblies in single-part files. This is still the most effective way to build small assemblies. But users now have the option of creating assembly files containing references to external parts. This produces substantially smaller files when many parts are involved and makes it easier to place, edit, and replace copies of a component.

This first release of Cadkey's assembly functions is not as sophisticated as a few of its competitors, but it has a substantial selection of powerful functions and a framework for developing additional features. I especially like the part window's dual capability of showing both levels in a file as well as parts references by simply toggling selection buttons at the screen bottom.

Solid-modeling tools have also been reorganized more logically. Another innovation is a live construction-plane axis that is displayed directly on objects being modeled. This complements the axis traditionally displayed in the top, right corner viewport and gives instant feedback concerning the actual position of the current plane.

New Customize Dialog Box shows the editing icons and a toolbar under construction. One way to create custom toolbars is to drag icons from the Customize Dialog Box to an existing toolbar, or just into the viewport, and a toolbar forms around them.

Another improvement is the visible color highlighting of selected faces of rendered solids. The visual feedback is invaluable when working on complex constructions. Building selection lists of multiple surfaces during operations such as shelling is also improved. It is no longer necessary to press the Control key while selecting surfaces. Instead, users simply select the required set of surfaces and click on a Done button to complete the operation.

A window in the Customize Dialog Box let users assign keystrokes (commonly referred to as "Hot Keys") to any tool or menu icon. Functions are grouped under headings such as Render tools or Edit tools. The traditional four-page toolbar is replaced with a palette of up to 32 toolbars that can be dragged and sized to fit user needs. Toolbars can also be docked anywhere around the screen perimeter. An added benefit comes from the Workspace Function. It lets users save different interfaces with varied toolbars positioned in layouts.

In addition, dozens of useful new functions, such as unlimited Undo and Redo, work on all operations in a file. In addition, the all new Tree Window navigator lets users view all open files, including all associated layouts, in an Explorer-like window that is easily displayed or hidden with a single keystroke or mouse pick.

The $3,000 Cadkey Workshop V20 includes a one-year software update contract and comes from Cadkey Corp., 33 Boston Post Rd. W, Marlborough, MA 01752, www.cadkey.com. -- Walt Silva


Walter Silva ( docwalt@erols.com) is president of CPD Inc., Pro Cad Inc., and Distance Engineering Inc. He is a mechanical engineer with over 30 years of industry experience and has authored over 20 books on Cadkey and other technical programs.