From Plumbing Products to Experimental Aircraft

Michael Dean of Lavelle Industries Chooses KeyCreator to Save Time When Creating 3D CAD Designs

Michael Dean is somewhat of a maverick at his company. He uses KeyCreator Direct CAD almost exclusively for his job, even though his company officially switched to Solidworks in 2003. He says he just doesn’t buy into the complexity of parametric-based modeling.

The mostly self-taught Dean mainly designs tooling and equipment used inside his plant. He has worked in several parametric-based CAD software environments, including Solidworks and TurboCAD, as well as a few 2D packages like Autocad LT, Visual CADD, and Generic CADD. But it’s KeyCreator that he finds easiest to use and faster for creating models. KeyCreator also gives him greater interoperability when working with files from other employees and customers.

“Personally, I love Direct Modeling,” says Dean, who has maintained a KeyCreator license since 1997.

One reason Dean likes Direct Modeling so much is because he thinks that making changes with a parametric modeler can be too problematic.  “One change can cause a cascade of errors in the history tree that need to be chased down,” he says. “It can take you longer to fix errors than to create the product itself. I’ve always said that if you have a feature tree, sooner or later a branch is going to break and your model will come crashing to the ground. With Direct Modeling, that never happens.”

Dean works at Lavelle Industries, a 100-plus-year-old custom rubber and TPE (elastomeric plastic) molder. A typical day at Lavelle starts with a quote meeting where the company entertains quote requests from customers – everything from consumer products to things like footpads and pedal covers used in the automotive industry. They commonly receive files that were originally created in Solidworks, Inventor and even Pro/ENGINEER, but often, these designs need to be modified for manufacturability.
Unfortunately, some of the customer-supplied models become too difficult to edit, taking up too much time or requiring an exorbitant amount of effort. And then there are those files that simply cannot be edited. When that happens, Dean’s colleagues pass the files to Dean. He in turn imports the files directly into KeyCreator and proceeds to quickly heal and edit the designs so they can be manufactured.
Dean explained that repairing broken solids and other features is common practice in CAD programs, and KeyCreator excels at it. “Only once was I not able to fix a file. But, it was probably my fault anyways.”
In addition to custom products, Lavelle offers standard catalog items ( consisting of rubber grommets, bumpers, furniture tips, suctions cups, seals and more. Lavelle also produces its brand-name “Korky” plumbing products (, including replacement toilet flappers, fill valves, flush valves, and other rubber plumbing products. In fact, in the 1950s, the company invented the rubber toilet flapper — a proprietary product.
Korky Plunger Holder Discreetly Hides the Bathroom Necessity
Dean ’s work occasionally includes new product design — including the popular Korky Plunger Holder, an item designed over a decade ago to discretely hide the bathroom necessity. The product was a hit, selling 250,000 units through the big box stores its first year. It only recently went out of production after a 10 year run.

Designed in KeyCreator, Dean calls the Korky Plunger Holder a simple design where the door of the egg-shaped receptacle automatically opens and closes when you pull out the plunger.

Dean thinks it would have taken him “significantly longer” to design the product in another CAD program.

“KeyCreator allows me to design quickly and efficiently in 3D,” he says. “I am less likely to have errors in the initial design round, and mated parts are much more likely to fit together as designed right from the get-go.”

Dean’s need for Direct CAD doesn’t end when he heads home after a day at the office. Dean has just started to use his free home license of KeyCreator for his true passion – creating aeronautical designs.

As the current president of the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) chapter in Palmyra, Wisconsin, Dean is leading a group of members to design and build an airplane called the Double Eagle (

“The plane is really kind of butt-ugly,” Dean explains. “But that’s part of the charm of it. Besides, it’s really designed to be economical to build and fly.”

Unfortunately, the plans from which they are building the plane consist of not much more than crude, hand drawings on 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper. Currently, Dean is in the process of drawing up the wing ribs (the part of the wing that gives it its airfoil shape) in KeyCreator to scale, optimizing materials and, ensuring the current drawing is accurate and complete. 

Dean wants to recreate the entire Double Eagle design in KeyCreator.  The updated plans will certainly be more complex than the paper drawings they currently have, but Dean says, “I have no doubts that KeyCreator can handle the complicated files. It’s easy to be confident with the right software.”  
When asked why he recommends KeyCreator to colleagues, he says it’s simply a matter of not being limited by parametric CAD software.

“Constraints are constraining. Why would you want to constrain yourself?”

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