The mouse that swallowed elephant

DN Staff

September 6, 1999

7 Min Read
The mouse that swallowed elephant

Marlborough, MA -"Most people thought that when this tiny, relatively unknown company bought a giant like CADKEY that we'd be out of business within six months," says Robert Bean, president and co-founder of Baystate Technologies Inc. "This attitude fired me up. I used it to fire up the employees. We took the challenge and we are still here."

More than just being "still here," Baystate has progressed amazingly in the last two years.

In nine months, Bean took a company teetering on the brink of extinction and infused it with life. Net sales tripled from $2.0 million in fiscal year 1996 to $6.1 million in 1997. International sales, alone, increased 115% during the first six months. At the end of fiscal year 1999, sales are expected to exceed $7.5 million.

Today, CADKEY is the mainstay of many small to mid-size companies, where engineers use the software to produce 3D models and drawings for such complicated projects as telescopes, kayaks, wind tunnels, and electric motorcycles. The software is a virtual toolbox that includes 2D drafting, 3D wireframe, 3D solid modeling, and surfaces integrated into one product.

A software before its time. CADKEY has had many "firsts." According to Peter Smith, founder of Cadkey, Inc., this software was the first modern 3D CAD system for the PC. "Other companies had come out with good 2D products, but from the beginning, we intended our product to be used for mechanical design on the PC. We foresaw the power of today's computers and wanted to offer an inexpensive CAD package for this platform."

Cadkey Inc. was also the first to come out with bi-directional IGES translators, according to Bean. "CADKEY was almost like a religion to veteran CAD users," he continues. "Some understood its operations so well that it was like an extension of themselves. CADKEY had a cult following."

Boeing engineers, for example, with 1,200 seats, used CADKEY to assist in the design of 747 and 767 aircraft variants. Dr. Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, developed his new design in CADKEY. But the place where it had the biggest impact was with start-up companies. "Buell Motorcycles, started with a couple guys from Harley Davidson," says Smith, "used CADKEY because they could put out a product quickly without an expensive workstation." Plus, users found CADKEY easy to use with an intuitive interface, says Smith.

Many of today's users agree. Michael Kudrin, applications engineer for ITW Autosleeve (Twinsburg, OH), uses CADKEY to design stretch sleeve-labeling equipment for bottles.

"I started using CADKEY because that is what the company had when I was hired," Kudrin says. "But before this, I used software from Computer Vision, Intergraph, PTC, Autodesk, and SolidWorks. CADKEY was user friendly, straightforward, very powerful. By far, it is absolutely the easiest software I ever tried to learn."

Using CADKEY 7.5, Kudrin began producing drawings in 2D the next day. When it came to 3D, it took him about three days without any help to begin modeling.

Here come the Beans? In 1994, under a new president and marketing strategy, Cadkey Inc. owners sliced the price of the product from $3,500 to $500 overnight. Although a great price and the move did increase the number of CADKEY users in the market, it nearly sent the company under.

Enter Beana user and firm believer in the software. Bean bought his first copy of CADKEY while employed as a project engineer and instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Applications Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA). He was using CADKEY for machine and robotic design. When he found he needed more specific mechanical design functionality, he began customizing the program. The result was DRAFT-PAK, a mechanical design and drafting productivity product for CADKEY users. To promote DRAFT-PAK, he and his wife, Karen both quit their jobs and found Baystate Technologies Inc.

When they saw Cadkey Inc. diversifying and not giving the flagship product, CADKEY, the attention it needed, they again decided to buy the product line. Within one day of purchase, Bean began rewriting code. "We had to sweep away the dirt on the fossil to uncover the gem," Bean says. "We saw the potential, but the software hadn't been significantly advanced for a number of years."

Marketing Communications Manager Lizabeth Rombeck has been with Baystate since 1991 and watched the company grow from 8 employees to more than 50. But even though expanding, the Beans try to keep a small company atmosphere, she says.

Once, the Beans surprised employees with a "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" outing. The morning of a "mandatory meeting" the Beans "kidnapped" the employees for a day at the Boston Fine Arts Museum and lunch in Boston's North End.

"While Bob is the visionary and technical engineer, Karen is the realist and business partner," says Rombeck. "Karen and Bob make a great team, complementing each other's strengths."

Bean is just as dedicated to his customers as he is to his employees, says John Ryan, director of development and the only original CADKEY employee still at Baystate. "The atmosphere here is like it was during CADKEY's heyday," he says, "with regular releases and development going on constantly. Cadkey Inc. got distracted from its goal when it diversified into architecture, CAM, and other areas. But Baystate is focused and on track."

"The company listens to its users," he adds. Baystate sponsors a forum on their web page where customers can air their needs and wants. Ryan says often programmers respond on their own, sometimes writing mini programs for customers, batch loading translation files, etc.

The newest version of the software, CADKEY 99, will take the fundamental commitment to work with "any model from any source" one step further. Although the software is ACIS-based, the next release will offer a Parasolid translator and a B-rep one-pass IGES translator with body healing. This feature, combined with FastSURF, will allow for automatic surface stitching. "We combined ACIS with our own technology using tolerant modeling or tolerant edges. This follows along our vision to be interoperable with any CAD model. The new CADKEY will allow you to edit anything. Even if design isn't up to ACIS translation accuracy, edges don't fit, and one has to manually clean up the model.

"We see the market moving from 2D to 3D and we want to be a solution that best preserves the link from the old to the new as well as supporting foreign data," says Bean.

"Back when CADKEY started, people just wanted to automate the drafting process. Now it is time to automate the design process. Well, they want it and we're here!" Bean says proudly.

For more information go to www.designnews.com/info. To speak with a company representative, call 1-800-828-6344, 3011 and key in the specific Product Code below:

CADKEY from Baystate Technologies: Product Code 4818


CADKEY thrives at the forefront of CAD innovation

CADKEY Time table*

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June'96

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