Desktop Engineering: Part Catalogs Go Beyond PDF

PARTsolutions' configurable catalog technology, as deployed in Misumi's site.

PARTsolutions’ configurable catalog technology, as deployed in Misumi’s site.

Twenty years ago, when you needed a standard part (a screw or a fastener, for example), you’d reach for one of the 2-inch-thick paper catalogs, published and distributed by your preferred vendors. Today, you’d probably fire up your browser, because the same vendors now publish their catalogs online, most likely in PDF.

But some are going a step further. They’re hosting their product families as configurable, downloadable 3D files, ready to be plugged into your design in progress. You can see some examples of such catalogs in PHD, Inc.’s CAD configurator or Misumi’s automation components. In both cases, you can specify the item in the dimensions you want, be it a rotary actuator with a 1-inch bore and 45-degree rotation angle or a 4 mm stainless-steel linear shaft with hard-chrome plating, then download the CAD model in the native or neutral format you’d prefer.

PHD and Misumi’s online product selectors are powered by PARTsolutions, a company that specializes in managing, hosting, and delivering 3D part catalogs. In its PARTcatalog product, the company uses a proprietary technology to convert a supplier’s standard parts into “part recipes,” making it possible for users to configure and download the items in more than 85 native CAD formats. PARTsolutions’ extensive CAD format support encompasses not only the major modeling systems but different releases of the same systems.

While it markets PARTcatalog to part suppliers, the company  offers PARTenterprise to complement a manufacturer’s product data management (PDM) system. With part classification, direct CAD-integration of approved vendors’ product lines, and geometric queries (that is, searching for parts by geometric similarity), PARTenterprise is expected to shave off unnecessary modeling efforts by promoting 3D data reuse wherever possible.

PARTsolutions' PARTcommunity, as implemented by Dastaco in its Web-hosted portal for standard parts.

PARTsolutions’ PARTcommunity, as implemented by Dastaco in its Web-hosted portal for standard parts.

In addition to PARTcatalog and PARTenterprise, the company also offers PARTcommunity for Web-hosting 3D part catalogs, as seen in its client Destaco’s deployment here. In many of these deployment examples, the registration information provided by visitors serves as sales leads for suppliers.

One of the CAD vendors who recognize the appeal of integrated part selections is SolidWorks. In latest versions of SolidWorks, you can access standard parts and user-created 3D content hosted at 3D ContentCentral, directly from SolidWorks’ modeling environment. 3D ContentCentral is a free site maintained by SolidWorks and its parent company Dassault Systemes.

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Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A Marketing graduate from the Miami University, Farmer School of Business in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries.