Starting a New CAD Design? Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!

21 Mar, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

Improve engineering workflow and save time using CAD search technologies.

A student engineering team from Ryerson University in Toronto was under pressure to finish a high-profile design competition for the SpaceX Hyperloop concept. The team needed to design a wheel system that could support 180 mph stops and starts, yet retract when the Hyperloop capsule traveled at full speed (700 mph). To make the most of their time and to lower manufacturing costs, the team borrowed an idea from aviation, where retractable wheels that work at high speeds are common.

Using Aerospace Industries Association specifications as a baseline, the team searched through a library of 3D CAD models of landing gear assemblies. Using CADENAS PARTsolutions CAD search technology and databases, they found a suitable design already on the market. The selected wheel system had eight subassemblies, 42 custom designed parts, and 162 standard parts. The team estimates it saved 58% of the time it would have taken to design a similar system without using the PARTsolutions database. Their efforts won first prize in the subassembly division of the competition.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There are a handful of companies that specialize in CAD part and data search technologies. In this age of digital twins, model-based engineering, and need for ever-increasing amounts of engineering data for simulation and to train artificial intelligence algorithms, it becomes more important than ever to search CAD data directly and efficiently so that you don't redesign a part that already exists.

Some CAD search vendors offer their services specifically for their own library of existing parts; others sell search technology that users can use within the company. A third category of CAD search uses community platforms where individuals and vendors share content.

Really, it's Data Management

At the heart of it, CAD search is a data management issue. Synergis Software, maker of engineering document management solution Adept, says that its research shows the typical engineer wastes 20% of their time looking for unstructured data, and that unstructured data volume is expanding at an average of 35% to 50% per year. CADENAS claims 70% of controllable overall product costs can be traced back to early-stage product development planning. Both see their solutions as process optimization plays, rewarding the user with better designs created faster and cheaper.

In addition, iSEEK agrees that most engineering firms are overloaded with multiple design data and the company states that there are six specific benefits to organizing CAD data with custom search technology: cost reduction, standardization, product line consolidation, service parts substitution and commodity analysis, and data preparation for PLM migration or upgrades.

CAD Search Technology

Here's a list of the leading vendors that currently offer CAD search technology. There is overlap between CAD search products and PDM (product data management), PLM (product lifecycle management) or EDM (engineering document management) software. This list only covers products or services that are primarily about geometry search as opposed to more general file and process management for CAD.


CADENAS has two CAD search technology products. PARTsolutions is a strategic management software for components and standard parts. The software uses proprietary technology to search geometry, dimensions, topology, and text, as well as queries based on user sketches or similarity.

CADENAS PARTsolutions is a parts management platform for a company’s internal use. Image source: CADENAS PARTsolutions.
CADENAS PARTsolutions is a parts management platform for a company's internal use. Image source: CADENAS PARTsolutions.

eCATALOGsolutions offers an automated parts catalog solution for parts vendors and hosts a community portal at CADENAS PARTcommunity. The company claims 86% of 3D CAD part models downloaded from a community site or catalog end up being specified and purchased for a new product.


All iSEEK products incorporate attribute information to initiate a search or to filter the results of a shape-based search. The company believes that attribute-based custom classifications are not optimal because they rely on text-based schemas for naming and clustering parts and assemblies as well as for prescribing the attributes to be defined and associated with those designs.

iSEEK shape-based products include:

VizSeek is a cloud-based CAD search solution, that allows you to search via photos, geometry, and even sketches. Image source: VizSeek.
VizSeek is a cloud-based CAD search solution, that allows you to search via photos, geometry, and even sketches. Image source: VizSeek.


VizSeek allows you to search for parts using photos or other images, CAD geometry, and drawings, including hand sketches. VizSeek says its main product VizSeek works across all major CAD and image formats, for both 2D and 3D geometry. VizSeek is a cloud-based service, so it does not have to be installed locally (although on-premise is an option). The VizSeek search engine is based on work funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Defense.

Siemens PLM Software

Geolus Search from Siemens PLM Software is a geometry-based search engine for both single and multi-CAD environments. The search engine analyzes the 3D geometry of parts and extracts characteristic features. Results are ranked by similarity to the desired shape presented. The user does not have to classify CAD models in advance; Geolus assembles a database based on shapes and similarities as it works through a company's CAD data, in hopes of decreasing redundancies.

Geolus works in a browser, and is compatible with all major CAD and PLM data formats, including exchange formats including JT, VRML, and STL. Siemens says Geolus compares geometries in the background and notifies the user during the design process if there is a similar or identical part already available.

Siemens PLM Software’s Geolus Search builds a shape database by which to compare existing and new CAD models and notifies the designer when a project is similar to existing parts in the company database. Image source: Siemens PLM Software.
Siemens PLM Software's Geolus Search builds a shape database by which to compare existing and new CAD models and notifies the designer when a project is similar to existing parts in the company database. Image source: Siemens PLM Software.

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Re: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!
by: Emma Brownrigg
March 22, 2019 - 9:00am
There is also a system called CADFind3D ( which is closely integrated with SOLIDWORKS and provides easy-to-use geometrical search capabilities that match 3D parts on shape and size. Once found parts can be reused unchanged or modified as required; either way making substantial savings in time and cost. The tool is fast (it can search over 50,000 parts in under 5 seconds) and is very easy to use. Parts can be stored in a CADFind catalogue/library and loaded back into SOLIDWORKS when required. Individuals or design teams can create as many part libraries as they require and each library/catalogue can hold up to 100,000 parts. You can download a free version of CADFind3D including a test catalogue of over 1000 SOLIDWORKS parts from here:

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