MCAD Modeling Methods: Don't Reinvent the Wheel31 Oct, 2004 By: Don LaCourse
Find a wealth of mechanical parts on the Internet.
The first rule of thumb for all designs: Use standard components! Why reinvent the wheel when literally millions of standard components are available from thousands of component manufacturers. Best of all, you can easily access these CAD models online and drop them right into designs, for free! That's right, clear that part catalog bookshelf and make room for more knick-knacks.
Figure 1. Trace Parts offers more than 22 million standard parts, including fasteners, shaft ends, keys, gears, bearings, and more.
This month, we'll take a look at a few online part library sites that your users can join for free. They offer advanced search tools to help locate hard-to-find components or offer the ability to browse thousands of standard parts catalogs. Users can preview the 3D CAD model and 2D drawings online, perform design calculations, and even upload their own components to share with others.
By and large, these free sites are maintained by companies whose business includes the creation of online parts catalogs for manufacturers.
www.TraceParts.comTrace Parts (figure 1) is a comprehensive standard parts library compatible with all the usual suspects: AutoCAD, CATIA, Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, Pro/ENGINEER, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, thinkdesign, UGS, and more.
Available both as a CD-based application and as an Internet portal, Trace Parts increases productivity in the design process so users don't have to redraw the many standard parts used in an assembly. The site now includes more than 22 million manufacturers' standard parts. The interface is user friendly—anyone can learn quickly how to browse, query, visualize, and select parts. Users can use different search engines and 2D/3D viewers to quickly browse the extensive parts database. When users launch the Trace Parts CD-ROM directly from their CAD software, Trace Parts automatically inserts the selected parts into the assembly along with detailed BOM (bill of materials) data such as part name, reference, manufacturer, standard, and mass.
Figure 2. PowerPARTS from Web2CAD is an extensive library with CAD drawings of parts from well-known manufacturers.
Once users select a part, they can automatically generate its 2D views in either DWG or DXF format. Users can download new parts catalog and product updates through an exclusive maintenance contract. Trace Parts is available in six different languages.
www.Web2CAD.comGenius Web2CAD AG, founded in 1984 with subsidiaries worldwide, was recently acquired by TraceParts S.A. (see www.traceparts.com above). Web2CAD (figure 2) is an online standard parts catalog service that offers a component search tool, CAD parts (referred to as powerPARTS), and complete CAD catalogs. The catalog contains more than 40 million drawings.
The powerPARTS library is available free of charge for all CAD users worldwide in several languages. The CD-ROM version is updated twice a year by web2CAD and is included with all AutoCAD products in Europe and Asia. In North America, Thomas Publishing, one of the largest technical publishing houses (see below), supports powerPARTS. On the Web, powerPARTS is a free service that lets users download and insert component parts directly into their mechanical CAD application.
more online Part options
www.thomasnet.comThomas Industrial Network (www.thomasnet.com). has built a business creating downloadable models to complement its extensive industrial supplier catalogs. The company also recently acquired CAD publishing assets from Web2CAD AG (see above). Combined with Thomas' online Catalog Navigator, the Web2CAD technology will allow Thomas customers to populate their Web sites with product information such as downloadable 2D CAD drawings and 3D models. The application-neutral technology produces downloads that work with all major CAD systems, according to Thomas. Thomas' CADRegister site (www.cadregister.com). provides direct access to predrawn mechanical and electrical parts, plant design components, and architectural blocks, which are also available as the PartSpec, PlantSpec, and CADBlocks CD-ROMs.
www.3DContentCentral.com3D ContentCentral (figure 3) is a free resource to help users locate 3D components that they can drag and drop directly into SolidWorks designs. 3D ContentCentral is a cooperative relationship between the 3D PartStream group of the SolidWorks Corp. and leading industrial part suppliers. It's powered by 3DPartStream.NET, SolidWorks' product for creating online manufacturers' catalogs.
Figure 3. Users can drag and drop 3D ContentCentral parts directly into SolidWorks designs.
3D ContentCentral offers millions of supplier-certified CAD models, a model-sharing library and user community, interactive tools for visualizing and configuring components, and support for all major CAD systems. Users can upload components to the online user library, where other users can browse and download them.
Don LaCourse (email@example.com). has spent the last 25 years working with and writing about CAD/CAM operations. He is a Cadalyst contributing editor, principal partner of eDocHelp (www.edochelp.com ). and founder of www.3DCADTips.com. a free, independent, and objective information resource for 3D CAD users, administrators, and managers. Don resides in Cookeville, Tennessee.