What do drawings of fish, airplanes, lighthouses, and skateboarders have to do with engineering software? In and of themselves, not much. But for IMSI, a Novato, CA software developer, they sparked an idea that led to development of Internet-based help tools for engineers using CAD.
In 1997, IMSI bought a company that supplies clip art to artists and others. The business was successful, generating several hundreds of thousands of dollars a month of revenue. They eventually sold the company, but the experience got the folks at IMSI thinking that maybe they could do something similar in the engineering world. After all, the company had been developing software for mechanical and architectural applications since 1982, and felt it knew something about engineers' needs.
And so, IMSI started the website www.cadsymbols.com.
The site, which offers monthly and yearly subscriptions, claims to provide access to over eight million CAD symbols that engineers can drag and drop into CAD models. The symbols are actually CAD drawings of the parts, organized by manufacturer, type of part, or industry standard, and engineers can preview them free of charge to see if they are right for their application. Says IMSI's Bob Mayer, the site helps engineers save time since they don't have to take the trouble to draw the part in their model. Among the symbols: hex, cross, and eye bolts; hex, square, and castle nuts; a variety of screws; keys; o-rings; retaining rings; plastic pipe fittings; metal pipe fittings; pins; rivets; washers; and bearings.
Engineers can get those symbols in AutoCAD 14, AutoCAD 2D, Autodesk Inventor, Solid Edge, and SolidWorks.
The idea for the site is not original. Such sites as www.quickparts.com and www.partspec.com are available. For example, www.thomasnet.com also has downloadable CAD drawings, but Mayer says they are only sorted by manufacturer. Nevertheless, the latter site has many more manufacturers than the approximately 30 on cadsymbols.com. IMSI is planning to include a link to thomasnet.com.
A related IMSI site is www.cadsymbol.net, which is hosted in Europe. That site organizes the parts symbols strictly by standard, whether domestic or foreign. (Note that the URL is singular vs. the plural for cadsymbols.com.) Ultimately, IMSI plans to combine the two symbols sites.
The company has become a true believer in the usefulness of the Internet for engineers. "It provides an easy way for engineers to get most of what they want," says Mayer. And, he adds, engineers will transact business over the Internet, which makes Web-based ventures a good business model.
Which explains why the company has also launched www.cadalog.com. It's a site that contains utilities for many CAD products, such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Rhino 3D, CADKey, SketchUp, IntelliCAD, and IMSI's flagship product, TurboCAD. It's a neutral site that doesn't favor any one vendor over another, says Mayer. He calls it a store where engineers can find parts libraries, visualization tools, and other products.
Additionally, IMSI launched www.freecadapps.com. It's a site where engineers can get free trials of software.
The cadsymbols site has been the major Internet emphasis for the company lately. And it doesn't restrict engineers to getting parts for just their mechanical designs. Weekend handymen can also download symbols for architectural parts too.
Reach Teague email@example.com.