Ah, the Web. For most engineers, it's a dream come true, bringing a vast expanse of information to the tips of their fingers. Too vast maybe? Trudging your way through thousands of search results can leave you pulling the last remaining hairs out of your head.
Enter two websites—Engineering.com, a general engineering resource, and Globalspec Inc. (Troy, NY), a component database—that make getting to the nut of your Internet searches easier.
Hailed by its makers as the "ultimate resource tool for the global engineering community," Engineering.com, which was launched two years ago by CAD reseller Rand Worldwide, is a virtual grab bag of engineering tools, tricks, and information. It's convenient to access; you don't have to register unless you purchase something from the site.
The entire site is divided into different engineering disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, and industrial. You can switch disciplines at any time.The site layout contains four areas: Solution Machine lets you search a topic. It also offers online calculators, conversion tables, and scores of free applications. Browse the Community section and you'll find, among other things, academic links, a directory of consultants, and online product demos. Inside the Marketplace, probably the most useful of the four sections, are stories on engineering feats of fame like the Great Pyramids and Boston's Big Dig construction, as well as a directory of software training courses, links to job sites, and deals on computer hardware and software. Finally, the Directories section provides searchable lists of components manufacturers, universities, and engineering publications.
Shawn Salliote, CAE specialist at Yazaki North America (Canton, MI), a company that supplies parts to the big three carmakers, wanders over to the site when he can't find what he needs on other search engines. He says he finds it easily or at least gets pointed in the right direction.
Ingersoll-Rand is using the site's MyEngineering.com section to extend its employee intranet. "When we saw the useful information on Rand's site," said Albert Conti, technology leader at their office in Bethlehem, PA, "we decided to use that to extend our site."
Searching for parts on traditional search engines can be a hit or miss. Globalspec offers a database of parts and services searchable by specification. The current database boasts 35 million parts from 1,400 different suppliers and has a strong emphasis on sensor and motion control technology.
For example, say you need a pressure sensor. The site will ask you for basic specifications and type of sensor technology you're looking for. A search yields a list of suppliers. From there, you can link directly to the vendor's website or send the vendor an RFQ or e-mail. The site is free and requires a one-time registration.
A GlobalSpec software program called SpecStation allows users to access the GlobalSpec database through corporate PDM systems. It also allows a company's purchasing department to plug in preferred suppliers, which will appear at the top of the search results.
Yet another site where you'll find Globalspec is within SolidWorks' 3D Content Central (www.3dcontentcentral.com), a free website for engineers to obtain and share 3D part models. The partnership between GlobalSpec and SolidWorks makes good sense. GlobalSpec's database is immense, but it offers few CAD models. By contrast, SolidWorks has a growing number of 3D models but no system for searching its libraries.