ThomasNet is bolstering its CAD publishing technology, adding product specification and pricing data to the mix to provide engineers with a one-stop resource for researching and sourcing industrial components.
ThomasNet's proprietary CAD publishing technology lets engineers search for and specify parts and then insert the CAD models of those parts directly into their designs. Through ThomasNet, engineers have access to parts from more than 607,000 industrial companies in North America, indexed by 67,000 product and service categories. Of those companies, many publish CAD models on the site, configurable in both 2-D and 3-D formats.
Being able to source a part and insert the CAD model directly into a design shortens development time and helps engineers get part selection right the first time. "Engineers working on a machine are mostly concerned that this thing they're designing is going to work," says Peter Mooney, director of CAD solutions for ThomasNet. "What that really means is that they're looking for as much information as they can get about everything to make sure things fit together."
Having access to the full 3-D CAD model of a desired part can help establish that certainty. By entering search terms on the site, engineers will get a list of companies making the part they're seeking. The technology allows visitors to compare up to five parts side by side and use parametric search parameters to narrow down the selection. Once the exact part is chosen, the engineer selects their CAD system from a drop-down menu and hits a "go" button, and the 3-D CAD drawing is downloaded and inserted directly in their design without having to recreate anything or lose anything because of CAD package incompatibilities, Mooney says. In addition, each 3-D depiction of the part is presented with the corresponding bill of materials, keeping engineers and sourcing professionals on the same page in terms of having all the appropriate part number data and detailed specification information.
With the latest improvements, ThomasNet is also serving up a variety of other relevant information with the CAD models. In addition to the 2-D and 3-D drawings, engineers can get access to useful PDF specification data and links to related accessories, in addition to pricing information and the ability to ask questions of the vendor. "We're trying to provide a one-stop shop with all the information they need to spec a design," Mooney says.