CAD Google-ization


“Conceptual Design using Google Images”

“The things they can’t teach you in school and only experience can provide.”

The Googlization of Conceptual Design! In the 25 years I’ve worked in the Silicon Valley I’ve seen technology change so fast but never as fast as the last few years. Coming from the old school way of doing things I keep reminding myself to keep up with the times or get left behind. Information moves so quickly and if you don’t move with it you’ll get run over. I admit I’m a total Internet geek and I’m online doing something probably 2/3rds of the day. The other 3rd I’m sleeping. The curious George that I am  is always Googling something, so it was only natural to integrate my Googling habits into my work habits. When I discovered that you can type anything you want in Google and retrieve the information quickly I abandoned all those parts catalogs I collected over the years and started searching for my parts online. Good riddance to those catalogs, it was a pain in the butt to drag all those books around to every company. The days of the paperback catalogs are dead and the migration to the great digital divide has begun.


So as a CAD designer when I get called upon to conceptualize a design I need to move quickly and compile workable components to develop an assembly. In the past before the Internet, I would collect component parts catalogs by filling out inquiry cards from magazines like Machine Design and Design News. Sometimes it would take days or weeks to receive the catalogs and in the meantime would have to work around it.
Thanks to the Internet those days are long gone. What would take me weeks in the past can now be accomplished in minutes by simply typing what you’re looking for in Google Images. As you can see from the illustration I was looking for a compression spring, so I would type it in the search box and viola! I get a whole page of compression springs to choose from, every size, every shape, and everything you need to know about compression springs comes up in images.

But then to my surprise there is more!


On the Google Images page there’s a link attached from the originator of the image. Click on “Website for this image” and the link will bring you to their website. In this case the image came from an online catalog that specializes in compression springs. Not all the images will be from vendors. All these images are compiled from websites that are relevant to what you were searching for. I may have clicked on an image of compression springs attached to a website doing a story on compression springs. But the general idea is that you will have numerous images to choose from in your search. More then one of them is bound to lead you to a supplier.

Once you find a vendor site you’ll be able to research the part you’re looking for. Most parts vendors provide data specification sheets of there products. In the example to the right this vendor provides PDF and Excel files of their products. Sometimes the vendor also provides a CAD model in either an IGES file or a part file for Solidworks, Inventor, Pro-E, and Catia. But most of the time it’s usually an IGES file. If it’s an IGES file you can convert it but I don’t bother cause you have to add all the other properties as well to make it compatible to your CAD assembly. You have to add component properties like description, part number, revision level, project, as well as mass properties like material, finish, color, and so on and so forth. For me it’s faster just to create the part from scratch using the data provided on the spec sheet.

I prefer PDF files for drawings and forms. PDF stands for Portable Document File. In this case the data sheet is a form to fill out your requirements. You can copy and save the form to your hard drive and open the file in Adobe Acrobat Pro to fill it out and send back via email.


I usually call the vendor and have the sales engineer specialist help me out in choosing the right specifications for my needs.

So now that I have the specs I can model my spring with the right dimensions retrieved from the data sheet or from talking to the vendor directly. I can include this in my CAD assembly and place the part on order as well. I can now move on to the other parts and follow the same procedure. Once all the conceptualized parts are identified I can finish off the fabricated machined parts to include the right installation interface requirements for the new parts.

What use to take me weeks and sometimes months to do can now be accomplished within hours and days thanks to Internet Search Engines.


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