T-Square, We Hardly Knew Ye

Online catalogs go 3D

Concord, MA and San Jose, CA  July 30, 2001  I'm sure that one day, the Smithsonian will have an exhibit of obsolete engineering tools. And when that day comes, old codgers (speaking in Internet terms) like myself who labored to produce engineering drawings back in the Dark Ages can take today's crop of youngsters and point out things that they've never seen, like T-squares, grid paper, pointy dividers and French curves. You see those things, young feller? we'll say. We used to design things using them. We didn't have any fancy computers or Internet. If you wanted to see if a part fit you rolled up a blueprint into a tube and drove across town and sat down with another engineer and collaborated face-to-face, fitting and re-fitting until your fingers ached. It took all day, and you usually ended up not meeting the man and you wasted several hours of your life and we loved it. We couldn't get enough of it. But the young feller won't listen, because he'll be too busy designing a new bifucated modulating module on his PDA, collaborating with Klaus in Munich as he goes. And then I'll shuffle off to lament the extinction of the electric eraser.

At least that could be the scenario if the design tools continue to evolve. As proof, consider that SolidWorks Corp. is partnering with SAQQARA Systems to enable manufacturers to integrate configurable three-dimensional (3D) product images into their online catalogs. (No T-squares needed.) According to the companies, combining SAQQARA's Commerce Suite with SolidWorks' 3D PartStream.NET allows manufacturers to display products in a more visually compelling manner. By allowing customers to download CAD models from an online catalog and incorporate the models into a design, buyers can evaluate products and ensure an exact fit. The result is manufacturers' products are specified into designs, and buyers can be confident of their design and component selections.

3D PartStream.NET facilitates design communication and e-commerce transactions between manufacturers and their customers by allowing companies to view products from all angles and configure these models based on their specific requirements. It then lets customers download the model in a wide variety of formats for use in their own design documents, reducing the time-consuming and often error-prone process of buying parts and components.

SAQQARA's Commerce Suite is a catalog management and B2B storefront application that allows suppliers to identify product detail and manage product information. With Commerce Suite, design engineers can browse up-to-date product information and specifications and narrow their product selection to a single product configuration via SAQQARA's Step Search technology.

"Combining Commerce Suite and 3D PartStream.NET provides an added dimension to online catalogs. Flat Web pages become a visually dynamic, interactive product display environment. This combined technology provides manufacturers with an easy way to build online catalogs that increase their products' exposure and accelerate their customers' product searches," said David Spenhoff, vice president of marketing for SAQQARA Systems. "The end result is buying confidence and improved customer satisfaction."

Jim Giebutowski, director of content publishing for SolidWorks Corp., explained, "Manufacturers understand that hunting for parts can be an excruciatingly cumbersome process of tracking down the exact specifications at the right price from the right vendor. By integrating 3D PartStream.NET into SAQQARA's Commerce Suite solution, we're giving manufacturers the ability to quickly build a complete, Web-based product catalog that allows customers to easily find a product and ensure that it meets all of their requirements."