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2D and 3D manufacturers parts can be downloaded in a variety of native or neutral formats from the Web, or through complete libraries on CDs, saving time and effort to complete assembly design

While CAD has certainly facilitated mechanical design, engineers should not have to spend time creating standard parts for assemblies. Many part manufacturers have put their 2D part libraries onto CDs, but with the increased use of 3D CAD, designers clearly need 3D standard part options.


TraceParts, a subsidiary of the French company Trace Software (Saint-Romain), offers designers a growing number of part libraries in native and neutral 3D CAD formats that can be downloaded free from the Web (www.tracepartsonline.net) or by purchasing a CD. The company uses its own CAD parametric format written in JavaScript, which draws on an XML-based dimension database for part size. This method makes the library of hundreds of thousands of parts a manageable size to store on a CD, and it also lets users perform advanced queries with filter criteria and personal parameters to their searches. Databases from multiple manufacturers can also be associated.


Once the part has been selected in the CAD format, users can choose between 3D native formats for Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, SOLIDWORKS, Solid Edge, thinkdesign, and TopSolid, or neutral formats (STEP, SAT, IGES, and XT). “All the parts in our libraries are available in 3D formats,” says Gabriel Guigue, managing director of TraceParts. “Part libraries today are one of the most asked for accessories to a CAD system, and they can cut design times by more than 60 percent.” […]


Parts directly from the application. Add-on modules with direct interfaces for specific CAD applications give the user access to the part library directly in the application interface, as well as the direct transfer of a part into an assembly. In addition, the part can be automatically inserted in the bill of materials including the part name, reference, international standard, and supplier name. TraceParts is also available as an add-on for its native 3D formats, including its latest addition, Inventor. Users can directly access the part library from within these applications and insert native parts into their assemblies. To do this, TraceParts has written its own conversions from the CAD format to the specific application format. For Autodesk Inventor, this meant forming an agreement with Spatial, which owns the ACIS kernel that is used in Inventor and a large number of other CAD programs. The company is currently preparing TraceParts for Catia V5 and Pro/Engineer, which have proprietary kernels.


Newtec Palettisation in France uses TraceParts for both AutoCAD 2000 and Inventor (Autodesk). The company, which makes robots to automatically position boxes onto palettes in preparation for distribution, has developed an extensive customized 2D library using parts both designed by the company and those from TraceParts. With the addition of two seats of Inventor, Newtec is now starting to develop its 3D library. “It is important to have a part library available to speed design times, and TraceParts is well integrated into the two CAD applications we use,” states Laurent Ferré, manager of the Robotics Unit at Newtec Palettisation.


The test department of vacuum manufacturer Dyson (Malmesbury, England) has been using TraceParts for Solid Edge for the last two years. Three engineers in the department use hundreds of standard parts every month to build testing equipment for the company products.


“The catalog works very well for generic parts that have international standards, but other parts that are ‘generic,’ yet not officially standardized, will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer,” says Steve Evans, design engineering manager at Dyson. “We take a number of parts and load them into our own databases for future use. We usually only do simple searches, since it’s a bit complicated to do anything really advanced.”

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