“The CAD software already was there,” Giebutowski recalls. “We took it to the next step by incorporating it into an interactive catalog commerce environment.”
As he explains it, SolidWorks could provide a Web catalog environment for the system, bring its own setup or opt to use a third party, as SMC chose to do in working with TechniCon. “SolidWorks lets us host our models on their server,” says Hoffer. “We don’t have to maintain a server with all of the CAD models.”
Now, SMC’s E-Tech catalog customers who want to see a CAD display can click a button to leave SMC’s servers and go to SolidWorks. “3D PartStream.Net allows our customers to view our site, which hosts the catalog and CAD models from SolidWorks’ 3D PartStream site. This hosts all of the CAD files,” he explains.
Behind the scenes, a request is made of the 3D PartStream server from SMC’s Web site, but this transition occurs seamlessly. The user may not even know this has occurred, Hoffer notes.
Once Hoffer and his team got through the technical setup issues, it was time for the challenging task of building the models and developing the catalog content. SMC’s main involvement was in the project’s setup phase.
“It was a time-consuming process,” Hoffer recalls, “because we had to define the dimensional values for each product line. It would take a fair amount of time to model up one cylinder with all of its possible configurations.”
SMC did this work with the help of SolidWorks CAD software, setting up master files that could be configured with a number of variable options, such as stroke, mounting and bore size.
Giebutowski notes, “The technical folks at SMC had to think through all of these instances. We couldn’t do it for them, because they know their products best. In SMC’s case, with such complex products, there could be no simple scanning of the paper catalog’s pages, although for some other catalog clients we handle, that can be the case.”