Just prior to SolidWorks World 2007, an all new 3D ContentCentral was announced. The website has been updated to include many new enhancements in content and navigation. Just in case you haven’t ever visited the site, 3D ContentCentral is an online 3D parts catalog containing thousands of supplier and user contributed models. All content on the website can be download for FREE in various CAD formats and only requires a simple, one time registration.
The first thing you notice with the new website is a completely different look. This is the first major upgrade to the user interface since the site was introduced. Rather than being distinctly separated, the Supplier Library and User Library have now been blended together under a broad categorization scheme.
At the top-center section of the page is the search window. The reason I mention this first is that many users are looking for something very specific when they visit the website. In cases like this, it is important to have the search tool in a location that is easy to find. With the old website there were separate search tools for the Supplier Catalog and User Catalogs. The new search tool has options to search both catalogs and each one individually thru the use of a pull down menu. Although I haven’t seen it specifically mentioned anywhere, searches seem much faster with the new website. The search function now has the ability to search all properties of listed models which include supplier part number, supplier name, description, and the name of the model contributor.
In the left hand column there are two lists that show the most popular categories and catalogs. I really like this list because you can see which categories and catalogs the majority of users find most useful. If you want to see the entire category or catalog listings a link is provided at the bottom of each listing.
Towards the center of the page is a window showing “Recently Added Parts Models” & “Featured Part Model Categories”. This interface has graphical icons representing the models and categories which can speed up browsing. There are “forward” and “backward” buttons which allow you to browse the contents of each window. The “Recently Added Parts” section has links to view parts added “Today”, “This Week”, & “This Month”. Towards the bottom of the screen is a list of “Featured Part Model Suppliers”. The list of suppliers is quite impressive. Over 175 suppliers now have their parts catalogs published on 3D ContentCentral. All three windows have links to list all parts, categories, and suppliers much like the left hand column.
Configurations are used heavily in many of the models on the website and the interface for drilling down through the options has been streamlined. When you select a model that has multiple configurations there are pull down menus and selection rows that list the available options for each configuration setting. The content in this area isn’t that much different than what was there previous but the layout is cleaner and more user friendly.
Also added is support for the Firefox web browser and the ability to view the website in 7 different international languages.
The popularity of this site has been steadily growing. According to Gopal Shenoy of SolidWorks Corporation, there are now over 240,000 registered users of 3D ContentCentral. The User Library now has over 5,300 user contributed models.
From time to time I get questions from users asking how they can download example models in an effort to learn more about SolidWorks. The 3D ContentCentral User Library is the first place I recommend. The number of models that users have contributed is a great example of the power of the SolidWorks Community. I would like to encourage all users who use this site to upload models that could be useful to others. In addition to uploading many models to the website, I have downloaded models that has both saved modeling time and educated me in solid modeling methods.
Here is something that isn’t new but could be an option that you might have missed in the past. If there is a supplier not currently listed on the website that you would like to see added, you can submit the supplier name to 3D ContentCentral by clicking here. SolidWorks will then pass along this request to the supplier. I have seen quotes from many suppliers that are now part of the website that mention requests from users as one of the determining factors in choosing to list their catalog.
All the updates to 3DContentCentral have greatly enhanced the overall user experience. It has become a great tool for engineers and designers to find the models they need quickly without having to visit several different websites. If you haven’t been to 3D ContentCentral lately, check it out!
Stay tuned….more to come!