The inCAD Library put to the test
As a technical journalist who is always on the lookout for innovations, I came upon the inCAD Library by MISUMI. A tip from one of my colleagues actually brought it to my attention. MISUMI is a Japanese company and supplies mechanical components to its more than 100,000 customers from the field of mechanical engineering around the world. The parts and assemblies can be ordered by catalogue as well as online. Although I am not a pure-bred designer, I have been working with CAD and 3D programs for several years and write guidebook texts, among other things, on the topic. A library of "finished" CAD models therefore immediately sparked my interest.
My first impression: MISUMI calls its library a "source of information for designers" – and that is exactly what it is supposed to be. The currently more than 200 fully completed models and assemblies should merely serve as a basis for own developments. The text beneath the info button "inCAD Library" also says: "Save development time and get to know the latest development applications, if you design new machine concepts." Therefore, you can't work with this library without know-how and in-depth knowledge of constructive mechanical engineering (corresponding software included).
What strikes me at second glance is the number of selection options, enhanced with sophisticated search functions. You can also select directly by usage, procedure or category. For those first wishing to browse around, the product is equipped with a total of five browser pages containing informative assemblies depicted isometrically.
Hand press as test object
For the test, I chose the model "No. 000070", a "lightweight press-fit tool" with quick-clamp slider. Such devices are used for precision insertion of parts in a plastic casing - a classic tool in manufacturing. The parts are available in three colours – as is the case with all models of the library. Yellow, blue and grey. Whereas blue designates the workpiece, grey stands for components from third-party providers and yellow for metal parts that are provided directly by MISUMI. In this specific case, only the base plate as well as the base for the quick release are from third-party providers. The MISUMI principle is clear here: Design, place the data in the shopping cart, order, ship and build. This this actually works in practice has been proven, by the company's own account, thanks to a logistical system that enables the manufacture and delivery of components within a short period of time. In total, some 10 million components can be ordered.
Back to our tool: For processing, naturally I need design data and a parts list would also be helpful. The inCAD Library provides both of these as downloads. However, you have to register first. Either as a "CAD user" or directly as a "Corporate User" with order authorisation. I opted for the "CAD User" because as such, I can download the design data directly free of charge (!). In terms of format options, SolidWorks (2010 version) is first in the list (which comes as no surprise). This is not a problem, as the current 2017SP3 release is downward compatible. Other CAD formats are STEP, IGES, Parasolid (binary or text) as well as SAT. Even the venerable DFX format is offered, as a 2D model, of course.
In the download window, MISUMI points out once again that the data merely explains (!) the structure and functionality of the assembly and that it should not be regarded as a "final draft". This makes sense – from a legal perspective – yet not absolutely necessary in a professional environment. Apparently, the company wishes to protect itself from people who carelessly assume the data 1:1 and who, depending on the selected material, end up ordering these relatively expensive parts. To subsequently find out that nothing fits...
Universally deployable data formats
As test files, I downloaded the "Model No. 70" in SolidWorks, as well as in IGES format, which both went pretty fast as they were compressed in ZIP files. First, I tested the IGES file, in a 3D software product that is not a traditional mechanical engineering tool: Cinema4D. Nevertheless, I could load the file without a glitch and merely had to rotate the model by 90⁰ around its X-axis. The only shortcoming was the hierarchical arrangement: There was only one single null object, under which the 31 "parts" where arranged as individual polygon objects. In turn, the colours were transferred properly...
Next step: Loading the data in SolidWorks. While unpacking the ZIP file, I already noticed that my press-fit tool was delivered in 27 individual files, instead of just one file (IGES), and just five assembly files (.aldasm). After loading was complete, our tool was depicted as an image typical in SolidWorks: Everything nice and neat, each individual part could be selected and changed with ease. After individualization – and provided you registered as a "Corporate User" – the CAD file can be place in the shopping cart and then the entire assembly, including the parts of third-party providers, can be ordered from MISUMI.
Conclusion of my test: The inCAD Library by MISUMI is a true treasure chest for designers, who don't necessarily want to reinvent the wheel. However, expectations should not be too high, as each of the assemblies merely involves suggestions, that have to be adapted to the specific circumstances by a professional hand.