What defines quality in open source CAD models?

In order to have the best CAD library out there, we need to know what quality means when it comes to CAD models. This is a tricky question and becomes even harder when you add open engineering to the equation. What qualities does an open source CAD model need to fit your needs and make it great? This is the question we asked our community, looked at in-depth over the past few months, and will continue to explore in the future. Why is this relevant to everyone and anyone in the engineering and manufacturing communities? And, how can you tell a quality model when you see it?

Mechanical Horse on GrabCAD

A classic, quality model by KFZ-Schule

Why do quality CAD models matter?

The greater engineering community benefits from having quality CAD models available to them. It increases usable resources, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when you have a quality model you can use for stand-in parts. Those resources increase the pace of innovation by allowing companies to focus on what sets them apart from the crowd - use standard models to fill in the gaps and spend your time making what you do best even better. Quality CAD models matter to the individual engineer, too. A go-to resource with models you can trust allows you to get work done faster. GrabCAD cares about quality because it does build a higher level of trust. When you know you're contributing to a library that is all about quality, others are inspired to do the same. Quality begets quality and sets a standard for others to follow.

  • Quality models speed innovation in engineering.
  • Quality models help you get your work done faster.
  • Quality models inspire others to contribute quality work too.

What does a CAD model need to be considered usable?

Shared, online CAD models bring certain constraints. You are not sure who the person is that posted the model and you are not sure how thorough their work is. What can you do to make sure that model is something you can use without hesitation? The first barrier to pass, according to our community, is not if it is quality but that it is even usable. That means basic requirements need to be met.

  • Context - set expectations with a thorough description and rendering of the model.
  • Usefulness - provide the stage of development (i.e. concept, prototype, product) for the model.
  • Completeness - include all necessary files and parts.

What are possible stages or types of CAD models?

Engineer Aled J Taylor, created a list of stages that would be helpful to know when considering a model for use in a project.

  • Specific Product - existing products that are commercially available.
  • Generic Product - representation of a type of product that is commercially available.
  • Prototype - detailed, new product that has been built and tested but is not commercially available.
  • Concept - detailed, new product that has not been built or tested.
  • Sketch - low detail outline of a feasible product.
  • Fantasy - requires undiscovered science or future technology to function.
  • Abstract - demonstrations of CAD techniques.

What does a CAD model need to be considered quality?

For the sake of this discussion we will focus on prototype and product models. After basic requirements are met, you want to make sure that the CAD model you need is something that you can trust. That means you need more information on its performance and materials. Thanks to

  • Accuracy - model with dimensional accuracy.
  • Detail - capture fine features such as threads, rounds, and internal features, etc.
  • User friendly - use best practices for modeling, i.e. model is centralized , sketches constrained, etc.

What do we still have to consider?

There is a lot of variety throughout the CAD world and many question left to answer.

  • Would the models described above be useful for the way you use CAD?
  • What is the best way to present a model?
  • How do you categorize if someone used simple, elegant design?
  • What you do with a quality model once you find it?

We want to keep this discussion going as we work to bring more quality CAD models to you, leave your thoughts in the comments.

What were we inspired to do at GrabCAD?

We love getting feedback from the community and incorporating what is important to you into our product. As we heard more about the importance of quality, we decided to focus on building better ways to highlight quality work right into our Library. We already started with one small change - only showing new questions and CAD models in our New feed on our home page. You used to be able to see all files and renderings added there, which caused so much noise that the quality models uploaded to GrabCAD every day were getting lost. We have many other improvements coming to the Community based on your feedback on this topic. Look for more changes in the way you can search and display your work in the coming months.