Think of some specific object, like the bolt lock on your door, the valve on your lemonade dispenser, a knob from your stove, one of those corner pieces that hold your cubicle together — anything. Now try to find a supplier of that thing. Any luck? Did you make a few calls? Oh, of course you did, because that’s pretty much the only way to find out what manufactures/distributors have. Human interaction, with brokers (the middlemen between customers and manufacturers). I love me some human interaction, but it can be rather inefficient, inconsistent, and unpleasant. Our memory is flaky, we take lunch breaks, and I can be just intolerable. A broker can only assist one person at a time, and looking through catalogs is time consuming. What’s not inefficient is a search engine. Internet clouds have nearly perfect and limitless memory, and algorithms rarely break the rules. And while search engines can still be quite unpleasant, they’re way better at finding stuff.
But search engines are generally limited to text and images. Searching for 3D objects through traditional search engines yields mostly unhelpful results. For this reason, Dr. Seena Rejal decided to recruit a team to create such a 3D object search engine. They founded a company called 3D Industri.es and the first product is 3D Part Source. While there’s a keyword search, the engine also includes a 3D shape search. So you can upload a tubular object and the engine will return similarly shaped objects from suppliers that you can order from.
As 3DI consultant JF Brandon put it: “More and more people are uploading their 3D models and renders online. It’s fostering a movement towards open-engineering and open-source designing, but we’re reaching limits to what people are comfortable sharing.” Intellectual property authenticity is of utmost concern to Rejal, commenting, “Alongside simpler and more accurate sourcing of 3D data, we aim to make 3D databases ‘smart’, enabling improved authentication of 3D content. This will enhance confidence in online 3D content sharing and collaboration, driving more professional engagement and, underpinning the expansion and growth of the 3D industry, and the transition to mainstream mass adoption.”
This technology could spur more B2C business, and that’s great for everybody. 3D Part Source gives smaller manufacturers a more level marketing field with the big producers. Currently manufacturers upload their catalogs, but perhaps eventually the site will aggregate results from Thingiverse and Shapeways too.