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I was turned on to the GrabCAD community recently by Deelip Menezes while reading my Twitter feed. I suspected that this was just another free 3D model warehouse and would give it a quick look, but probably not much more. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

GrabCAD is a Design and Engineering community started by Engineering professionals Hardi Maybaum and Indrek Narusk. On the outside this site offers a wide range of free 3D CAD models to the public. Additionally, the designs are not limited to any specific formats or companies, so everyone can join in. There was some real favorable comments ehn I started adding Autodesk Inventor files. imageOn the inside GrabCAD is a hybrid environment comprised of a community of designers and engineers from around the world, trading their ideas and efforts in a social media setting.  Deelip Menezes and Josh Mings sit on as advisors, and while I have no idea what that means, I know their skills and opinions are well regarded, and the GrabCAD community is moving forward faster than I had anticipated.

imageBeing a GrabCAD Member

Once you are a member, returning to the site lands you on a dashboard that displays a quick update of what has happened recently, your library stats, and who is sharing the site information. Managing your content is brutally easy and membership adds the ability to request a models to be made by the other community members. It becomes a bit addictive, and each time I return there are more members, more content, more services, and more opportunities.

 

GrabCAD Community Research

GrabCAD is constantly looking into services that benefit this new community. As ideas develop, GrabCAD gathers impressions and information from their members, and provides the results and services that ultimately result in more jobs that further strengthens the community.

I asked Hardi about the community and he replied “it’s been amazing ride since the launch and we are cooking really interesting things with our Team and Partners to offer more to GrabCAD community”.

Whether the time taken on new site capabilities will pay off is still uncertain, but I think that the services for the community should be developed at the same rate as the services of the community, and this will ultimately decide the outcome of GrabCAD. So far so good.

GrabCAD Services

GrabCAD also offers to the public, the services of the growing community of skilled professionals.  The job requests are expanding in scope every week, and include general 2D/3D model development, specialized requests like Point Cloud Conversion, and new inventions that need to be prepped prior to manufacture. 

“The interest for this service has been remarkable because people don’t want to spend 3 weeks in googleing ‘CAD services Detroit’ and negotiating the price.” Hardi said in a discussion about the services. “They need their work done in hours and this is what GrabCAD services is all about – delivering CAD services really fast, with best price. We can do it because of the great community of suppliers behind us.”

To the members, the ability to opt in as a contract professional means that GrabCAD gathers jobs from around the world and delivers the options to  your inbox. To the customer, there is a huge pool of diverse skill and any type of job can be handled quickly and at a reasonable rate (and a lot less red tape). It really doesn’t get any easier.

3D Printing Challenge

Having the capability to provide complete Digital Prototyping is a great move on the part of GrabCAD, and I am really excited that we are consider leveraging the 3D printing services available. Having firm knowledge of how these services really stack up will save me the customer service headaches that I despise.

image One thing I found out this year is that contests are a great way too beat out ideas and sharpen skills. Kristina Narusk, one of GrabCAD’s administrators, must feel the same way. Kristina has organized the 3D Printing Challenge that offers to test out various printing services and using your design.

That’s right, GrabCAD wants you to upload you designs, by November 26th, 2010, and three days later on the 29th, they will announce their three favorites as the winners. They will in turn mail your printed model to you as the prize. The only limitations are the size. 4” cubed – 4”x4”x4”.

I am a nutcase when it comes to manufacturing with material removal and additive technologies. Stratasys has to peel me off their printers and AU each year. Needless to say I am pretty excited because GrabCAD will give a detailed report on the services they review, will likely incorporate this into GrabCAD as a service for me, and will print my latest design!!

Check us out at http://grabcad.com . Will your design be mailed to you? You have a one-in-two chance. 😉 Good luck. I am such a sucker for a design challenge.