FAQ for CAD Model & Parts Catalogs

Online CAD Model Downloads via a website are an important component of the overall Marketing Solution for Industrial Component Suppliers. The following are frequently asked questions (FAQ) - please browse the list.

Q. How do CAD models increase sales for industrial suppliers?

Q. How do I know if adding CAD Model downloads to my website will help my marketing?

Q. If I give away my CAD models won't my designs and intellectual property (IP) be stolen?

Q. Will requiring registration by users before download discourage use of my content?

Q. How do I capture sales leads from my 3D CAD Model downloads?

Q. Are 'CAD drawings' the same as 'CAD models'?

Q. For downloadable CAD models do CAD formats matter?

Q. How are CAD Models a Trigger Event for sales teams?

Q. How and where should I syndicate my 3D CAD models?

Q. My parts are all custom, would CAD models work for me?

Q. What’s the additional benefit of advertising on 3DModelSpace and what’s the ROI?

Q. What’s really important in an Industrial Supplier Catalog?

Q. What is the key difference between competitors in the provision of website solutions for 3D CAD model downloads? And why should I choose CDS?

Q. What does an online CAD Download solution cost to set up, integrate with my website and maintain?

Q. How do Digital Parts Catalogs and CAD Downloads work with my distributors?

Q. Should my website be educational or generate business or both?

Q. My customers seem satisfied with sending emails and making phone calls rather than using my website. How do I know I wouldn’t be wasting money on the web, if my customers are not inclined in that way?

Q. We work in house to maintain complete control over our website. Would outsourcing require giving up control over my website?

Q. Will adding a CDS SaaS solution such as CAD as a Service conflict with my web development company?

Q. How do design engineers find my website, my digital parts catalog, and CAD models of my parts?

Q. How likely is it an engineer will purchase my product after downloading a CAD model or drawing file?

Q. If my competitor offers CAD and I don’t, will I succeed?

Q. What’s the cost difference between a CAD lead and a traditional Marketing lead?

Q. Where’s the best place to spend your product advertising dollars today?

Q. When is a good time to add CAD?

Q. If I depend on CDS SaaS what uptime service levels will I have?

Q. If I already have CAD models can CDS use those?

Q. How do CAD models increase sales for industrial suppliers?

A. By better meeting the needs of Design Engineer that specify and buy their products. Here are 4 steps showing how CAD downloads should be integrated into an industrial suppliers overall marketing:

Step 1: Offer an Interactive Website that converts visitors to customers & supports mobile devices

Step 2: Get your products found online

  • Provide a search engine optimized online digital parts catalog
  • Makes it easy to quickly find the right part for new designs

Step 3: Ensure your products are designed inWhen a CAD model is downloaded, how often is the physical part purchased?

  • 3D CAD models save your customers valuable design time
  • Capture sales leads for each part download
  • On average 50% of downloaded parts are ultimately purchased

Step 4: Enable your products to be purchased online

  • eCommerce to enable online RFQs, ordering, availability, tracking

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Q. How do I know if adding CAD Model downloads to my website will help my marketing?

A. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have your customers asked for CAD models or drawings of your products?
  • If so how do you meet that need today and what does it cost?
  • Do any of your competitors offer online CAD models of drawings of their products?when downloaded CAD models of parts are purchased - how many units are ordered?
  • If so what has been the customer reaction - is it a competitive advantage over your company?

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Q. If I give away my CAD models won't my designs and intellectual property (IP) be stolen?

A. No. When building CAD models of suppliers parts CDS ensures protection of your designs and other IP by making your downloadable CAD models 'outer envelope only' and exclude the inner details. This outer shell of your design is all that customers need so the CDS built CAD models are IP protected yet still extremely useful to design engineers downloading your parts for inclusion in their CAD designs. CDS CAD models are not complete enough to enable competitors to copy your designs.

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Q. Will requiring registration by users before download discourage use of my content?

A. In our experience this is a myth created by content marketing in general. For most types of content, for example, case studies and white papers, downloads do drop off when additional obstacles, such as registration, are placed in user's way. This is usually because users want to avoid the inevitable sale followup call. However, CAD models as a type of content are different from most other content types and are often more valuable to the designer. This is because they directly save the designer time (download instead of draw from scratch) and if the designer has selected a specific part for inclusion in their design they want a supply chain relationship with the supplier. Therefore seeking registration by email address does not significantly reduce CAD model downloads.

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Q. How do I capture sales leads from my 3D CAD Model downloads?

A. CDS recommends allowing your website visitors to view 3D CAD models in their web browser without having to sign in or register. This is part of their search and selection process so you want no obstacles in their way. However, once they have selected a product and request a CAD download then ask them to complete a one-time, minimal, user registration. By 'one-time' we mean that the user only needs to register for their first download not repeatedly for every download and by 'minimal' we suggest name, company and email address.

CDS uses browser cookies so that upon return visits to your site further CAD downloads can occur without login or re-registration. CDS lead generation has many options, for example, whether or not to validate the customers email address by sending an email to that address with a confirmation link to click - this confirms that the user has access to that email address and it works. We also provide full user control and mgmt. with an approval process and admin control.

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Q. Are 'CAD drawings' the same as 'CAD models'?

A. Often these terms are used synonymously and this can cause confusion. Typically CAD drawings refers to 2D drawings (plans, elevations and sections) and CAD models refers to 3D solid or surface models.

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Q. For downloadable CAD models do CAD formats matter?

A. There are two sides to this question, firstly the format in which your models are built and maintained and secondly the format or formats in which they are available to CAD users for download.

Your CAD models should be built in a format that leaves you free to use them in any CAD system or any CAD download system. Just as you don't want to be constrained or locked into any one CAD vendors CAD system so you should not let yourself be locked into any one CAD Download vendor's system. You should always choose that your models be built in a top commercially available CAD system - we recommend PTC's Creo(R), Dassault Systemes's SolidWorks(R) or Autodesk's Inventor(R). Also ensure that you retain ownership of your models into the future. Beware of any CAD download vendors who attempt to lock you into their proprietary CAD formats and thereby restrict your ability to change vendors in the future.

The CAD models your customers download - there is much misinformation on this topic especially by some other digital part catalog and CAD download solution vendors. Some even contrive 'survey questions' to try to 'prove' that native formats are preferred. The reality is that CAD formats really don't matter any more because all the major CAD systems import and export a wide variety of formats including their own proprietary (also called 'native') formats, other CAD vendors proprietary formats (for example, see Chad Jackson's Creo-to-Open-Native-CAD-Files-A-Promise-Finally-Fulfilled) and industry standard exchange formats (such as STEP or IGES). These CAD systems have to meet stringent standards of compliance to industry standards in order to be purchased by governments or major corporations because those organizations use multiple CAD systems internally and/or in their supply chains.

Therefore your CAD models can be downloaded in either proprietary or standard formats but there are two good reasons to prefer standard exchange formats.

  • When one of your parts is downloaded as a CAD model and included in a design it is identified by your part number and can later be purchased. If the CAD model is edited it may no longer be the same part that you supply and that could lead to all sorts of problems in the design. Therefore visibly having it as a non-native part within the design assembly discourages accidental editing or changing of that part.
  • As well as interchange between CAD systems, standard formats stopped users from being locked into particular CAD systems because all their data was in a that system's proprietary CAD format. Today, all major CAD vendors support the standard exchange CAD formats (and often other CAD systems proprietary formats) so you can access your models in various formats. However, some CAD download solution vendors still create your models in their own proprietary CAD systems and in CAD formats which no other CAD systems read. So when you select a CAD Download vendor ensure you have access to your master CAD models (which may be parametric) from any CAD system you may choose to use in the future!

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Q. How are CAD Models a Trigger Event for sales teams?

A. A CAD Download can be a Trigger Event for sales because it can alert suppliers to the start of a new design that could be using one of their products. Astute and timely followup by the sales team can ensure and even expand that opportunity.

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Q. How and where should I syndicate my 3D CAD models?

A. Fish where the fish are! Put your CAD models where users look for them. As we cover elsewhere on this site a digital part catalog along with a configurator or some configurators and CAD model downloads should all be part of an industrial supplier's integrated marketing.Where do designers look for CAD models? Of course that overall marketing includes the suppliers website and SEO for it and can also include syndication of your CAD models to CAD search engines and portals such as 3DModselSpace.com. The benefits of this are more SEO specifically for those parts, extra traffic generated directly from the CAD search engine to your website and back-links from the search engine or portal to your website. (The graph shows where designers search for CAD models of parts they need)

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Q. My parts are all custom, would CAD models work for me?

A. Yes, they probably would, particularly if your custom parts are configurable. For customers with relatively simple configurable parts, we offer the CDS Catalog and for customers with highly sophisticated configurable parts we offer the CDS Configurator. Importance of CAD download models to designers?Both are specifically designed for Industrial Suppliers' websites and both seamlessly integrate with CDS ModelServer to present CAD model viewing and downloads for any configured part. The CDS Configurator lets you quickly design and quote your custom products online. Sales Proposals, BOMs, Routes, 3D CAD Models & 2D Drawings, and more can be instantly generated. CDS Configurator enables you to automate the engineering decisions required to configure your custom products and accelerate sales. The CDS Configurator ensures accuracy, eliminates data-entry errors and often frees up product experts from answering repetitive product questions during the sales quoting cycle.

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Q. What’s the additional benefit of advertising on 3DModelSpace and what’s the ROI?

A. The additional benefit is more exposure of your products to the design engineers that use 3DModelSpace.com. You can advertise by adding your parts to 3DModelSpace if you have CAD models and by placing banner ads there. If you don't have CAD models you can still advertise with banner ads on 3DModelSpace.

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Q. What’s really important in an Industrial Supplier Catalog?

A. There are several facets to this answer:

1. We all only get one chance to make a good first impression - your website is often that first impression. Just as you wouldn't meet a client is a scruffy suit why meet them with a scruffy website.

2. That it is an online digital parts catalog - sometimes also called an electronic catalog or ecatalog. Paper catalogs have largely disappeared because they go out-of-date soon after printing and cost a great deal to print and distribute. Online digital catalogs can be maintained up-to-date continuously and are suitable as an integrated component of an industrial supplier's overall marketing, sales and operations. The digital parts catalog should be integrated with your website, SEO, any configurators, any CAD downloads (to obtain sales leads and transfer them into your CRM system), eCommerce (guided selling, quote to order, shopping cart or RFQ) systems (to place orders into the ERP and manufacturing systems).

3.Your online catalog must provide simple, highly intuitive and easy to use search to enable you visitors to quickly find the part they need. That search should be available as text (engineering specification) or graphically or as faceted search capabilities.

4. Once the right part is found (viewing of part CAD models can often help) all the detailed specifications are on a printable part detail page, which also includes, a downloadable CAD model of the part in various CAD formats.

5. e-Commerce capability to provide online ordering or RFQs.

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Q. What is the key difference between competitors in the provision of website solutions for 3D CAD model downloads? And why should I choose CDS?

A. The single biggest difference between CDS and all other solutions on the market is that CDS recommends and builds customer CAD models in the top commercially available CAD systems whereas all CDS's competitors recommend and build CAD models in their own proprietary modelling systems and formats. With CDS you own your models, you can if you ever wish to, choose to drop CDS, secure in the knowledge that you can edit and manage your CAD models using one of the top commercial CAD systems. With all our competitors you are locked to their proprietary systems, formats and companies. Choose the OPEN rather than a CLOSED solution!

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Q. What does an online CAD Download solution cost to set up, integrate with my website and maintain?

A. Typically SaaS solutions are inexpensive compared to traditional perpetual license software. This is one reason that SaaS solutions have become so popular in recent years, but another reason is the low capital cost and hence lower risk associated with SaaS solutions. Like most SaaS companies CDS charges an initial setup fee then an ongoing monthly subscription for as long as you use the system. Both the setup fee and the subscription fee are proportional to the number and sophistication of your products since that determines how much work is involved in setting up and then running your online CAD downloads. In addition whether you need CAD models built or adapted or both influences the setup fee. Therefore it's impossible to give pricing without understanding and quoting for your specific circumstances so please discuss them with us and we'll provide an estimate.

What we can say is that 98% of CDS customers have continued to subscribe since the launch of their solutions - a statistic that demonstrates the typically high and ongoing ROI achieved.

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Q. How do Digital Parts Catalogs and CAD Downloads work with my distributors?

A. Similarly to how you've always worked with your distributors only better. If you have generated sales leads and passed them to your distributors by geography or product line you can still do that but the leads will be better qualified, lower cost/lead and likely more valuable. In addition you CAD models can be syndicated to your distributors websites, as you and they choose. CDS can enable the download of your CAD models from your distributors websites - the CDS SaaS solutions (Catalog as a Service(TM), CAD as a Service(TM)) work equally well as software for industrial distributors or for manufacturers.

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Q. Should my website be educational or generate business or both?

A. Ideally both, but it can be staged. Start educationally to help your customers and to get found. Gradually add lead generation (for example with CAD downloads) then e-Commerce with RFPs then perhaps configurators.

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Q. My customers seem satisfied with sending emails and making phone calls rather than using my website. How do I know I wouldn’t be wasting money on the web, if my customers are not inclined in that way?

A. Researching and ordering online is the way of the future and it is incumbent on suppliers to ensure their websites are meeting the needs of their customers particularly as search and buying expectations have been raised for everyone by sites like Google and Amazon. More and more, engineers are checking an Industrial manufacturer's website before ever making a phone call or sending an email. You never know what potential customers could be bypassing your site, for a more informative, easy to use site. In addition consider the burden on your own design engineers being interupted to generate and send a CAD model in response to user requests - how much design time and productivity can you save by automating this task?

You can watch a 3 minute customer compilation video below to hear about others success with this approach.

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Q. We work in house to maintain complete control over our website. Would outsourcing require giving up control over my website?

A. CDS SaaS solutions integrate with your existing solutions. CDS continuously works with internal teams augmenting their technical and business solutions with our own specialized capabilities - Catalog as a Service, CAD as a Service, and configurators. CDS software solutions are 4th generation software. In our three specialist areas we offer less expensive, more effective and industrially proven solutions than internal teams can generally produce

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Q. Will adding a CDS SaaS solution such as CAD as a Service conflict with my web development company?

A. Definitely not, CDS works in combination with internal and external web development teams augmenting their technical and business solutions with our own specialized capabilities - Catalog as a Service, CAD as a Service, and configurators.

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Q. How do design engineers find my website, my digital parts catalog, and CAD models of my parts?

A. Some will go directly to your website but most will find youy websiteusing a search engines. Don't just think Google or Bing, if you have CAD models syndicated on CAD search engines like 3DModelSpace.com then you can generate large amounts of traffic from them.

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Q. How likely is it an engineer will purchase my product after downloading a CAD model or drawing file? When a CAD model is downloaded, how often is the physical part purchased?

A. The answers of many users and the weighted average from our 2014 survey is 50% of the time (shown in the graph). According to the JW Winco case study they achieve almost 50% too. For all types of content marketing we do not know of another type of downloadable content that converts to sales at any where near this high a ratio. Therefore CAD downloads may be the best type of content an industrial supplier can offer on their website.

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Q. If my competitor offers CAD and I don’t, will I succeed?

A. We can't say that you won't succeed,but you will likely be at a significant disadvantage because most engineers and designers now search for products online and prefer selecting from manufacturers that offer CAD model downloads of the parts they need.

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Q. What’s the cost difference between a CAD lead and a traditional Marketing lead?

A. According to the JW Winco case study leads from CAD downloads cost about 10% as much as traditional leads.

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Q. Where’s the best place to spend your product advertising dollars today?

A. Advertising is usually most effective when presented to someone with a specific need, at the time they are trying to fulfill it. When someone is selecting a specific part those conditions are likely met. If you can advertise to them at that point, your advertising is most likely to influence the selection of your product. Those conditions can occur on your website or on a search engine site (Google, 3DModelSpace, etc) so test your advertising in those place.

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Q. When is a good time to add CAD?

A. There’s no wrong time to look into 3D CAD models! It’s important to gain an up-to-date understanding of your customers buying process and determine if adding 3D CAD models to your website is likely to achieve a high ROI for your business. We can help you survey your customers and target customers to gain that understanding. Whether you are about to update your website or you have just completed a new update of your website it is not a problem to add any CDS SaaS service because:

  • CDS SaaS services adopt the look and feel of your website
  • They operate on our hardware but under your URLs
  • You don't drain your internal resources
  • They integrate with your website and other software (eg ERP, CRM)
  • Being SaaS solutions they are relatively low cost, especially against capital budgets

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Q. If I depend on CDS SaaS what uptime service levels will I have?

A. Our goal is 100% up-time but three variables mean we are actually achieving ~99.9%. Firstly, CDS uses Amazon AWS for hosting our SaaS solutions. Secondly, on rare occasions we must take solutions offline for maintenance. Thirdly, an unexpected problem might occur that would take CDS Solutions offline. We work hard to limit these interruptions.

What we can say is that 98% of CDS customers have continued to subscribe since the launch of their solutions - a statistic that demonstates the typically high and ongoing reliability and ROI achieved.

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Q. If I already have CAD models can CDS use them?

A. Yes we can. Likely we can use your CAD models from any 3D CAD system. Of course we can also build new models from scratch if needed. See our detailed advice on CAD formats here.

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If you want more detail on an answer or if you didn't find your question above, contact us today and we would be happy to help!