A major software provider finds that users may spend seven to nine hours a month poring over its Autodesk Mechanical Library electronic database CD-ROMs of material specifications and part details. MaterialSpec database has information on more than 30,000 plastics, ceramics, composites and metals from 300 manufacturers; the interactive digital PartSpec warehouse has 400,000 predrawn, purchasable parts drawings from more than 50 vendors. Autodesk began distributing the products in May 1995. Subscriptions cost $249 together or $149 separately.
``In the first year, we thought only 25 percent would be interested in the material portion,'' said Blair LaCorte, director and general manager of Autodesk Inc.'s Data Publishing Group. However, 80 percent bought both titles, according to a user survey.
Here are some polymer uses:
In-house engineers at Protocol Systems Inc. prepare mechanical drawings and rely on MaterialSpec to convey a specific thermoplastic to injection molders Vision Plastics Inc. in Wil-sonville, Ore., and Kaso Plastics Inc. in Vancouver, Wash., said drafter Cindy Grice. Annually, the firms use about 20,000 pounds of Bayer Corp.'s FR 110 polycarbonate/ABS blend to mold casings for Protocol patient-monitoring devices. Protocol of Beaverton, Ore., adopted MaterialSpec in early 1996.
Custom fluoropolymer molder Fluoroware Inc. ``found an alternate material in five minutes to replace a difficult-to-mold resin with specific dielectric strengths at set frequencies,'' said Thomas McPeak, project engineer.
``We can do selective sorts on one or two material properties in a range of compatible numbers,'' he said. Fluoroware of Chaska, Minn., began using MaterialSpec in May.
Project engineer Brian Patterson uses MaterialSpec to look for a stronger or higher temperature material for water-filter housings at Ametek Inc.'s Plymouth Products Division. The unit in Sheboygan, Wis., molds housings on a 500-ton press using polypropylene, sometimes talc-filled.
The landscape is changing, said Chris Nunez, chairman and chief technical officer of material-database supplier CenTor Corp. of Garden Grove, Calif.
``Two years ago, none of the [computer-aided design] vendors were in the materials database field. Now, MaterialSpec, which is shipped with each Autodesk Mechanical Library, is built with information from our CenBase materials CD-ROM.'' CenTor, for- merly Information Indexing Inc., began compiling the database in 1985.
Traditionally, a few experts had access to this information and brought the details to the design engineer. Now, the search engine can scour the MaterialSpec database by property, description and/or application and, where appropriate, inserts the selection into Autodesk's mechanical design software.
MaterialSpec has more than 100,000 full-text descriptions of physical properties, distinctions at different temperatures and applications, and data on chemical resistance and material safety.
Autodesk, based in San Rafael, Calif., produces design and multimedia software and component technologies and is the world's leading volume supplier of CAD software. It employs 1,894 and reported sales of $547 million for the year ended Jan. 31.