Smartphones, at of the heart of the Internet of Things (IoT) digital transformation, automate engineering activity – accelerating processes by making data instantly accessible via mobile apps, which can enhance performance with analytics and put computer-aided design (CAD) at an engineer’s fingertip.

Mobile apps allow engineers to brainstorm anywhere. Spec sheets and CAD can be downloaded, printed, and emailed faster than from a website, enabling engineers to interchange one manufacturer’s component for another’s and download CAD models in seconds, instead of the 15 minutes average download time for a CAD model on a computer.

Even when designing on one, two, or three computer screens, the fourth screen – a cell phone – can enable design engineers to spec motion control design systems, speeding incorporation of components into the process.

Easier, faster, automated

An app user can enter the product number of a linear bearing into the interchange function, and other manufacturers’ comparable product numbers will pop up as options.

Downloading CAD is quick and instantly usable because the file is in its native format. Typically, apps have more than 20 native and neutral formats available, so the user does not have to manually recreate the 3D model or start by looking at a 2D drawing.

At least one mobile app offers a rated life calculator to help designers predict how products – such as one from NB’s Slide Guide series – will perform. Users can then print or email results in a PDF format.

A product’s CAD is downloaded in seconds in the engineer’s required native and neutral formats.
A CAD model of a linear ball screw actuator.

Why mobile is so fast

Dan Koivisto, technical consultant for Cadenas PartSolutions, says when designing the CAD catalog for an app, “We’re the engine behind the CAD, but we don’t have static CAD models stored. We create them on the fly – as configured and requested by the customer. This approach is very lightweight and versatile, making them easily accessible via mobile devices and email. This is how NB Linear, Nippon Bearing’s app, is able to provide instant 3D previews and instant downloads in hundreds of 2D and 3D formats.”

On the NB Linear Mobile app, users identify what they need by choosing a product type. The app then directs the user to a listing of specific part numbers. Product part numbers or series names can be entered. Users can then download CAD spec sheets, add them to favorites, or add them to a cart.

Typically, engineers will determine the part they want aided by the app, check specifications, download the CAD model, email it to their computer, and then call or email the manufacturer to order it. The manufacturer then sends the order to a local distributor for fulfillment. If engineers have questions, the app emails the manufacturer while it is in use.

Two linear ball screw actuators.

Interchange products

For users who want to find NB’s products that are interchangeable with a different manufacturer’s product, NB Linear Mobile app provides choices. From the menu bar, select Product Interchange, choose a manufacturer, partially enter a part number or the full part number, and click Go. Users can download the part’s spec sheet or CAD. Once the NB part number is identified and entered into the CAD download function, the eCAT Viewer by Cadenas launches and can be configured and emailed.

Right: Search screen on the NB Linear Mobile app. Far right: After selecting buy, enter the part number or series name in the search icon in the top menu, then the CAD 2D or 3D model can be download instantly. Its PDF spec sheet can be selected and it can be added to Favorites and Shared.

Brian Pinkham, NB Corp.’s national sales manager, notes that some distributors have moved away from using NB’s website and only use the NB Linear Mobile app because it is much quicker.

A distributor already knows the item being searched for when using the app. The customer can tell the distributor a part number from another company and the distributor can get an NB part number. The distributor can immediately interchange on the app and send the customer a CAD within 5 minutes.

“I use the app for all my CAD now. I also use it for all my PDF catalog sheets. If the customer wants a copy of a catalog page, I can have it emailed to myself within 30 seconds,” Pinkham says. “I’ve downloaded CAD while with prospective customers. We’ve downloaded them at trade shows to show them how quick it is. We show them how you can do it on your phone or your tablet.”

Cadenas PartSolutions

NB Corporation of America