Design via internet

As Tom Rodak (Commerx, Inc.) reported in today's time-constrained workplace, you can spend a great deal of valuable time trying to find the information you need to make product design decisions. Unfortunately, not many have the luxury of time. Unforgiving deadlines and customer demands make the ability to find information quickly a necessity. Over the past few years, the Internet has rapidly evolved as an ideal tool for locating this needed data. However, with the incredible vastness of the Internet, knowing where to go is key to success.

Currendy, a growing number of sites cater to the needs of product designers and engineers. From material selection and design software to educational programs and article archives, the Internet can provide a great deal of information at the click of a mouse.

The Plastics Network from Commerx, Inc. (www. plasticsnet.com) features a Sourcing Center that allows users to search for specific plastics related products and services. The site, which provides secure online ordering, enables users to compare vendors of similar products and services to get the best value.

Regarding materials selection, there are a number of company-specific sites on the Internet that allow you to search product lines by brand name, intended application, and properties. These include: GE Plastics (www.plasticsnet.com/ge), Bayer Corporation (www.polymers-usa. bayer.com), BASF (www.basf.com), Polymerland (www.polymerland. com), and M.A. Hanna (www.plasticsnet.com/mahanna). When searching for materials from a multiple number of vendors, there are several online material databases to visit. Some offer free access to information, while others require a fee for their information. Some of these include: IDES (idesinc.com), and PLASPEC (www2.plaspec.com).

In addition, the Material Engineering Center at Dow Plastics offers its PAMS (Processes and Materials Selection) system on the Internet to help designers match material and fabrication requirements with product and economic requirements (www. plasticsnot.com/moc).

Regarding supplier and product selection in addition to materials selection, there are several sites that allow users to locate and interact with suppliers of products and services. Some of these sites support online ordering as well. Developages (www.developages.com) allows users to locate companies that can assist with all areas of product development from design and prototyping through sales and logistics.

Regarding articles, educational information, and Networking in addition to sourcing vendors and selecting materials, the Internet makes it easy to locate article archives, register for educational programs, and network with other professionals.

Many industry trade associations have Web sites that provide a number of resources for designers. For example, the Web site of the PD3 (Product Design and Development Division) of the Society of Plastics Engineers (www-pd3.org) contains a Design Forum or chat area where users can discuss design challenges and exchange advice. They also provide a schedule of educational programs and links to helpful design articles.

The IDSA (industrial Designers Society of America) (wwwidsa.org) provides similar links, as well as opportunities to locate reference materials, job openings, and suppliers.

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