Catalog maker works with 3D data

April 27, 2006
Our company used to convert existing 3D data into 2D technical illustrations for our spare-parts catalogs, which were printed on paper.

— Benno Macherhammer


A German company's digital catalog, published with CatalogCreator software, offers spare parts for the firm's pharmaceutical equipment. Customers can click on the 3D models to rotate them and to see the associated part specifications and prices. A firm on this side of the pond using the program would see the interface in English.

CatalogCreator software, with eXtensible Viewing Language (XVL) technology, has let us eliminate this time-consuming task. XVL compresses design files, normally too massive to use outside of engineering departments, into XVL-3D models, which are about 1% of the original file's size. The program lets us create digital catalogs directly from our Solid-Works 3D data and eliminates printing bulky paper documents. The catalogs can be published on CD-ROMs, online, or as PDF files.

The software is easy to use. It gives users a blank "electronic template" to create the catalogs. Users simply import an engineering department's existing 3D part-data (compressed through XVL) and price lists (in the form of Excel spreadsheets), and then link the models and prices inside CatalogCreator.

Completed catalogs include 3D illustrations that let customers view all sides of a part, for example, to confirm they are ordering the correct item. And they need only click on the models to see the associated part specifications and prices. The catalogs can also be set to operate through factory touchscreens.

We installed the software just four weeks before a large international packaging conference and worried about not having CD catalogs in time for the show. Our worry was wasted because the first electronic catalog was ready after only six working days. The six days included staff training, layout adjustments, defining an optimal workflow, and a full factory collection of about 60 assemblies and 3,000 parts.

In addition to catalogs, the program produces interactive user guides, service manuals, and training material. An e-commerce module lets customers order parts online. The program supports the product-life-cycle process according to DIN ISO 9000 and also supports different languages by using Unicode, an industry standard that provides a unique number for all text characters, letting every language be encoded for use by computers. A firm's American and European branch offices, for example, might use the software for technical documentation and management of globally designed products.

The software comes from CatalogCreator GmbH, Amberg, Germany (

Benno Macherhammer is managing director of the IT department at Seidenader GmbH, a German mechanical-engineering firm.

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