Mining for gold in mountains of information

Oct. 23, 2003
Set Google loose to hunt down some needed engineering data and it might pull up a few sites worth investigating along with thousands more that are trash. And Google is one of the best free search engines. A better way to look for technical information is with It's sort of an online technical library with every page in over 500 engineering books ready for searching.

Subscribers to the searchable library start work here. About 15 categories and over 500 titles appear to the right. Typing search terms into the fields programs the site to find all instances of those terms.
Searching for "FEA" and "plastics" pulls up 153 matches in 42 books. Clicking on the plus sign expands the heading, and clicking on the blue text presents the page with the search terms.
Charts bordered by a red rectangle are called active. For example, this one from Marks' Standard Handbook plots friction in pipes versus Reynolds number. Position the cursor over a curve and a yellow field tells the coordinates at that point. Click at the point, and the software records the coordinates in the X-Y window to the lower left. These can be exported to a report or an Excel spreadsheet for analysis.

Some of the site's tables and graphs are further programmed to make them more searchable. Most editable tables appear in the chemical sciences, but they show the software's potential. For example, a large table can be simplified or sliced and diced a myriad of ways by eliminating unimportant rows and column. What's left is a custom table of focused data.

The software could be used this way: If interested in knowing more about applying FEA to plastic parts, type "FEA" and "Plastic" into Knovel's search fields. The search engine will pull up matches (in this case, 153 matches in 42 books). It presents each book cover and heading where matches were found, and the number of pages on which search words appear. Hits in this case are all close to the subject. In the Antec 2002 (Plastics: Annual Technical Conference), for example, the heading Recommended Factors of Safety and Related Considerations looks useful. Clicking on the orange plus sign brings up a more-detailed heading. Clicking on the blue text icon pulls up pages from the book in .pdf format, which can be read and printed.

The initial search page lists the entire database of texts categorized by subject. There are 15 areas with over 500 available books. And that figure increases each week as the company puts more texts online. For example, the developer says Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain will soon be available with each equation interactive.

In fact, the method the company uses to process text and tables can be licensed so one manual or an entire company's library can be searchable in the same way. comes from Knovel Inc., 30 Main St., Danbury, CT 06810, (866)303-3336,

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