It’s been discovered how to obtain 3D models of items within McMaster-Carr’s massive parts catalog.
If you’re not familiar with McMaster-Carr, it’s an online shop where you can place an order for all types of parts. Be it a very obscure nut, fastener, tubing or whatever, they likely have it within their 555,000 item catalog.
But here’s the really interesting part: many parts evidently provide an ability to download their 3D model right from the part’s webpage. According to an Instructable, you simply browse to the part, examine the part details and lo and behold, the top right corner of the page includes a download button. You can even select from a variety of download formats, including: EDRW, IGES, PDF, SAT, Soldiworks, STEP, DWG and DXF.
The one you want is STEP. Why? Because you can open that format in Autodesk Inventor Fusion or Fusion 360 (or a number of other 3D modeling programs) and export as STL format. Thus, you can literally 3D print many items from McMaster-Carr’s catalog directly! Check out the captive nut we downloaded ourselves at top. This process works!
We suspect McMaster-Carr included this feature so that engineers could verify the appropriateness of a given product within a design they’re working on, but with the introduction of widespread 3D printing, it seems that people could produce the part too!
However, printing such parts at scale by 3D printers is unlikely to happen, as the cost of the parts from McMaster-Carr is vastly lower than the cost of 3D printing them, especially in materials like metal. But for hobbyists that require the design of a peculiar part, this might be the way to go.
We haven’t heard of this happening, but it is theoretically possible for a robot to tediously download ALL of these 3D models and create a type of 3D model repository that mirrors McMaster-Carr. But why do that when the models are already provided by McMaster-Carr?