TraceParts Inc. Launches New 3D Community

TraceParts launches 3DX, a new 3D user community.

TraceParts launches 3DX, a new 3D user community. TraceParts launches 3DX, a new 3D user community.


TraceParts is already established as a source for downloadable supplier models, but the company now also sets its sight on community building—3D community building, to be precise. The new community, dubbed 3DX (3D Exchange), came online this April.

As he conceived the idea for 3DX community, TraceParts Inc. CEO Bob Noftle considers the attributes of the two existing communities: SolidWorks 3D ContentCentral, which he helped launch when he was working at SolidWorks, and GrabCAD, a newer community (recently acquired by Stratasys).

“The notion [of 3D ContentCentral] was, we wanted to connect CAD users and suppliers,” Noftle says. But at some point, the site took on social attributes. It became a place to show off one's CAD skills or solicit feedback for rough ideas.

The same emphasis on social activities was also apparent in GrabCAD, a more recent community that emerged in the era of Facebook and cloud computing. Noftle saw GrabCAD as 3D ContentCentral 2.0, minus the supplier model library.

“3DX follows a little bit of both [predecessors] in the sense that we're applying more social media to the site, there is community sharing. We're also offering hundreds of millions of supplier-certified models,” says Noftle. Community member models offer you the option to “like” them or “share” them, as you might a photo on Facebook or a video clip on YouTube.

To attract new users, Noftle is offering certain social currencies, ranging from merit badges awarded to those who create and maintain interest-based groups to logos reflecting a member's expertise in specific CAD programs (it's an honor system). 3DX also hosts regular challenges, called 3DX Model Showdowns. Winners can get gift certificates up to $100.

The current list of groups consists largely of people devoted to specific CAD platforms: for example, groups for PTC Creo, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, and so on. There is a couple of interest-based groups, such as 3D Printing, 3D Hacker, and Star Trek Modeling Group. (The Star Trek group creator Trevor explains, “I created this group just because I love Star Trek.  I have been watching Star Trek since the first year of TNG (The Next Generation) when I was a young teenager.”)

Noftle encourages first-time visitors to “Think of 3DX as a combination of Facebook—sharing of models in the cloud—and LinkedIn for your professional side ... In general , just have a good time!”

DE readers who want to take advantage of TraceParts's supplier CAD library can download standard parts directly from DE's site here.

Podcast logo4



MP3 File


Share This Article

Subscribe to our FREE magazine, FREE email newsletters or both!

Join over 90,000 engineering professionals who get fresh engineering news as soon as it is published.

About the Author

Kenneth Wong's avatar
Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong is Digital Engineering’s resident blogger and senior editor. Email him at [email protected] or share your thoughts on this article at

      Follow DE