Save Time by Working with Vendor Files


If you haven’t heard of McMaster Carr, you’re missing out on an extremely valuable prototyping resource. They specialize in shipping hardware and of-the-shelf components really fast.

If you need bolts, drawer slides, rubber hose, angle iron, a pump, and a small staircase tomorrow; you can count on McMaster Carr to deliver. Of course that’s an exaggerated example, but my point is that they have everything you could ever need when building something.

The real prize in my opinion is their online catalog. Every online retailer in the world should strive to have a website like McMaster Carr’s. It’s so easy to find anything you’re looking for. Then when you find it, chances are that you’ll see this glorious button next to the description…

That’s right, has downloadable 3D models of most items. For free!

Do you know how helpful this is to someone working in CAD? You can select your desired format and import the geometry straight into your assembly. Huge time saver!

I download the models for pretty much everything from McMaster Carr. If it takes more than a couple of minutes to draw and they have it – download it. Bolts are a big one – when you can quickly find and download the exact one you need – why draw it?

Small Warning

You’ll notice the following warning when downloading 3D files from them:

“The information in this 3-D model is provided for reference only.”

This is because McMaster sources the components from different manufacturers. Some of the dimensions can vary depending on who made it.

THis bit me one time when the mounting holes on a drawer slide were different in real life vs the model. But the important dimensions (thickness & length) were true to the catalog. So my advice is to assume that the 3D models are correct but not enough to run a huge production run before testing the fit in real life.

Build only one first and record any changes you make to your parts so you can update the CAD models later. There is no sense in doing unnecessary work over-and-over.

What if McMaster-Carr doesn’t have it? isn’t the only source for vendor files. With the popularity of modern CAD, you can often find 3D models of components right on the manufacturer’s website. If not, don’t be afraid to shoot them an email to ask for one.

If they won’t hand it over, there is one last place you can look. is a collection of 3D models provided by other CAD users. When I was looking for a model of a Raspberry Pi, this is where I found it.

Of course you should be cautious of the accuracy in some circumstances, but most popular models are very well constructed and accurate.

I’m usually looking for a vendor model to help rough in enclosure sizes or clearances so accuracy isn’t usually essential. If you’re looking for something exact (mounting hole locations), always reference official documentation when possible.

All CAD models which you havent made yourself should be treated with the Trust but Verify policy.

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