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3D search engines: now available at a computer near you

A new tool co-developed by a Concordia librarian allows its users to search by shape
October 21, 2014
By Cléa Desjardins

Michael Groenendyk is part of a multinational team that’s working to make the go-to site for finding 3D files Michael Groenendyk is part of a multinational team that’s working to make the go-to site for finding 3D files. | Photo by Concordia University

Now that 3D printing has brought a new dimension to computing, some internet users are looking for specific objects rather than sets of words. While Google has focused on making all online text searchable, a new engine called makes the objects produced by 3D printing just as easy to locate.

Although still in beta, this online tool is already revolutionizing the 3D printing industry. Concordia researcher Michael Groenendyk is part of a multinational team that’s working to make the search engine the go-to site for finding 3D files.

“It’s sort of like Google Images, but for 3D objects,” he says. “A shape-matching algorithm allows users to search for models based on their size and dimension. Users can upload their own model to shape-search with, or else choose one of the models from the database.”

A powerful database

Beyond just searching, is providing a way to index every 3D model available on the internet. 

Groenendyk, whose work as a business librarian has taught him a thing or two about cataloguing, is currently leading a team working to develop the database. “We’re basically crawling the internet to find and categorize every kind of 3D model content available! We’re also working with companies and websites to get access to content behind paywalls.” is like Google for 3D printing is like Google for 3D printing. | Photo courtesy of

Their ultimate goal: to bring together all digital 3D content under one searchable umbrella, so that it’s easier to access and filter for requirements such as file size or the type of license an object is shared under.

The next revolution in printing

“3D printing will completely revolutionize the education sector, perhaps even more dramatically than the internet has already done," says Seena Rejal, CEO of 3DIndustries — the company that launched Groenendyk, who is looking forward to seeing 3D printers installed in Concordia’s libraries, wholeheartedly agrees.

“Engineering and architecture students are already able to create and manipulate 3D designs in programs like AutoCAD and then print prototype versions of their designs, which they can review and rework as they see fit.”

Groenendyk sees 3D printing as a key teaching and learning tool — one that is helping bring to professors and students by allowing them to quickly find, use and manipulate the exact file they need, helping improve the process and make these new tools more accessible across the board.

Check out for yourself here.

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