In search of better search engines

We need you to validate what might be a better technical search engine for specifying and choosing automation components and systems for your machine control applications. Check this new site out.

By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

IF YOU'RE A REGULAR reader of Control Design or periodic visitor to ControlDesign.com, you know we write about how you specify and choose automation components and systems.

We editors watch and report about selection methodology because it evolves as rapidly as the technology you use. The Internet continues as the primary driver for these changes.
As part of our goal to make ControlDesign.com the website you think of first when you need to solve a machine automation problem, we’ve been sniffing around the available technical search tools. Some of you know we have a SpecSearch capability on the site. It’s powered by GlobalSpec, probably the most well-known and most used search engine in our industry segment.

The value of non-vendor-site technical search engines on the web is a double-edged sword. The databases that support the search engines are huge and include the products of nearly every automation component supplier you can think of.

As a giant buyers guide to give you company names, locations, and a laundry list of the products they offer, it’s pretty comprehensive and mostly accurate.

The value falls off dramatically if you try to do product comparison by inputting the physical and performance product characteristics you need. Too frequently, the “matches” generated are much too broad, or the criteria result in no matches at all, with no clues how to rectify it. Those of you I’ve asked about using these search engines to make component selection decisions are largely not satisfied.

So I’d like you to try something. If you’ve not used the SpecSearch feature, go to our site, take a few minutes, and spec out a motor. Use inputs that are relevant. See how it works for you.

Once done, or if you already know what SpecSearch does, browse on over to www.motioninfo.com and follow a few of the pulldown menu options for the component selector demo.

Now, you’ll never hear me or any other Control Design editor endorse anyone’s products based on our observations or the well-orchestrated presentations we often receive from suppliers. The reason you might want to evaluate this tool is that it seems to have addressed many of the faults of technical search, including guidance to help get a useful result, and even doing some of the formula-derived spec work for you. Most importantly, the Motioninfo tool has a set of adjustable search algorithms that are built for motion control.

One of its developers, George Gulalo, visited a year ago to introduce Motioninfo. He had great plans, but couldn’t show us how this was a better option than SpecSearch. We told him to go away and come back when he had something more tangible. We don’t like to waste reader time.

Well, last month George came calling again and showed us how far he has come. It’s far enough to see that one day this might help you.

I say “might,” because the database is woefully underpopulated. His team has to get crackin’ to input a lot more component supplier specs to make it representative of the available product universe. After they do the motors, they’ll need to do drives, motion controllers, feedback devices, etc. It might be a while.

That’s why I’m comfortable asking you to check it out now, before it’s done. The more of you who evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, the more feedback the Motioninfo boys can get to fine tune what’s behind the curtain. George says he wants to know what you think—good or bad.

So do I, since our search for tools that really help you never stops.


About the Author
Joe Feeley is Editor in Chief of CONTROL DESIGN magazine and can be reached at JFeeley@Putman.net.
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