Geometric Limited was recently granted a patent titled “Geometry based search method for 3D CAx/PDM repositories” by the US Patent and Trademark Office (Patent no. 7,397,473). The patent outlines algorithms and methods to locate 3D CAD models based on shape data, unlike text and attribute based search methods.
Geometric’s 3DSearchIT is a shape-based search engine technology, built on patented algorithms such as this. Shape-based search is an intuitive process and improves productivity by enabling and encouraging information reuse through product lifecycle stages such as design, planning, manufacturing, procurement and inventory management. By encouraging reuse, it also has a potential to reduce overall product development time and costs.
Geometric’s Desktop Products and Technologies (DPT) business unit develops technologies and out-of-the-box (OOTB) software products that address productivity and knowledge management challenges for the engineering and manufacturing industry. The unit creates Intellectual Property and contributed close to 7% to the company’s revenues in Q1 FY09. Geometric licenses these technologies to OEM partners besides using them to design and implement customized process solutions for industrial customers. In the past, Geometric has received several patents for its Feature Recognition technology which is licensed to several OEMs in the CAD, CAM and CAE space.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
There’s a lot more here than meets the eye with this short announcement. As popular as text search engines, such as Google, have become over the past few years, I’ve wondered if there was something similar possible the MCAD community with the zillions of geometry-based parts that continue to proliferate Today, there are actually several out on the market, and although they have not received the notoriety of their text search engine counterparts, I think they will.
While there are several shape search engines on the market, they differ somewhat in their underlying technology and are used for different purposes, because they have a number of potential uses that continue to be discovered. For example, a shape search engine could be used to ensure that there are no duplicates of a design hidden away in enterprise MCAD part databases. A shape search engine could also be used by designers for identifying and reviewing design alternatives.
Starting with 3DSearchIT, let’s take a look at it as well as a couple other shape search engines currently available and the companies that develop them.
3DSearchIT (Geometric Limited)
I evaluated this product with SolidWorks 2007 when it was then known as 3DSearchIT for SolidWorks. 3DSearchIT is a shape (geometry)-based search engine that is CAD independent and, according to the company, can work with any 3D file format.
When asked about the Solidworks product, Rajnish Bharti, senior product manager, Geometric Software Solutions said, “We are seeking customization and implementation opportunities in 3DSearch domain. Going forward, our focus will be on customizing the technology for individual company's needs. The technology is CAD format agnostic and can be easily tweaked to support formats other then SolidWorks. 3DSearchIt for SolidWorks is an out of the box product based on our 3DSearch technology and was created with the intent to provide a technical preview of the possibilities. Moving forward, however, we will not continue to invest in this product.”
The future of Geometric's 3DSearchIT technology is as a modeler independent, geometric 3D shape-based encoding and search library running under a client/server architecture. By representing raw 3D data, 3DSearchIT’s technology provides a tool for 3D information retrieval and reuse at just about any scale. 3DSearchIT can be integrated with any PDM system and its Web-based part catalogs provide the ability to significantly reuse existing product data.
3DSearchIT technology can be used to find parts based on 3D geometry using feature recognition that extracts features and their parameters from solid models. It has applications in modeling, design, finite element analysis, machining, process planning, and cost estimation. Feature recognition is the ability to automatically or interactively identify and group topological entities, such as faces in a boundary representation (B-rep) solid model, into functionally significant features such as holes, slots, pockets, fillets, ribs, etc. The features that are not recognized automatically can be recognized using the interactive feature recognition capabilities. Feature recognition is what makes smart solids out of dumb solids, providing information that can be used for other purposes.
iSEEK Corp. is based on work that began with CAD and shape-based search algorithms, where the concepts of the software algorithms were developed at Iowa State University. Initially, the company’s founders realized there was a CAD search problem, where virtually all manufacturers struggled to manage their engineering information. CAD files, the core component of engineering data, are typically dispersed across an organization. Different versions of parts are often mixed together, and finding the desired file becomes a time-consuming process that is actually wasted time. This situation too often forces engineers to (re)design a part from scratch rather than spend time trying to find the existing part they need. iSEEK's development of CADSEEK was intended to eliminate this problem, as well as the issue of part redundancy. Simply put, the CADSEEK Search Engine is a geometric shape-based search module for finding and comparing parts or assemblies for similarity.
CADSEEK's surface-based algorithms can perform similarity searches including finding mating parts, finding parts used in higher level assemblies and within a given percentage, it can find the casting or forging from which a given part is manufactured.
The Visual Navigator uses the CADSEEK search engine algorithm to provide a complete visualization of CAD database files. These files are clustered by similarity and displayed as parts families, which vary in size depending on the number of files that make up the cluster. They can also be grouped by material, corporate division, project, supplier, etc. Parts can also be selected from the Visual Navigator to initiate a similar part search.
Another module presents 3D information of the Visual Navigator in 2D thumbnails with what the company calls the Digital Catalog. It presents the thumbnail images in a page format that can be browsed to find parts of a particular shape. The Digital Catalog is a thin client that operates in a Web browser. The Digital Catalog also uses metadata, text extracted from individual CAD files such as material type, dimensional data, thread pitch, designer name, supplier name and location, and cost. With CADSEEK’s Digital Catalog, searches can be based on combinations of geometric shape and metadata, a capability that can prove particularly useful because of the versatility of the search input parameters.
Geolus Search (Siemens PLM Software)
What is now known as Geolus Search was originally developed by software design & management AG (sd&m AG). In June 2006, UGS (now Siemens PLM Software) announced that it had acquired the shape search technology from sd&m, and renamed it Geolus Search (it was formerly sold as geolus SHAPE). It is basically a shape search application that allows manufacturers to quickly locate 3D models of digitally defined parts from large heterogeneous data sources on the basis of geometric similarity. The intent of the acquisition was to allow UGS to build advanced geometry-based search applications that promote data reuse and eliminate the time and expense associated with designing or purchasing duplicate parts. Today, it is used primarily by two distinct groups within enterprises – design/engineering and procurement. The core functionality of Geolus Search is as Siemens PLM's search engine for assisting with the development, control, and procurement of parts. Geolus Search is now one of Siemens’ PLM components, a family that also includes Parasolid and JT Open.
Siemens’ Geolus Search uses geometric CAD data for its search rather than alphanumeric characters. It can search a database of literally millions of parts and locate duplicate and/or similar geometry in seconds without the need for manual part pre-classification. The Geolus indexing operation is what creates the search database and begins with geometric “fingerprints,” small files that are the result of shape analysis. The results are then displayed as “thumbnail” images. This shape search method can be used by itself or as a complement to a traditional alphanumeric metadata search process that provides an efficient search technique.
Siemens knows that most new products are the result of modifications and improvements to existing designs. By providing manufacturers with the ability to locate parts based on geometric shape, Geolus Search can help stimulate new product designs because it can reduce the need for part redesign. Geolus Search can be used in virtually any PLM or CAD environment due to its support for data formats such as VRML, STL and JT, the latter being Siemens’ 3D data format for universal visualization and collaboration. And because most major CAD applications are compatible with JT, UGS plans to further leverage that support by using JT as the foundation for future Geolus Search development. Look for the Geolus Search technology to be more tightly integrated with Teamcenter, Siemens’ data management suite, in the future.
So, this all about searching for shapes, while reducing redundancy and maximizing reuse The evolution of geometric shape search engines continues as potential uses grow. As I said at the outset, shape search engines are just now coming into their own, and their potential is huge. Since, theoretically, shape search engines are MCAD package independent, I fully expect them to migrate to and become integrate with virtually all CAD tools in the near future. Doing so will obviously expand their potential user base within enterprises. While there are several shape search engines on the market and are used for different purposes, the number of potential uses continue to be discovered and exploited as geometric shapes may prove to be the ultimate universal language for design communication.
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Autodesk Unveils First Flexible Software Delivery Model for CAD Industry
Autodesk is adopting a new Flexible Software Delivery model for AutoCAD. Autodesk is the first company in the CAD industry to introduce this new software development and delivery model, designed to provide customers with earlier access to new features, delivered on demand, and provide them with the flexibility to choose which features to install and use. The new Flexible Software Delivery model for AutoCAD consists of two primary components: Subscription Bonus Packs and Product Updates. Subscription Bonus Packs containing new software features now available to AutoCAD subscription customers through the Autodesk Subscription Center. Subscription customers account for about 75 percent of licensed AutoCAD users. Subscription Bonus Packs will be released regularly and customers will be able to pick and choose which bonus packs to install, providing them greater flexibility in how they deploy their software. Product Updates are now automatically delivered to all licensed AutoCAD customers, providing regular access to patches and fixes. To date, about 200,000 solutions have been delivered to users.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Races Ahead with CATI and SolidWorks
For the second year in a row, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) has been presented with the challenge of adapting to a new car. Just a few weeks before the start of the 2008 racing season it was announced that the Champ Car World Series, in which Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing had competed since 1983, was to be absorbed into the Indy Racing League’s IndyCar Series. The Indy Racing League rules require a totally different car, and most of the races are held at venues of which NHLR had no experience. Its greatest enemy was time, and everyone within the team had to work hard to get the cars ready for the first race. In addition to the physical preparation of the cars its engineers had to analyze the car systems and make improvements based on experience. SolidWorks CAD Simulation software played an essential part. In fact the team did such a good job they were able to win on only its second outing in the IndyCar Series. Now that NHLR has passed the initial phase of changing series, getting used to a different car, and racing at new venues, the task is to improve and get in position to be a consistent front runner.
Innovation First and Autodesk Release New Robotics Curriculum
To spur greater interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in schools across the globe, Innovation First, Inc. (IFI) and Autodesk have released a new curriculum that is now included in the popular VEX Robotics Design System Classroom Lab Kits. Based on Autodesk Inventor software, the curriculum is designed to encourage students and educators to explore the exciting world of robotics by bringing real-world experience and hands-on learning to STEM teaching and lessons. All VEX Classroom Lab Kits are based on the popular VEX Robotics Design System, which can be used to create both autonomous and radio-controlled robotic devices and offer a fun, imaginative way for middle- and high-school students to develop crucial STEM aptitudes. Educators, coaches, and mentors all over the world teach students how to design and build robots using the design system and other VEX accessories. VEX Classroom Lab Kits make it easy for schools to order by combining a VEX robot kit with all the basic accessories and batteries needed -- with the added benefit of a bulk discount. The Autodesk VEX Robotics Curriculum is included at no additional charge with the purchase of the Classroom Lab Kit. As an individual item, the semester curriculum is available for US$199. Autodesk also includes one full license of Autodesk Inventor software with the Classroom Lab Four Robot Bundle Package. Two full Autodesk Inventor licenses are included in the Classroom Lab Eight Robot Bundle Package.
HP Completes $13.9 Billion Acquisition of EDS
HP announced that it has completed its acquisition of Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS). With this acquisition, valued at an enterprise value of approximately $13.9 billion, HP has one of the technology industry’s broadest portfolios of products, services and end-to-end solutions. The acquisition is, by value, the largest in the IT services sector and the second largest in the technology industry, following HP’s acquisition of Compaq, which closed in 2002. The companies’ collective services businesses, as of the end of each company’s 2007 fiscal year, had annual revenues of more than $38 billion and 210,000 employees, operating in more than 80 countries. As a business group, EDS, an HP company, will be one of the market’s leading outsourcing services providers – with the ability to provide complete lifecycle capabilities in health care, government, manufacturing, financial services, energy, transportation, consumer & retail, communications, and media & entertainment. The group is led by Ron Rittenmeyer, president and chief executive officer, who had served as EDS’ chairman, president and CEO, and remains based in Plano, Texas. HP’s Technology Solutions Group (TSG) will shift to EDS its outsourcing services operations, as well as portions of its consulting and integration activities. TSG will focus on servers, storage, software and technology services.
Noran Engineering, Inc. Becomes NEi Software
Noran Engineering, Inc. (NEi) announced that it was changing the company name to NEi Software. NEi Software’s core product NEi Nastran Finite Element Analysis (FEA) solver works with all major pre and post processors. NEi Software sells, supports, and conducts training for Femap by Siemens PLM Software and its own in house brands NEiFusion and NEiWorks for SolidWorks. NEiFusion and NEiWorks broke down long standing barriers between designers and analysts by providing a Nastran tool for the design stage that was easy-to-use, highly accurate, and shared results with analysts. NEi Software continues to develop new technologies that make engineering simulation more practical and feasible by reducing the time, cost, and effort required while improving the real world fidelity of virtual testing. The most recent examples include: Automated Impact Analysis (AIA) for drop testing, Automated Surface Contact Generation (ASCG) for modeling assemblies and shell like structures common in aircraft, ships and automotive, Progressive Ply Failure Analysis (PPFA) for in depth analysis of composite structures, and Design Optimization which finds solutions to problems that have competing parameters.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of man';"> MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
Geometric Granted Patent for Shape-Based Search Technology
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