Design the Future 2: Enabling Design Re-use through Predictive CAD

Project: Research


"Engineering Design work typically consists of reusing, configuring, and assembling of existing components, solutions and knowledge. It has been suggested that more than 75% of design activity comprises reuse of previously existing knowledge.

However in spite of the importance of design reuse activities researchers have estimated that 69% of companies have no systematic approaches to preventing the reinvention of the wheel. The major issue for supporting design re-use is providing solutions that partially re-use previous designs to satisfy new requirements. Although 3D Search technologies that aim to create a Google for 3D shapes have been increasing in capability and speed for over a decade they have not found widespread application and have been referred to as a solution looking for a problem! This project is motivated by the belief that, with a new type of user interface, 3D search could be the solutions to the design reuse problem.

The system this research is aiming to produce is analogous to the text message systems of mobile phones. On mobile phones 'Predictive text' systems complete words or phrases by matching fragments against dictionaries or phrases used in previous messages. Similarly a 'predictive CAD' system would complete 3D models using 'shape search' technology to interactively match partial CAD features against component databases. In this way the system would prompt the users with fragments of 3D components that complete, or extend, geometry added by the user. Such a system could potential increase design productivity by making the reuse of established designs an efficient part of engineering design.

Although feature based retrieval of components from databases of 3D components has been demonstrated by many researchers so far the systems reported have been relatively slow and unable to be components of an interactive design system. However recent breakthroughs in sub-graph matching algorithms have enabled the emergence of a new generation of shape retrieval algorithms, which coupled with multi-core hardware, are now fast enough to support interactive, predictive design interfaces. This proposal aims to investigate the hypothesis that a Predictive CAD system would allow engineers to more effectively design new components that incorporate established, or standard, functional or manufacturing geometries. This would find commercial applications within large or distributed engineering organizations.

This project is an example of how data mining could potentially be employed to increase design productivity because even small engineering companies will have many hundreds of megabytes of CAD data that a Predictive CAD system would effectively pattern match against."
Effective start/end date1/08/1731/07/20


  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £587,009.00


Computer aided design
Mobile phones
User interfaces
Data mining
Computer systems