About Us

Applied Search Technology Ltd. (AST) was formed in 2004 as a ‘start-up’ through Aston University’s Business Partnership Unit.  Aston University is located in Birmingham, U.K. and has a particular focus on Business, Scientific and Technical subjects.  The three founders of the company, Doug Love, Jeff Barton and Neville Holmes have an extensive industrial and research background in manufacturing, design and software development and all worked at Aston in research and academic roles. The core of CADFind grew out of an earlier research software system called CAMAC that was developed at Aston by the founders of AST.  CAMAC was an innovative system for component coding & classification.  It had a user friendly but manual interface for coding parts and a novel 'fuzzy' search capability which meant Camac could return the results of a search in order of 'similarity'.  CAMAC still required an engineer to interpret the drawing into a code so, even though it had a more efficient user friendly interface, it still suffered from the significant setup and on-going maintenance costs.  Studies showed that this was the main reason that coding and classification systems were abandoned by companies. The initial development of CADFind was aimed at reducing these costs by automating the coding process.  The application was focused on the coding and retrieval of 2D engineering drawings for two reasons:  at that time companies had far more legacy drawings than 3D models and secondly it was felt that if coding 2D drawings could be automated then 3D could be handled relatively easily by coding 2D projections of 3D models.   Coding 2D drawings was inherently much more difficult that handling 3D models.  At first sight this may appear counter intuitive, but, unlike 3D models, 2D engineering drawings are not pure geometry but contain much ancillary information, for example a title block, dimensions, textual comments, sections and machining marks.  All this must be automatically removed and the orthographic projections detected before the geometry can be coded (especially difficult with bitmap images).  CADFind was the first and still only system to be able to this and resulted in a patented technology and the formation of AST. The ability to automatically code drawings also means the ability to use existing drawings and sketches to search for similar parts; the user can literally “sketch and search”.  CADFind “Sketch & Search” was extended to include 3D models, giving the user the ability to search for 2D drawings and 3D models with either as the source (again a first for AST). The automated 2D technology of CADFind “Sketch and Search” was relatively expensive, this fact combined with the shift away from 2D drafting has meant that it must now be considered a niche solution and so is offered as a bespoke application where customers need either 2D or combined 2D/3D search capability.  With the wider take-up of 3D modelling, AST has now developed CADFind3D.  This purely 3D based system is a cost effective system which is currently integrated with SOLIDWORKS® but will be developed for AutoDesk Inventor®.
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An Introduction