Applications of CADFind3D

Design Reuse

Design re-use is commonly associated with standard components such as fasteners, spring pins etc. and the proliferation of such parts can be controlled by the implementation of preferred item catalogues, whether manual or computerised. Computerised versions which form part of CAD systems go beyond making the catalogue easy to access by also providing CAD models of the components which can then be inserted into the model as required. To help find suitable parts the standard components are parameterised, for example the parameters for fasteners might be thread size, head type, thread length etc. More than this, some systems actually prevent the designer from using components which are not in the catalogue. However strict this approach, it is ineffective for the many company specific parts e.g. clips, brackets, spacers and pins which, whilst common, are not easily standardised or parameterised. There are many stories of new components being designed when one already existed which would do the job. Before long there are a number of components, all slightly different, but performing essentially the same task. Each component has its own (different) part number, process route, stock policy, spares record etc. Hence, more significant than the design time are these inevitable downstream activities associated with each component that is designed. CADFind3D searches by finding matches on the size and shape of the 3D part and will produce matches even when the parts are not exactly identical.  This is because CADFind calculates a similarity ‘index’ for all the matches and then lists the parts in order of similarity.  That means parts may be found that when modified will suit the application at hand.  CADFind3D is quick and easy to use.  Load a part into your CAD system & click ‘search’.  CADFind3D can search 50,000 parts in less than 5 seconds! The economic case for design reuse is overwhelming. A US Department of Defense Standardisation Program estimated that re-use of existing parts would save $20,000 each time a new design was avoided, or $33,000 if new manufacturing tooling was required for the part. Another American study found that 20% of parts could be re-used unmodified and that another 18% could be used with some modification. This means that the potential for operational savings is huge. Even applying the lower (20%) figure to a company that creates 6000 new parts a year would mean that 1200 of them were unnecessary. Further, even if the Department of Defense costing's were over stated by a factor of 1000%, savings of 1200 x $2000 = $2.4M would be made per year.
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Over time new designs are continuously added to a company's parts repository even when it may have been possible to re-use an existing design. Design proliferation may occur because the designer was unable to locate a suitable part at the time it was needed or they may simply have failed to look properly. Over many years that may mean that the company's database contains a large number of very similar parts. Standardisation usually involves visual inspection the company's drawings or 3D models. Manual comparison methods are very slow, error prone and inevitably expensive - so much so that few companies attempt the process of rationalisation at all. Although research systems (and a few commercial) systems offer clustering of similar parts, none of these have been designed specifically for this task. CADFind research-based technology led to the release of the first commercial system in the world to allow user's to find their CAD drawings and models using graphical, shape-based retrieval. CADFind Pro can automatically identify groups of duplicate parts once the user can set the level of 'similarity' required. CADFind interfaces to 3D CAD systems (SOLIDWORKS at present) so that users can examine or analyse parts in more depth if required.

Rapid Estimating

Rapid production of quotations and estimates is a key competitive element in the operation of any specialist engineering company, particularly for those that offer bespoke design or manufacturing services. The time and resources required to produce comprehensive and accurate job estimates are a significant cost burden and the delays involved may make it difficult to respond within customer time scales. In many cases the company may have produced or quoted for a similar item before – if that past quote or job record can be found then it can be used as the basis of a new and more accurate quotation much more quickly than starting from scratch. The problem is finding that existing quotation or job from amongst the thousands that exist in the company's records. Any number of factors may make this process much more difficult than might be expected – the database may extend to 10’s of thousands of parts; the company may not use a consistent system for part numbers (for example, it might use customer numbers); the part or drawing number may say nothing about the characteristics of the item concerned ('123-789654'); part descriptions may be generalized ('bracket', 'spacer' etc.) or simply be unrecorded; the nearest item may have been made for a different customer, etc., etc. Even if the company uses Enterprise Resource Planning system, or has a Product Data Management system for its engineering data, the searches will be constrained by the fact that they are textual in nature – we are limited to examining the alphanumeric characters in the description or part attributes. These systems do not allow us to find something based on what it looks like - that is a match determined by the geometric similarity of two parts. We need to be able to 'find something that looks like this'. CADFind can do that. It allows the company's database of parts to be searched using geometry to find suitable matches. The system extracts the geometry of the target part from a customer's drawing (or it can be sketched roughly) and then scans its database of the company's drawings to find similar ones that have been estimated, planned or made before. A quick visual scan allows the user to select the most suitable part which can then be used as the basis of the new quote. CADFind’s catalogue(s) provide a convenient way to store customer solid models in a format that allows easy retrieval and flexible organization.

Group Technology

Cellular manufacturing has become increasingly common since the early days of  'Group Technology' in the mid 1970's.  Cells are organised around the manufacture of a group, or 'family' of similar parts. Similarity in this case relates to the way parts are made. Identifying potential cell families is a critical part of the cell design process. The process of finding families can be based on finding parts that look the same (i.e.shape similarity).  Most commonly this approach is done manually by visually inspecting the parts or 3D models. Alternatively Production Flow Analysis may be used but PFA suffers from problems of data accuracy and rigidity of manufacturing methods. Both methods are slow, error prone, therefore expensive and likely to lead to sub-optimal cell designs. CADFind’s research-based technology allows users to find groups of similar parts using geometrical, shape & size based retrieval. The system has a powerful analysis tool that automatically identifies potential families of parts and then allows the user to refine the groups interactively. This refinement facility makes full use of CADFind's extensive searching capabilities but allows an engineer's product and manufacturing knowledge to be properly employed in the process.
An Introduction