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Machine Design

A search engine for CAD geometry

Geolus Search software can track the geometry of parts stored in several databases and find needed shapes in the blink of an eye, working from either simple text descriptions or approximate geometry.

Geolus Search can generate maps showing what is available in a particular database. Each item is a representative part for a group of similar parts. Background circles indicate a relative number of similar parts.

The software searches through candidates by comparing tessellated (made of tiny triangles) versions of CAD geometry. (All CAD programs produce tessellated representations.)

The geometry found by the program lets designers avoid starting designs from scratch. In addition, finding two or more similar parts gives companies cost advantages. For instance, ordering several similar parts together means production will need fewer or simpler setups. And the software may find costly duplicate designs that can be discontinued.

"A user who wanted to find a particular screw in the company database could start with a simple text description," says the software's developer Marco Potke. But searching "screw" might only pull up a couple of items. On a second try, the user might tell the software to look for an item 30% larger than an item found in the text search.

A search on approximate geometry will probably return more hits than a text search simply because the search word is misspelled, foreign terms are used, or the needed item was hidden under "bolt." The software can also look for an exact match, one close, or one just similar. On a database of about 15,000, searches take just milliseconds.

"Still another way to search would be for the user to shape concept geometry in UGS NX CAD software and then hit the Geolus button in the menu," says Potke.

To use the software, an engineer first identifies databases to search. Geolus Search works through them to classify geometry (models) it finds and saves a "fingerprint" of the part.

"Initially it takes about 15 seconds per part," says Potke. "But after that, it takes only milliseconds to search many thousands." Once set up, users would ask the search software to index a new part (save its " fingerprint") so it can be readily located when needed.

UGS Inc.,

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