Topic: metadata and workflow processes
Under the generic term of collaborative product commerce (CPC), a growing number of IT-tools is currently entering the market in order to empower Simultaneous Engineering over globally distributed workplaces. These tools concentrate on offering technologies that support and coordinate product design processes in a global environment. The result is a further increase of information flow, but no solution has been forthcoming for finding freely structured or even unstructured information easily.
We can surmise that in the future, the design process will be entirely different from today. It is probably safe to say that two-dimensional sketches on paper will be completely replaced by digital tools that allow the three-dimensional drafting of technical assemblies, maybe with the help of pattern matching routines. These smart sketching tools, fitted with classifiable geometric information, will enable quick interaction part catalogues, i.e. from manufacturing companies.
SVG are a W3C-endorsed internet standard for a syntax that describes graphical information in vector form, making it possible to include them into web-documents. SVG are based on XML and allow the classification of sketches by providing integrated descriptions of geometrical features. Another advantage of SVGs is the possibility of defining specific features and feature libraries by including meta-information directly into the files describing technical drawings.
It has already been tried to standardize such features for the early phases of product design in the form of symbols for sketches of principle. These are schematic, mostly freehand drawings of work principles for machine systems.
There are two possible scenarios for the integration of SVGs in the design process:
Today, many enterprises own hundreds of thousands of digitally stored 2D-drawings. These are either ordered through metadata or not ordered at all. Classification by geometric information for example with the Opitz-key, has been found to be too complex for practical use. With SVGs, it is possible to automatically identify individual mechanical elements in drawings and to classify the files accordingly.
The basis of most new designs is still a hand-drawn sketch on paper. Attempts at standardizing the symbols that are to be used in sketches of principle have failed, because they potentially impede the creativity of the designer. The idea is now to combine automatically identifiable SVG-primitives (i.e. "circle") with an extended description of construction elements from a library (hinge, screw, etc.) that the designer can select for his sketch. The designs that are described in this way are referenced into a relational database, thereby supporting complex search strategies. An example for a query could be: find all drawings with circles smaller than 25mm and a library element "hinge".
The aim of this project is to exchange the metaphor of the sketch of principle for a computer-supported concept which automatically adds construction meta-information to a sketch during its creation. Aside of classifying sketches generated with a SVG-Editor or scanned from paper and converted to a vector-based form afterwards, this SVG-based tool will allow easy retrieval of this data on simple database queries.
[Opi-71] Opitz, H.:
Die richtige Sachnummer im Fertigungsbetrieb.
Girardet-Taschenbücher Technik Bd. 2, Essen: Girardet Verlag 1971
Dr. Uwe Leonhardt Jan Hoffmann
Intelliact AG IMES-ZPE
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