Last month, Fujitsu Laboratories along with Fujitsu’s Research and Development Centre announced that they’ve developed a potent way for CAD designers to search through a CAD library. Just like you can use Google Image Search to look for similar images, you can look for any CAD model based on a keyword, yes, but also a desired shape.

3D CAD Search

The CAD library is categorized by the shape of its constituent model and its parts. So a 10,000 model library can be split up into 100,000 parts, all of which can be matched to the request regardless of orientation, position or size. Working with a library of this size, a search request can be carried out within 3 seconds.

They claim it was the first, but ShapeSpace also has the PartBrowser technology that is very similar. It’s no simple feat however. CAD geometry can be complex, varying both in size and shape. Orientation and position of models could impact how well a geometry recognition engine matches them to your request.

One current workaround on many sites is to tag the models or write a description with both able to be indexed. Thingiverse and GrabCAD have been particularly successful in creating usable CAD libraries by getting the community to tag and describe their submitted work.

Would this technology make their advantage moot? Probably not – by providing an easy-to-use search tool, designers could find the right parts to take an idea through concept quicker and makers always need a place to show their work off. (If a CAD design is rendered in a forest with no one around, does it make any sound?)

For communities like GrabCAD, it makes CAD modelling easier, but it may make infringement easier – easy-to-use can mean easy-to-steal. Then again, such a development would make it easier to trace unique work. Regardless, it brings CAD closer to the remix culture that dominates music and graphic art, especially when you consider the explosion in cheap 3D printers. No doubt it will simplify the job for Mechanical and Industrial designers – Fujitsu makes the claim that it reduces the design time by 90%. Would you agree?