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Thread: Searching by shape for 3D models on the web

  1. #1
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    Searching by shape for 3D models on the web

    I'm working on software to help engineers find 3D models on the web, and I'm interested in how you typically search -

    *How often do you need to search the web for 3D models to use as part of a design? Where do you typically find what you need?

    *If you needed a 3D model and could search using the shape of what you needed rather than the name, would you typically have a base 3D model you could use as input? A 2D drawing? A photo?

    Any input at all would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klukes View Post
    I'm working on software to help engineers find 3D models on the web, and I'm interested in how you typically search -

    *How often do you need to search the web for 3D models to use as part of a design? Where do you typically find what you need?

    *If you needed a 3D model and could search using the shape of what you needed rather than the name, would you typically have a base 3D model you could use as input? A 2D drawing? A photo?

    Any input at all would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    I search using Google.

    Experience has shown me to never use an unverified source 3D model off the internet.

    The time required to find and then verify the accuracy of the 3D model usually FAR exceeds the time required to simply build the 3D model from scratch.
    Last edited by Kelly Bramble; 11-11-2014 at 08:50 AM.

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    I only use models from the net to illustrate purchased parts and assemblies, so I always go straight to the vendors. I would never use someone else's model for parts that need to be fabricated. I also use 3D Content Central from within Solidworks, but I only fully trust the vendor models. I agree with Kelly and don't use anything from an completely unknown source. Getting the model from the vendor at least give me someone to go back to when the model doesn't match the item later on. If I cannot find a suitable (trustable) model, I model it myself right from the vendors specs.

    Timelord

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    Thank you both for your thoughtful answers. The trusted source makes sense, and I'm glad you brought up 3D Content Central as a place to find vendor models because that was exactly the case I was thinking of.

    Because 3D Content Central and other sites like TraceParts are vendor-based, do you ever find it difficult to find what you need if you don't know the particular vendor, model, or naming convention to look for?

    I'm asking because our software can conduct searches using a model, drawing, or photo as input, but I'd like to know if that's an application that fulfills a need.

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    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klukes View Post
    I'm working on software to help engineers find 3D models on the web
    Why do you think searching for a "shape" is of any particular benefit in design engineering? How do you envision this being helpful?

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    The "hypothesis" is this: If as an engineer, you're in need of a 3d model for a part but don't know the vendor or naming convention (or don't know the English word for the part!) you might use an example 3D model, a 2D drawing, a photo, or even a doodle of the part to search for a 3D model from the web.

    Does that sound like a likely situation or one that you may have had in the past?

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    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klukes View Post
    Does that sound like a likely situation or one that you may have had in the past?
    No... If I don't know what the part is then ---- I don't know.

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    Technical Fellow jboggs's Avatar
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    klukes, I applaud your efforts but, as one who uses downloaded commercial models almost every day, I don't think I would find your process to be of much value to me. The commercial models I use all consist of numerous 3D shapes. How many shapes are involved in a zero backlash gearbox or a servo driven linear actuator?

    For example, if I'm looking for a flexible coupling, I'm not going to search for "cylindrical hollow tubular thingy". (I know that's a little snarky but I couldn't resist.) That search term could bring up millions of models that have nothing to do with flexible couplings.

    Most components are named by their function not their shape. I'm not saying there is no value to your idea. I'm just saying I don't really see it.

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    jboggs - I'm sorry, I haven't explained myself well!

    So, when I say "search by shape", I don't mean that you type in the name of the shape you're looking for. Rather you would upload a photo of the actuator, a 2D drawing of it, or an existing 3D model as your search input, and then our software (which is a search engine) would bring you back 3D models from around the web that match the shape of your input.

    At it's heart, the idea is to transcend language, part numbering, file naming as a way to help you get to 3d models that look like the thing you need.

    I hope that makes sense, and I would love to get your response to it: Do you ever have the problem that you need a 3D model (or to identify a vendor that has a 3D model) of a part, but you don't know the exact name of it? If so, would you have "visual input" that you could use - 3D model, 2D drawing, photo - to help you find it?

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    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klukes View Post
    jboggs - I'm sorry, I haven't explained myself well!

    So, when I say "search by shape", I don't mean that you type in the name of the shape you're looking for. Rather you would upload a photo of the actuator, a 2D drawing of it, or an existing 3D model as your search input, and then our software (which is a search engine) would bring you back 3D models from around the web that match the shape of your input.

    At it's heart, the idea is to transcend language, part numbering, file naming as a way to help you get to 3d models that look like the thing you need.

    I hope that makes sense, and I would love to get your response to it: Do you ever have the problem that you need a 3D model (or to identify a vendor that has a 3D model) of a part, but you don't know the exact name of it? If so, would you have "visual input" that you could use - 3D model, 2D drawing, photo - to help you find it?
    So if one already has an image - they probably designed a place holder or already picked the desired end-item. Why do you feel that an image search will improve my search experience over that of a text search?

    How do you link functionality specifications to an image?

    Ever heard of Tineye?

    What is your experience in design engineering?

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    These are great questions and get to the heart of why I'm asking - I'll start with the last one:

    "What is your experience in design engineering?" - None! I'm a software product manager reaching out to people who do design engineering to see if what we think is a problem is actually a problem. My lack of experience in this area is what makes your reactions so valuable.

    "So if one already has an image - they probably designed a place holder or already picked the desired end-item.": You're identifying an important point of information for me: If you've designed the place holder or picked the end-item, would you (or someone in procurement who needs to source the part?) ever need to find a comparable item and need to use the shape for that?

    "Why do you feel that an image search will improve my search experience over that of a text search?" - We say "shape search" vs "image search" because we take 3D models, 2D drawings, as well as images as input and compare to 3D models. Your question is "why shape over text" - and the idea is that when you don't know the exact name of what you need or the vendor who supplies it, searching with the shape will bring you back 3D models from a variety of vendors from around the web. Does that problem of "I need to find this thing or who makes it but I don't know what the vendor calls it", ever happen for you?

    I do know Tineye - Tineye and other image searches are a bit handicapped because you're locked in to finding images that match the exact angle at which you took the picture. We can be more comprehensive because of the 3D model.

    Having the 3D model also gives us more information about the item that could act as filters for search, although you're right to point out that exact functionality specifications would not be possible.


    Thanks so much for engaging with this idea!

  12. #12
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Respectfully, I think you (like so many others in industry and academia) are over-simplifying mechanical design engineering process and challenges. Mechanical design engineering is a seriously difficult function.

    I think you need more design engineering experts in your round table discussions as well as time to define this product model. Moreover - less public discussions is likely in your best interest.

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    I hope I haven't given the impression that I feel mechanical design engineering is simple or easy! Rather, we're targeting a simple problem and working to get information on a number of fronts. Regardless, your thoughts have been appreciated.

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    klukes - It crossed my mind that you may be under the impression that commercial items used in mechanical design are known by brand names dreamed up by marketing types, like consumer items typically are. Example: low temp slow cooker = "Crockpot", or reclining chair = La-Z-Boy.

    Brand names like that are very rare in our field. If you want a single-acting, spring return, clevis mount, pneumatic cylinder that's what you look for. You search by function or specification.

    As far as the item's shape, the cylinder above will have an almost identical shape to a stepper motor driven internally guided linear actuator but its function is very different. Your idea seems very innovative, but I can't see how searching by shape would be of much help in the mechanical design field.

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    Yes, that makes sense - shape would have to be **********ed with other function-type filters, like product category or application.

    What I hear you saying is that typically when you're working on a design, you know that "function-based" name of the part you need to download, and it's therefore usually easy to find with a text search, whether it's on Google or a site like 3D Content Central. (You can tell me if that's an incorrect interpretation). That's very helpful, thank you.

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    I can add from over 45 years as a design engineer that I have never needed a part where I had a photo or a shape and didn't know the exact description and purpose. I'll add as a caveat that the idea may be useful for someone not familiar with a language, but you can also just translate the description and then search.

    Timelord

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    Timelord - Thanks, that helps quite a bit. It sounds like to me that with the way parts are named and tagged on the internet, it's fairly easy to find exactly what you need via description and purpose. It sounds like for this technology we need to be looking for areas where parts need to be searched but aren't "catalogued" as well as they are on the web, which might be the case for some internal systems.

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