Integration of a Solid Freeform Fabrication Process into a Feature-Based CAD System Environment

Suh, Young S.
Wozny, Michael J.
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To cope with the increasing market competition, the concurrent engineering (CE) concept is being adopted by many companies to reduce the cost and the cycle time for manufacturing quality parts. To build a successful CE system where designers and manufacturing experts work simultaneously, the appropriate management of the product information flow among the users is essential. The product information include high-level data such as design intent, part functionality and manufacturing processes, which traditional CAD systems cannot support. To support such high-level information beyond geometric data in the CE system, feature-based CAD systems have been introduced to associate engineering meaning to the shapes of the CAD model components. In these systems, users can manipulate the CAD models in terms offeatures, and software algorithms can simulate the human behavior by manipulating the high-level feature entities, as oppose to the low-level geometric reasoning processes with blind searching algorithms. One of the primary application of the current SFF processes is to fabricate design prototypes for fast design verification: The process is identified to be a valuable tool in the CE environment because it can reduce the significant amount of design cycle time. Therefore" it is desirable that the SFF process software is fully integrated into the environment by taking a feature-based approach. As the process requires extensive geometric reasoning procedures that are time consuming and require complex algorithms, the feature-based approach is appropriate, and more intelligent processing is possible. Also, an algorithm can be easily customized