3D shape search extends re-use beyond parts

By Erwin Argyle

When you know two parts are similar a world of re-use possibilities opens

The answers to many engineering questions lay “hidden” in your enterprise data. We help you answer questions that pertain to 3D data – questions like:

  • How should I manufacture a part shaped like this?
  • Which of my suppliers offer items like this one?
  • Can we identify the very similar component parts used across our product line and select one as an internal standard?
  • What price did I pay last time I bought a part like this?
How Geolus 3D shape search drives part re-use

These questions have a recurring theme. There is a need to identify similar 3D parts. 

Parts are inconsistently named. Engineers choose part names that make sense to them but that naming logic might be different to that of the colleague at the next desk. Design teams often work in silos solving similar problems and therefore create similar parts but nearly always with dissimilar names. Naming conventions vary with each person, department, division and subsidiary. Inconsistency of names is compounded when dealing with purchased parts because the naming convention will vary with each supplier.

Traditional search is based on keyword. Inconsistent naming prevents established search methods from returning exhaustive results. This inability to find similar parts promotes the expensive culture where “it is easier to create a new one than find a finished one that does the job”. This leads to part proliferation and resources wasted re-inventing solutions that already exist.

What we need is to add shape as a search criterion.

3D shape search overcomes the limitations of traditional keyword-based search. 3D shape search will find similar parts even if one person calls it a fastener while another person calls it a clip.

It will find a part even if its name was misspelled or left blank.

What’s the real value of 3D shape search?

Sometimes the goal is just to find a similar part. Early in the design process an engineer can use even a coarse shape to find a finished part. This kind of re-use has enormous value in the effort to limit part proliferation. Even using an existing part as a starting point has significant value and is a very subtle way of promoting best practices. For example, adopting a metal thickness, fixing bolt group or blend type from a finished part will force fewer changes to downstream processes such as manufacturing, simulation, assembly, maintenance, and recycling. But wait, there is more…

Beyond part re-use

Every part has associated data. This could be cost, supplier, projects where used, design or manufacturing know how, work instructions etc. It is the sum of your past experiences with 3D parts. Shape search enables ordered browsing of this data such that decisions concerning similarly shaped parts can be informed decisions.

When you know two parts are alike a world of possibilities opens!

associated data

A set of similar parts is the steppingstone to the information needed to answer those questions that head this article. Shape search is needed to create this collation of data. You can:

  • Compare prices of similar parts and use that information to negotiate a better deal
  • Identify candidate standard parts, stop part proliferation and free resources to innovate elsewhere
  • Speed up that classification initiative knowing that similar parts are likely to be in the same class

Shape search helps you answer the big question –

“What did we do last time we processed a part shaped like this?”

When you have a set of shape search results the associated data for the topic of interest is now much more easily collated and browsed.

Teamcenter manages your parts and your data. Geolus Shape Search provides another way for that data to be collated and displayed in Teamcenter clients.

Geolus Shape Search is structured as an add-on component which means that Siemens Partners and Independent Software Vendors can contribute to the experience of providing additional insight into your business.

There was recently a webinar on Geolus Shape Search and the Teamcenter clients that offer shape search. The replay for that Webinar can be found here.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at