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Giant databases of 3D computer-aided design (CAD) parts might be the stuff of commercial design firms and manufacturers, but Karthik Ramani doesn't have to venture out of his Purdue University lab to see the need for a search engine that can sort through it all. Ramani and his colleagues have created a program, 3DESS (three-dimensional engineering shape-search system), that promises to make searching for 3D CAD files easier. Internet search engines find two-dimensional images based on associated text, but 3DESS can find 3D images based on the shape of the object alone. In one application, users sketch the general features of the object they're looking for, and the program employs unique algorithms that search a database visually, to find the best match. 3DESS could give manufacturers an edge in today's economy. Ultimately, it could aid other 3D tasks, from surgery to drug discovery.
Date of Publication: Nov.-Dec. 2004