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Feature-Based Applications in CAD/CAM

T.N. WONG
Department of industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering
University of Hong Kong

Abstract "a geometric form or entity whosc presence or dimensions


are rcquired to perform at least one CIM function and whose
availability as a primitive permits the dcsign process to occur.”
CIM[LUBY86]

"a feature
region
is a of interest in a part model” [WILS88]

Form-features are in general classified into design features


and manufacturing features. though some design features can
also be manufacturing features as well as inspection features.
Introduction From the design point of view , a design feature is a functional
With conventional CAD CAM systems, geometric models feature which encompasses mainly geometrical details. For
usually require the elementary part definition data to describe instance’. simple mechanical parts may be described by a set of
the geometry and topology of the components. For wireframe features such as hole, slot and pocket. In geometric modelling,
type of geometric models. the geometric data comprise the thereforc, form-features are treated as the geometric macro
vertices and the edges. For surface modellers, the data may which arc groups of geometric entitles. Users can model the
include the control points and the corresponding equations for object in a higher level of abstraction and eliminate some tedious
the appropriate surfaces types. For solid modellers, the data low levcl intermediate modeling processes. From the point of
include the primitives such as blocks and cylinders which build view of manufacturing, features can be used to represent shapes
up a CSG (Constructive Solid Geometry) model, and the which are of significance to process planning and manufacturing.
hierarchical data structure and the corresponding geometric Conscquently, manufacturing form-features are regarded as
entities which describe a B-rep (Boundary representation) model. groups of geometric entities with somc manufacturing semantics
These conventional types of CAD models may be sufficient for attached. Thcse information can be used in process planning
the description of the shape and dimensions of a mechanical functions including process selection. process sequencing and
engineering part, but the geometric model cannot provide any NC part programming. For instance, a groove feature may he
information directly on the method of manufacture. An imporant associated with rules for selecting tools for the building of the
process in the integration of CAD CAM systems for manufacturing groove procedure that estimate the cutting time, or default
automation is to link up the topological and/or geometrical data values for parameters that the designer chooses not to specify
and the manufacturing data. To accomplish this task, it is necessary explicitly.
to gcnerate the appropriate machining cr information from a CAD
model. In this regard, the use of features have been considered In respect of CAD/CAM integration, there are mainly two
to be the technology which bridges the gap between CAD and approaches in using‘ form-features, that is, feature recognition
CAM in the CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) and feature-based deign. In feature recognition, application
environment. features are automatically or interactively recognized from a
geometrical mc,clcl of the object. In the interactive feature
definition approach. features arc defined by human assistance
Feature Technology or interactively. In the design by features approach, on the other
The impetus of features is to devise a method which can hand, a product model can be buitt by using pre-defined features.
carry information throughout the product life cycle. In other
words, features can be used to associate high-level semantic
information to the part. Therefore,
Feature Recognition
features should contain
geometrical and technological information as well as the Feature recognition endeavors to automatically recognize
manufacturing semantics. However. feature technology is still at and extract appropriate features from a geometrical model. To
its infancy and the majority of current applications are achieve this. geometric reasoning techniques are used to
concentrated on the description of the geometry and form of a interrogate the data structure of the geometric modeller. The
component. This particular kind of features is called form- geometric modeller in consideration should usually be a solid
features. To cover the complete product life cycle and to includc modeller, othewise, the amount of data available in the geometric
design, analysis and manufacturing aspects, features can be model may not be sufficient for the geometric reasoning process.
categorized into form features, precision features, material features Substantial research efforts have been spending and some notablc
and assembly features [SHAH88b, SHAH91a]. In recent years. results have been published [GRAY77, HEND84, JOSH87,
form features are increasingly used in CAD/CAM to define KUNG84, LEE87, PARK83, WOO84, WOOD88].
product information. Hence, for CAD/CAM applications. the
meaning and applications of features are usually confined to As can be seen jn the litcratture, scveral different approaches
those of form-features. The meaning of features is application- and techniques have been tried in the various feature recognition
dependent. Thus, it is not unusual that even for form-fentures, systems. For example. WOO lWOO84] used the geometry
there exist different definitions in associaltion with the different decomposition approach and features are viewed as volumes to
kinds of application domains as viewed by different researchers. be removed by a machine operation. He introduced the concept
For instance, some of the definitions are : of cavity features. That is, features, as primitives, are the materials
to be removed or machined. Given a CSG tree of primitive
“a set of connected faces related to a specific manufacturing volumes and the Boolean operators used in building a part, the
process” [HEND84] cavity types werc deduced from the spatial relationships of the
primitive volume faces.

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IIE Feature-Based Applications in CAD/CAM

and cylinders
in terms
in a CSG modeller, the designer describes a part
of a blank part and features such as holes, pockets,
grooves and reliefs. However, design and process planning
features are usually different. A step hole is viewed as a single
Henderson [hend8-1] worked on B-rep solid modellers, feature from the designer's point of view, will be considered by
proposed the approach based on feature volumes, In his a process planner as a combination of two features.
algorithm, knowledge of both the finished part and the stock are
assumed. Thedesired part will be subtracted from the stock to In the work by I.uby et al [LUBY86], features are specific to
obtain the cavity or delta volume. The boundary representation applications in casting. A texture library containing 10 casting
of the delta volume is then converted into PROLOG assertions features is provided and users can carry out the design by add,
that describe the various faces, edges and vertices, as well as subtract and manipulate the features.
their adjacency relationships. An extracted delta volume will be
searched to match with the set of predefined feature rules In the feature-based modelling system introduced by Shah
describing slots, pockets and holes. and Rogers [SHAH88a, SHAH91a, SHAH91b] there exist a feature-
based modelling shell and a feature mapping shell. The feature
modelling shell contain all the necessary facilities for creating
a product database except the actual definition of features. The
solid representation of form features, exreassed in generic CSG
syntax and later converted to solid modeller specific commands,
is stored as CSG subtree and Boolean operator. On the other
hand, interpretation of feature data is application-dependent is
Mainly due to the reason of non-uniqueness in representing handled by the feature mapping shell.
a part using the CSG solid modeller, feature recognition is not
easy. In contrast, a B-rep model provides explicit model In the system QTC (Quick Turnaround Cell) [CHAN89], the
information about vertices, edges and faces of an object, it is then approach of DSG (destructive solid geometry) is used. The
possible to develop heuristic rule and algorithms to carry out system QTC is based on the polygonal solid modeller TWIN.
geometric reasoning to extract features from the hierarchical Users working on QTC should firstly instance a stock solid which
face-edge-vertex data structure. is alway a rectangular block. After that, users can then instance
and position features on the stock. The features correspond to
stock removal represented as volume that is to be subtracted by
Feature-Based Design Boolean operations.
Using the feature recognition approach, design can be carried
out using conventional CAD systems. However, feature In another system ACES [WOKG92], part geometries are
recognition requires that each featurc has a pre-defined pattern based on machined surfaces. In ACES, a component is represented
primitive or rule-based template, and only a limited number of by two groups, of information, namely, the machined surfaces
features can be recognized. Besides, the actual maching process (features) description and the surface stacking relationship. The
is tedious and complex. Therefore. the approach of feature- machined surfaces description includes all the geometric and
based design is getting more and more popular [ARAB82, CHO184, technological information for all machined surfaces existing in
LUBY86, MANT89, PRAT84, SHAH88a, SHAH88b, SHAH91a. the component. While the surface stacking relationship of a
SHAH91b, WILS88, WONG92, WONG93]. The feature-based machined part is denoted by a treestructure of machined surfaces
design approach, also known as design-features or feature- (Figure 2). After developing the geometric model, a knowledge-
based modelling, provides the designer with a set of features in based automatic process selection and sequencing algorithm
a feature library. A designer, applying the appropriate modelling will operate on the surface stacking tree to generate the
operators such as the Boolean set operators in the CSG solid appropriate process plan and machining information.
modellers, can then build the product model with all the
predefined features. Apart from the shape and geometry, the Feature-based design has attracted a lot of attention in CAD/
other downstream functions in the product life cycle can also CAM research. In particular, a number of current research
make use of the same feature information. projects in CAD CAM and CIM are working on the integration of
CAD/CAPP CAM functions using the feature-based modelling
Figure 1 depicts an example of the feature-based model of approach. An example of such projects is the prototype system
a part. In the feature-based model, the features can carry reported by Wong & Wong [WONG93]. Using the object-
information regarding process planning, manufacturing, and oriented approach. the feature-based design system provides an
inspection as well. In other words, the designer can choose the intelligent interface between a CSG based geometric modeller
manufacturing processes while he/she is working on the design. and the process planning (J functions. The geometric modeller
This is in fact an approach towards design for manufacture used in this project is the AME (Advanced Modelling Extension)
(DFM) which demands that manufacturing requirements be of the commonly used AUTOCAD. The concept of feature-
simultaneously considered with structural and functional object is proposed to espress the semantics of integration. Input
requirements in the product design phase. Besides, as the product to the feature-based design system is the Object-Attribute-Value
is being developed, the designer can invoke downstream (O-A-V) triplets coding of a workpiece. Based on the AME
applications to evaluate the design, for example in terms of geometric modeller which is in fact a CSG based solid modeller,
manufacturability, and obtain immediate feedback on the impact the validity of the input geometric features will be ensured.
of the design on these downstream functions. From the deasign According to the knowledge provided in the rule-based feature
point of view, feature modelling should replace the low-level mapping system, the design information will be transformed into
concepts by higher-level concepts that have direct significance the appropriate process plan and manufacturing instructions.
from the point of view of the designer. Hence, instead of blocks

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Feature-Based Applications in CAD/CAM
IIE
Conclusions [SHAN91b] Shah. J.J.. “Conceptual development of form features
and feature modelers”, Research Engineering Design, Vol
This short note gives a very brief review on feature technology 2. pp. 93-108. 1991.
and the applications of form features. In summary, the feature [WILS88] Wilson. R.. and Pratt, J., “A taxonomy of features for
recognition process is tedious and complex, and the number of solid modeling”, Geometric Modeling for CAD
features that can be recognized is limited. On the other hand. Applications. pp. 125-136, 1988.
feature-based design is considered to be the key factor in [WONG92] Wong, T.N. & Siu. S.L. “An automated process planning
integrating CAD/CAPP/CAM in the CIM environment. Howevcr, system for prismatic parts”. International Journal of
the feature-based design approach is still in its early stage of Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Vol 5. No 4&5, 1992,
development and is limited by the number of pre-defined features pp. 319-333.
available in the feature library. [WOSG93] Wong. T.S. & Wong, K.W.. “A feature-based design
system for computeraided planning”, Production Research
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Figure 1 Feature-based model of a part [MANT89]

I---- --i---‘

Figure 2 Features (machined surfaces) and the surface tree [WONG92]

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