A specialized search engine developed by engineers at Purdue University allows users to draw a sketch of a part or to select one from a database. The system then returns parts having similar shapes. They call it shape searching.

It’s like a special kind of Google that lets you search for parts based on their three-dimensional shapes,” said Karthik Ramani, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Purdue Research and Education Center for Information Systems in Engineering, or PRECISE.



Company databases are sometimes so vast that employees are often unable to find a specific part, meaning a new part must be created from scratch.



“You are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack,” Ramani said. “You have to remember that product variety and complexity have increased drastically.



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