Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 661–675 | Cite as

Developing alternative design concepts in VR environments using volumetric self-organizing feature maps

  • Philip C. Igwe
  • George K. Knopf
  • Roberto Canas


The conceptual design process has not benefited from conventional computer-aided design (CAD) technology to the same degree as embodiment design because the creative activities associated with developing and communicating alternative solutions, with minimal detail, is far less formulaic in its implementation. Any CAD system that seeks to support and enhance conceptual design must, therefore, enable natural and haptic modes of human–computer interaction. A computational framework for economically representing deformable solid objects for conceptual design is described in this paper. The physics-based deformation model consists of a set of point masses, connected by a series of springs and dampers, which undergo movement through the influence of external and internal forces. The location of each mass point corresponds to a node on a 3D mesh defined by a volumetric self-organizing feature map (VSOFM). A reference mesh is first created by fitting the exterior nodes of the VSOFM to sampled data from the surface of a primitive shape, such as a cube, and then redistributing the interior nodes to reflect evenly spaced hexahedral elements. Material properties are introduced to the mesh by assigning a mass value to individual nodes and spring coefficients to the nodal connections. Several illustrations involving the redesign of an ergonomic writing pen is used to demonstrate how the proposed virtual reality-based modeling system will permit the industrial designer to interactively change the shape and function of a design concept.


Haptic interaction Deformable solid model Self-organizing feature map Virtual sculpting 


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip C. Igwe
    • 1
  • George K. Knopf
    • 1
  • Roberto Canas
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.National Research Council Canada (NRC-IRC)LondonCanada

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