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Toshiba Breakthrough Brings Online CAD to Life

1 February, 2001


New Technology Supports Kinematic Manipulation and Collision Mapping

Tokyo--The last year has seen a surge in B2B transactions, as more and more companies edge towards net-readiness and take their business into virtual reality. However, while B2B has grown fast in purchasing, giving companies access to more vendors and better prices, there are still areas where it lags behind user needs.

This is particularly true in on-line collaboration in mechanical and electro-mechanical design and in electronic parts and components catalogues. To be really useful, both these areas need tools supporting kinematic manipulation, allowing designers and engineers not just to see graphic drawings of objects but to move them and to analyze if and how multiple objects fit together in a system. Toshiba has developed a tool that makes this possible.

3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) drawings can already be distributed through hyperspace. A popular tool for this is the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, VRML, which uses a polygon approximation format. Most CAD software and 3D graphics software support the VRML format and can import and export 3D geometry data. However, because of the complexity of geometric modeling, VRML supports only graphics. Toshiba's new tool brings these static images to life and makes it possible to create kinetic virtual mockups from VRML part data.

The essence of the new technology lies in the ability to take a mechanical assembly model composed of 3D part models in polygon approximation and to compress its immense volume of polygon data into fewer analytic surfaces. The resulting number of analytic surfaces is in the order of 2% of the original polygon surfaces, but still faithful to the original design. With no loss in complexity, planes, cylinders, spheres, cones and tori can all be modeled, while the fewer surfaces result in drastically fewer combinations of surfaces, allowing collisions of any pair of surfaces to be efficiently computed as algebraic equations.

These analytical surfaces generated can also be treated as mechanical features, such as shafts, holes, grooves, etc., and mechanical assemblies can be modeled in terms of the mate relations of these features. For example, a coaxial relationship between two cylinders corresponds to the assembly operation of inserting a shaft into a hole, while a plane-plane mate relation shows sliding on a plane. Toshiba's new technology supports automatic extraction of these features, opening the way to easy modeling of mechanical assemblies and mechanisms. Mate relations among these mechanical features are directly translated into a set of algebraic equations, and kinematics is directly computed on this algebraic representation.

The versatility of the new technology is readily apparent in its ability to present analytic surfaces results in near real-time 3D animation of kinematics simulation, accompanied with collision detections, on a PC platform. Another advantage is its simple integration of existing analytic surface based software components. Such software components, including collision detection and geometric constraint solvers, assure fast, reliable implementation of end-user application programs.

Toshiba is now getting ready to license its new technology to software vendors, a move that will further strengthen company's contributions to the tools, infrastructure, products and services essential for today's networked world. From the world's first MPEG 4 LSI, a must for next generation broadband PDA, to some of Japan's most popular web sites, Toshiba is positioning itself to provide customers with all the benefits of the digital revolution, in all aspects of B2C, B2B and peer to peer connectivity. Dedicated Toshiba organizations, such as the iValue Creation Company and the e-NET Business Division, are involved in numerous projects to advance the power of the Internet. These include development of display formats for the post-PC age, and international alliances such as that with Lockheed Martin Integrated Business Solutions, which is building a worldwide data-center business that will provide full support for global customers.


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