The patent's assignee is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Product edition systems are known to include Computer-Aided Design or CAD, which relates to software solutions for authoring product design. A number of product and programs are offered on the market for the design of objects (or parts) or assemblies of objects, forming a product, such as the one provided by
"Many products conceived today such as aircrafts or satellites are achieving a high level of complexity. The product is divided into a plurality of components and sub-components.
"The components and sub-components of a product designed and developed in a given design stage are usually represented using a tree.
"FIG. 1 gives an example of product tree. A product tree has a hierarchical structure allowing to organize the assembly of components and subcomponents. In this specification, the following terminology is used. A product 100 is composed of sub-products described by sub-product instances 101, 102. A sub-product 101 may also comprise one or several other sub-products 103, 106 described by their own instances. Additionally, a sub-product may be defined by one or several geometry parts 104, a geometry part being composed of one or several geometry cells 105.
"In the description, the term instance refers to the instance of a class, ie an object with a behavior and a state, both defined by the class.
"As an example, a skateboard product is composed of several sub-products consisting into a board, two skateboard trucks and four wheels. The board sub-product instance comprises two geometrical parts. A first geometrical part corresponds to a plywood board and a second geometrical part corresponds to a grip tap. The geometrical part corresponding to the plywood board comprises one or several geometrical cells. For example a first geometrical cell is used to set up the thickness of the plywood board and a second geometrical cell is used to set up its width. It appears that the use of a tree is very useful to describe a product design because of its hierarchical structure.
"The skilled person would appreciate that this way of describing a product can be used with any other terminology.
"In an existing product edition system as CATIA (Trademark), the selection of a component in a product defines a path that may be used as a unique identification marker of the said component. A component may be selected for example by clicking on it.
"For example, if the geometry cell 105 in the tree provided by FIG. 1 is selected, the associated path starts from the product 100, passes through the sub-products instances 101 and 103, passes through the geometrical part 104 and is terminated by the geometrical cell 105. This path can be described by using the following syntax:
"The selection of a component in a tree and therefore of a path indicates to the product edition system that the user intents to modify the selected component or, in the case of a sub-product instance, to modify the position of the associated sub-product in the product. For example, the user can select a geometrical cell corresponding to an edge associated to a geometrical part in order to indicate where a round or a fillet should be created. Alternatively, the user can select the said edge in order to introduce a constraint with another component. It can be used for example to ensure that the edge is parallel with a second edge associated to a second geometrical cell, the said geometrical cell belonging to another sub-product instance.
"In most of the existing systems, once a component has been selected and its associated path has been constructed, a context in the user's session is defined based on the current UI-active component. A UI-active component is a component that defines the available set of commands that are available to the user by its position in the product tree.
"FIG. 2 represents a product tree with a geometrical part selected as the UI-active component. At this stage of its design, the product 200 comprises two main instances 201, 205. The product instance 201 comprises two sub-instances 202, 204. The sub-instance 202 comprises a geometrical part 203 and this geometrical part 203 comprises a geometrical cell 206. In this example, the geometrical part 203 is selected as the UI-active component. Therefore, the user can modify the geometrical cell 206. If this geometrical cell 206 corresponds to an edge of the geometrical part 203, the functionalities that are required to modify them are made available to the user. As an example, the user may create a round on this edge. However, he cannot modify geometrical parts other than 203.
"FIG. 3 represents a product tree with an instance of a sub-product selected as the UI-active component. This product tree is similar to the one provided by FIG. 2. The product 300 comprises two instances 301, 304. Instance 301 comprises two sub-instances 302, 306. In this example, instance 301 is selected as the UI-active component. Therefore, the system activates the functionalities associated to this working context. Then, the user can modify sub-instances 302 and 306. As an example, the user can introduce a constraint between those two sub-instances that will change their relative position in the product.
"The major concern of this approach is that that the product tree needs to be displayed for the user to select the appropriate UI-active component. Additionally, it is required for the user to have a good understanding of how the product is represented in the product tree. As the designed products may be very complex, those may comprise hundreds of components. Therefore, it may be difficult for the user to find rapidly where are located the components he wants to modify and then to find out which appropriate component he should be select as the UI-active component.
"The process for selecting a given component as UI-active is not straightforward and may be confusing for the user. For example, if the user wants to modify the geometrical cell 305, he has to display the product tree, he has first to find out where is the current UI-active component. If instance 303 is the current UI-active component, the next step is to find a parent element of geometrical cell 305. This parent element can be instance 302 or geometrical part 303 in the tree. The next step is to select one of those components as the new UI-active component. Then the user can activate the appropriate functionality required for modifying geometrical cell 305 the way he wants."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "In order to address the above issues, it would be desirable to develop a solution easing the manipulation of the components of a product and therefore to enhance productivity.
"According to the invention, there is provided a computer-implemented method of designing a product, the product being composed of an assembly of components organised hierarchically in a product tree, the method comprising the steps of:
"initially selecting a component;
"determining a path comprising the product tree's components located between the root of the product tree and the initially selected component;
"navigating through this path by using a scrolling mean in order to choose a candidate component among the path's components;
"selecting the said candidate component as a perimeter of design action PDA component;
"activating at least a functionality required for modifying the component defined as the perimeter of design action.
"In a preferred embodiment therefore, the initially selected component is chosen as the default perimeter of design action.
"The initially selected component and the candidate component can be selected by a user on a graphical representation of the product.
"The initially selected component is selected for example by positioning a cursor on a given area of the graphical representation of the product and by clicking on it.
"The initially selected component is the component that has the lowest hierarchical level in the product tree and on which the cursor is positioned at the time of selecting it.
"In further aspects of the invention, shortcuts towards the functionalities that have been activated for modifying the component designated as the perimeter of design action are displayed near the graphical representation of the product.
"In another embodiment, the initially selected component and the candidate component can be selected on a graphical representation of the product tree.
"In a preferred embodiment, the scrolling mean is a scroll wheel comprised in a computer mouse.
"Alternatively, the scrolling mean can be a touch screen on which the user interact with two fingers, the candidate component being moved towards the higher levels of hierarchy of the product tree when the two fingers move away from each other, and the candidate component being moved towards the lower levels of hierarchy of the product tree when the two fingers approach each others.
"The component designated as the perimeter of design action can be highlighted on the graphical representation of the product.
"The invention has also for object a computer program product, stored on a computer readable medium comprising code means for causing a computer to implement the method described previously.
"The invention has also for object an apparatus for designing an assembly of objects in a system of computer-aided design, the apparatus comprising means for implementing the steps of the method described previously.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"The foregoing will be apparent from the following more particular description of example embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating embodiments of the present invention.
"A better understanding of the embodiments of the present invention can be obtained from the following detailed description in conjunction with the following drawings, in which:
"FIG. 1 gives an example of product tree ;
"FIG. 2 represents a product tree with a geometrical cell selected as the UI-active component ;
"FIG. 3 represents another product tree with an instance of a sub-product selected as the UI-active component;
"FIG. 4 provides a simplified diagram of the method according to the invention;
"FIG. 5 represents a product tree in which a component has been selected as the perimeter of the design action.
"FIGS. 6a is a three-dimensional representation of a product comprising a plate and a set of screws;
"FIG. 6b gives an example of a product tree that can be associated to the product illustrated on FIG. 6a
"FIG. 7a illustrates the step of initially selecting a geometrical cell in a product ;
"FIG. 7b illustrates the selected path that has been constructed after selecting the geometrical cell ;
"FIG. 8a illustrates the step of setting up the product instance associated to the fifth screw as the current PDA component ;
"FIG. 8b gives the location of the PDA component a the selected path;
"FIG. 9a illustrates the step of setting up the product instance associated to the set of screws as the current PDA component ;
"FIG. 9b gives the location of a PDA component in the selected pat
"FIGS. 10a and 10b show how a constraint between the plate and one or several screw can be introduced;
"FIG. 11 shows the effect of applying a constraint between a screw and a hole in a plate;
"FIG. 12 shows the effect of applying a constraint between a set of screws and a set of holes in a plate."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Diguet,
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