Intelligent Mechanical Engineering Design Environment: From Sketching to Simulation
Christine Alvarado, Randall Davis
Interfaces to mechanical design systems seriously limit the user’s creativity, while freehand drawing does
not allow the user to interact with his sketch as a mechanical system. We would like to provide a natural
environment for sketching and developing mechanical systems. We are doing this by building an environment
that combines the creative freedom of freehand sketching with the technical feedback of viewing and running
the sketch as a 2D kinematic simulation.
The tradeoff between the ease of drawing a mechanical design on paper and the power of representing it on
a computer is too great. The unnatural feel of CAD and simulation software inhibits the design process,
so engineers design with pencil and paper, rarely transferring their designs to the computer until they are
An engineer should be able to sketch directly onto the computer, having it feel as natural as sketching
on paper, while being able to test their design through simulation at all parts of the design process. The
computer should keep track of the engineer’s actions and intentions, not only interpreting the sketch as he
draws, but also recording the design process by asking intelligent questions as he sketches.
Mark Gross has recognized the importance of sketching in design, emphasizing that drawing in design is
more natural and allows for more creative freedom. The initial sketches, he claims, can be essential to
understanding the reasoning behind a design . He has developed the Electronic Cocktail napkin–a system
for sketching conceptual designs–which incorporates his ideas on sketching in design .
Other important work upon which our system is build is the low-level sketch interpretation system built by
Luke Weisman and Manoj Muzumdar. It recognizes basic and more complicated shapes, including several
mechanical objects, and provides simple methods to work with the