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Author: Dong, Hong
Supervisor: Fadel, Georges M.
Institution: Clemson University
The packing problem, also named layout design, has found wide applications in the mechanical engineering field. In most cases, the shapes of the objects do not change during the packing process. However, in some applications such as vehicle layout design, shape morphing may be required for some specific components (such as water and fuel reservoirs). The challenge is to fit a component of sufficient size in the available space in a crowded environment (such as the vehicle under-hood) while optimizing the overall performance objectives of the vehicle and improving design efficiency. This work is focused on incorporating component shape design into the layout design process, i.e. finding the optimal locations and orientations of all the components within a specified volume, as well as the suitable shapes of selected ones. The first major research issue is to identify how to efficiently and accurately morph the shapes of components respecting the functional constraints. Morphing methods depend on the geometrical representation of the components. The traditional parametric representation may lend itself easily to modification, but it relies on the assumption that the final approximate shape of the object is known, and therefore, the morphing freedom is very limited. To morph objects whose shape can be changed arbitrarily in layout design, a mesh based morphing method based on a mass-spring physical model is developed. For this method, there is no need to explicitly specify the deformations and the shape morphing freedom is not confined.
The second research issue is how to incorporate component shape design into a layout design process. Handling the complete problem at once may be beyond our reach, therefore decomposition and multilevel approaches are used. One bi-level approach is tailored specially for the layout design with mass-spring physical model based shape morphing. At the system level, a genetic algorithm (GA) is applied to find the positions and orientations of the objects, while at the sub-system or component level, morphing is accomplished for select components. Adjacent objects expanding optimization is performed to find how the morphable objects push away their adjacent objects during the volume expansion. A gradient based local search is used for local perturbation of the positions of the objects after shape morphing. Although different packing applications may have different objectives and constraints, they all share some common issues. These include CAD model preprocessing for packing purpose, data format translation during the packing process if performance evaluation and morphing use different representation methods, efficiency of collision detection methods, etc. These common issues are all brought together under the framework of a general methodology for layout design with shape morphing. Finally, practical examples of vehicle under-hood/underbody layout design with the mass-spring physical model based shape morphing are demonstrated to illustrate the proposed approach before concluding and proposing continuing work.