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On Applying Machine Learning/Object Detection Models for Analysing Digitally Captured Physical Prototypes from Engineering Design Projects

05/07/2019
by   Jorgen F. Erichsen, et al.
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While computer vision has received increasing attention in computer science over the last decade, there are few efforts in applying this to leverage engineering design research. Existing datasets and technologies allow researchers to capture and access more observations and video files, hence analysis is becoming a limiting factor. Therefore, this paper is investigating the application of machine learning, namely object detection methods to aid in the analysis of physical porotypes. With access to a large dataset of digitally captured physical prototypes from early-stage development projects (5950 images from 850 prototypes), the authors investigate applications that can be used for analysing this dataset. The authors retrained two pre-trained object detection models from two known frameworks, the TensorFlow Object Detection API and Darknet, using custom image sets of images of physical prototypes. As a result, a proof-of-concept of four trained models are presented; two models for detecting samples of wood-based sheet materials and two models for detecting samples containing microcontrollers. All models are evaluated using standard metrics for object detection model performance and the applicability of using object detection models in engineering design research is discussed. Results indicate that the models can successfully classify the type of material and type of pre-made component, respectively. However, more work is needed to fully integrate object detection models in the engineering design analysis workflow. The authors also extrapolate that the use of object detection for analysing images of physical prototypes will substantially reduce the effort required for analysing large datasets in engineering design research.

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