Evaluating Quantitative Measures for Assessing Functional Similarity in Engineering Design

Nandy A, Dong A, and Goucher-Lambert K. 2022. Journal of Mechanical Design 144(3).


The development of example-based design support tools, such as those used for design-by-analogy, relies heavily on the computation of similarity between designs. Various vector- and graph-based similarity measures operationalize different principles to assess the similarity of designs. Despite the availability of various types of similarity measures and the widespread adoption of some, these measures have not been tested for cross-measure agreement, especially in a design context. In this paper, several vector- and graph-based similarity measures are tested across two datasets of functional models of products to explore the ways in which they find functionally similar designs. The results show that the network-based measures fundamentally operationalize functional similarity in a different way than vector-based measures. Based upon the findings, we recommend a graph-based similarity measure such as NetSimile in the early stages of design when divergence is desirable and a vector-based measure such as cosine similarity in a period of convergence, when the scope of the desired function implementation is clearer.

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