A Convolutional Neural Network Model for Predicting a Product's Function, Given Its Form

Matthew L. Dering, Conrad S. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Quantifying the ability of a digital design concept to perform a function currently requires the use of costly and intensive solutions such as computational fluid dynamics. To mitigate these challenges, the authors of this work propose a deep learning approach based on three-dimensional (3D) convolutions that predict functional quantities of digital design concepts. This work defines the term functional quantity to mean a quantitative measure of an artifact's ability to perform a function. Several research questions are derived from this work: (i) Are learned 3D convolutions able to accurately calculate these quantities, as measured by rank, magnitude, and accuracy? (ii) What do the latent features (that is, internal values in the model) discovered by this network mean? (iii) Does this work perform better than other deep learning approaches at calculating functional quantities? In the case study, a proposed network design is tested for its ability to predict several functions (sitting, storing liquid, emitting sound, displaying images, and providing conveyance) based on test form classes distinct from training class. This study evaluates several approaches to this problem based on a common architecture, with the best approach achieving F scores of 9 in three of the five functions identified. Testing trained models on novel input also yields accuracy as high as 98% for estimating rank of these functional quantities. This method is also employed to differentiate between decorative and functional headwear, which yields an 84.4% accuracy and 0.786 precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111408
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design - Transactions of the ASME
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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