Interactive facilities for collaborative feature modeling on the web


Collaborative modeling systems are distributed multiple-user systems that are both concurrent and synchronized, aimed at supporting engineering teams in coordinating their modeling activities. During a collaborative modeling session, several users are connected to each other in order to perform activities, such as design, manufacturing planning or evaluation, together, using some common product data. An interesting research challenge is to develop a collaborative modeling system that offers all facilities of advanced modeling systems to its users.
This paper focuses on the interactive modeling facilities required by such collaborative modeling systems. Previous work in the area of collaborative modeling is surveyed, and several techniques for interaction with feature models are presented, ranging from display of sophisticated feature model images to interactive selection facilities, which have been implemented in the web-based collaborative feature modeling system webSPIFF. It has a client-server architecture, with an advanced feature modeling system as a basis of the server, providing feature validation, multiple views and sophisticated visualization facilities.
The architecture of webSPIFF, the functionality of the server and the clients, their communication mechanisms, and the distribution of model data is described. In particular, maintenance and synchronization of model data at the clients, and techniques for their effective utilization for enhancing user interaction and collaboration are described. It is shown that a good compromise between interactivity and network load has been achieved, and that indeed advanced modeling with a collaborative system is feasible.


Feature modeling, collaborative modeling, web-based modeling, graphical interaction

download full paper