Visual similarity to aid alternative-use concept generation for retired wind-turbine blades

E. Kwon, A. Pehlken, K.-D. Thoben, A. Bazylak, L.H. Shu
Journal of Mechanical Design
The challenge of finding alternative uses for retired wind-turbine blades, which have limited disposal options, motivates this work. Two reuse concept-generation activities (CGAs) conducted in German universities revealed difficulties with the parts' large scale and seeing beyond their original use. Existing methods, e.g., using functional analogy, are less applicable, since for safety reasons, these parts should not be reused to fulfill the same function. Therefore, this work explores the use of visual similarity to support reuse-concept generation. A method was developed that (1) finds visually similar images (VSIs) for wind-turbine-blade photos and (2) derives potential-reuse concepts based on objects that are visually similar to wind-turbine blades in these images. Comparing reuse concepts generated from the two methods, VSI produced fewer smaller-than-scale concepts than CGA. While other qualities such as feasibility depend on the specific photo selected, this work provides a new framework to exploit visual similarity to find alternative uses. As demonstrated for wind-turbine blades, this method aids in generating alternative-use concepts, especially for large-scale objects.
03 / 2019