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

[+] Author and Article Information
Elisa Kwon

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Alexandra Pehlken

Cascade Use Research Group, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany

Klaus-D. Thoben

BIBA - Bremer Institut für, Produktion und Logistik GmbH, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Aimy Bazylak

Institute of Sustainable Energy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

L.H. Shu

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, University of Toronto, 5 King's College Road, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G8, Canada

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4042336 History: Received June 13, 2018; Revised December 14, 2018


This work is motivated by finding alternative uses for retired wind-turbine blades, which have limited disposal options. Two reuse concept-generation activities (CGA) 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 in 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 (VSI) 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 like 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.

Copyright (c) 2018 by ASME
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