A Lineage-Based Referencing DSL for Computer-Aided Design
3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) modeling is ubiquitous in mechanical engineering and design. Modern CAD models are programs that produce geometry and can be used to implement high-level geometric changes by modifying input parameters. While there has been a surge of recent interest in program-based tooling for the CAD domain, one fundamental problem remains unsolved. CAD programs pass geometric arguments to operations using references, which are queries that select elements from the constructed geometry according to programmer intent. The challenge is designing reference semantics that can express programmer intent across all geometric topologies achievable with model parameters, including topologies where the desired elements are not present. In current systems, both users and automated tools may create invalid models when parameters are changed, as references to geometric elements are lost or silently and arbitrarily switched. While existing CAD systems use heuristics to attempt to infer user intent in cases of this undefined behavior, this best-effort solution is not suitable for constructing automated tools to edit and optimize CAD programs. We analyze the failure modes of existing referencing schemes and formalize a set of criteria on which to evaluate solutions to the CAD referencing problem. In turn, we propose a domain-specific language that exposes references as a first-class language construct, using user-authored queries to introspect element history and define references safely over all paths. We give a semantics for fine-grained element lineage that can subsequently be queried; and show that our language meets the desired properties. Finally, we provide an implementation of a lineage-based referencing system in a 2.5D CAD kernel, demonstrating realistic referencing scenarios and illustrating how our system safely represents models that cause reference breakage in existing CAD systems.