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Research Papers

A Computational Aid for Problem Formulation in Early Conceptual Design

[+] Author and Article Information
Christopher J. MacLellan

e-mail: cjmaclel@asu.edu

Pat Langley

e-mail: langley@asu.edu
Computer Science,
Arizona State University,
Tempe, AZ 85281

Jami Shah

e-mail: jami.shah@asu.edu

Mahmoud Dinar

e-mail: mdinar@asu.edu
Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering,
Arizona State University,
Tempe, AZ 85281

Although we chose to decompose an artifact in this example, the designer might similarly decompose any of five entity types.

Although these rules are reasonably simple, one can imagine more sophisticated variants that could provide even more useful suggestions to designers, but the latter would remain responsible for deciding whether, and how, to respond.

1Present address: Christopher J. MacLellan, insititution: Carnegie Mellon University, e-mail: cmaclell@cs.cmu.edu.

2Present address: Pat Langley, institution: The University of Auckland, e-mail: p.langley@auckland.ac.nz.

Contributed by the Computers and Information Division of ASME for publication in the Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering. Manuscript received July 18, 2012; final manuscript received May 19, 2013; published online July 2, 2013. Editor: Bahram Ravani.

J. Comput. Inf. Sci. Eng 13(3), 031005 (Jul 02, 2013) (10 pages) Paper No: JCISE-12-1115; doi: 10.1115/1.4024714 History: Received July 18, 2012; Revised May 19, 2013

Conceptual design is a high-level cognitive activity that draws upon distinctive human mental abilities. An early and fundamental part of the design process is problem formulation, in which designers determine the structure of the problem space they will later search. Although many tools have been developed to aid the later stages of design, few tools exist that aid designers in the early stages. In this paper, we describe Problem Formulator, an interactive environment that focuses on this stage of the design process. This tool has representations and operations that let designers create, visualize, explore, and reflect on their formulations. Although this process remains entirely under the user's control, these capabilities make the system well positioned to aid the early stages of conceptual design.

Copyright © 2013 by ASME
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Figures

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Fig. 1

The problem map ontology

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Fig. 2

An abstract coffee grinder design in Problem Formulator

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Fig. 3

Decomposition of the coffee grinder device artifact

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Fig. 4

Disjunctive decomposition of the coffee grinder device artifact in an earlier version of Problem Formulator

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Fig. 5

Disjunctive decomposition of the coffee grinder device in the latest version of Problem Formulator

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Fig. 6

Power transformation and its connected entities are highlighted when moused over

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Fig. 7

The dialog that pops up after clicking the add requirement button

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Fig. 8

The dialog that pops up after double clicking on a node with available decompositions

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Fig. 9

The designer dragging the grind coffee function into the must produce ground coffee requirement to create a link

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Fig. 10

The context menu that pops up when the designer right clicks on an entity

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Fig. 11

The electromotive force, induction, and mechanical work behaviors and their parent entities highlighted in successively lighter shades when a connected entity has been moused over

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Fig. 12

The do not operate when unsealed requirement and its parent entities highlighted in successively lighter shades by the search mechanism

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Fig. 13

The grind coffee entity is highlighted with red by Problem Formulator because it is currently unrealized by any artifact, implying that the user should connect it

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Fig. 14

A screen shot of the Problem Formulator tool with the completed coffee grinder example

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Fig. 15

System diagram for Problem Formulator

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Fig. 16

Database schema for Problem Formulator

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