Development of Interdisciplinary Platforms Using System Objects
Abstract: Conceptually “form follows function”, as stated by Louis Sullivan. Physically however, form follows producibility. There is an erroneous notion that many customers can be provided with customized products, produced without any battle. In reality however, behind the walls of manufacturing companies, there is a constant struggle to combine the functionality and performance of complex products, while taking knowledge from manufacturing into account. Thankfully, there are a few shortcuts upon which manufacturing companies can capitalize. One of them is design reuse, i.e. there are elements of existing products and processes that can be reused in designing new products. Such elements do not have to be physical items. They can, for example, be laws of physics, mechanical properties, or known limitations of a manufacturing process. The use of platforms has proven efficient for design reuse. Platforms can accommodate product families, rather than a single product. By using platforms, common elements can be shared among the products in a family. Such design reuse has the potential of reducing development cost and make the development process more efficient. However, when developing a family of products, the evaluation of performance and producibility of multiple design alternatives becomes even more challenging, compared to that of a single design. Thus, to overcome this challenge, a platform development methodology is proposed to support the creation and evaluation of multiple design alternatives. First, we need to gather and store knowledge about similar products. Secondly, we need to be able to generate a family of design alternatives, and to somehow rank the family of alternatives by their feasibility. Thereafter, the inferior alternatives can be eliminated, and the good alternatives can form the basis for further development. Based on several industrial studies, the methodology has been developed to support modeling of known designs, generate several new alternatives, evaluate them and eliminate the bad ones. The methodology provides design engineers and system architects with the methods and tools needed to make credible design decisions early in platform development. The methodology builds on existing theoretical models, methods and tools, and describes platform system objects that support design reuse. The methodology serves three development levels, reflecting the level of design detail of the product family: 1) functional level; functions and alternative ways of solving them, 2) system level; system objects with design parameters, and 3) detailed level; conceptual 3D shapes. The three levels can be used iteratively, as the platform matures throughout the development process. The aim is to support design engineers and system architects in developing platforms for the early phases of development, and provide them with the basis for harmonizing between product performance and manufacturing capabilities, partly to reduce late and costly design modifications due to inferior producibility of products, but also to be prepared for future demands by accommodating the needs of a range of customers rather than a single customer.
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