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  1. Engineering 1000Chapter 7: Synthesis

  2. Outline • Introduction to synthesis • Design space • what is it? • complex and large design spaces • expanding and limiting the design space • Design by accident • Synectics • making the familiar stange • making the strange familiar • Analogies • direct, fantasy, personal, symbolic, biological • Morphological charts • Prototypes and proof of concept • Exercise R. Hornsey

  3. Introduction to Synthesis • Synthesis: the putting together of parts or elements so as to make up a complex whole (Oxford English Dictionary) • So far we have been systematically building up towards a design solution • we worked out what the design should do • we clarified our objectives and added constraints • we refined the problem statement and structured the problem • we generated new ideas and thought creatively • we structured the search for solutions to sub-problems • Now we are seeking to combine the various elements into a selection of complete and potentially workable solutions • the selection between these potential solutions will occur in the analysis phase R. Hornsey

  4. Design Space • What is ‘design space’? • it is a mental framework encompassing all the potential solutions to a design problem • the concept of ‘space’ is useful because it conveys the idea of freedom to movement • Hence, a large design space has many potential solutions or many parameters, and may be difficult to navigate • e.g. a Boeing 747 has approximately 6 million parts • A small design space is highly constrained, with minimal ‘freedom of movement’ • e.g. the design of an image sensor pixel R. Hornsey

  5. Complex Design Spaces • A design space can be complex, even if is not large • Complexity can result from the interdependency of even a few parameters • especially if some of the dependencies are very sensitive to each other • or if precise conditions cannot be known • hence the system is hard to optimise • e.g. the image sensor pixel again • We have already covered how to deal with complex design spaces by decomposition • in other words, by subdividing the problem into manageable units • We will see a new one here – the morphological chart – which will help us to: • decompose the overall problem into sub-problems • identify a means to solve each sub-problem • synthesise the parts back into a coherent whole R. Hornsey

  6. Expanding the Design Space • When we talked about creative thinking, we were effectively developing techniques for expanding the design space • Using existing information • benchmarking competitors’ products • reverse engineering • patents • Team activities • brainstorming • convergent and divergent thinking (explorer and detective) • statement restatement • Kepner-Tregoe • In the same way we had metaphors for thinking – explorer, engineer, artist judge etc – we can have metaphors for ways to expand the design space R. Hornsey

  7. Design by Accident The story of Teflon® began April 6, 1938, at DuPont's Jackson Laboratory in New Jersey. DuPont chemist, Dr. Roy J. Plunkett, was working with gases related to Freon® refrigerants, another DuPont product. Upon checking a frozen, compressed sample of tetrafluoroethylene, he and his associates discovered that the sample had polymerized spontaneously into a white, waxy solid to form polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE is inert to virtually all chemicals and is considered the most slippery material in existence. These properties have made it one of the most valuable and versatile technologies ever invented, contributing to significant advancements in areas such as aerospace, communications, electronics, industrial processes and architecture. As DuPont registered trademark Teflon®, it has become a familiar household name, recognized worldwide for the superior non-stick properties associated with its use as a coating on cookware and as a soil and stain repellant for fabrics and textile products. The Teflon® trademark was coined by DuPont and registered in 1945; the first products were sold commercially under the trademark beginning in 1946. Applications and product innovations snowballed quickly. R. Hornsey

  8. Synectics • “A method of problem-solving, esp. by groups, which seeks to illuminate and utilize the factors involved in creative thinking” (OED) • it is designed as an aid to overcoming the barriers to creativity we explored in Chapter 3 • The principal exponent of synectics is W.J.J. Gordon • see “Synectics: the Development if Creative Capacity”, W.J.J. Gordon, Harper & Row 1961 (YUL BF 408 G64) • Synectic theory is based on three assumptions • creative efficiency in people can be markedly increased if they understand the psychological process by which they operate • in creative processes, the emotional component is more important than the intellectual, the irrational more important than the rational • it is these emotional, irrational elements which can and must be understood in order to increase the probability of success in a problem-solving situation R. Hornsey

  9. Synectics aims to promote creative thinking by two principal techniques • making the strange familiar • making the familiar strange • The root of this idea is the recognition that creative thinking is impaired in two potential ways • the problem is so far beyond our everyday experience that we cannot imagine how it could be solved • or that the situation is so familiar that we cannot conceive of a better way of solving the problem, e.g. a paperclip • [see Petroski’s books for discussions on the ‘perfection’ of paperclips] • To download a ‘lite’ version of the software Axon ‘idea processor’, which incorporates elements of synectic thought: • R. Hornsey

  10. Making the Strange Familiar • The mind tends to analyse a new situation by forcing the problem to fit existing preconceptions • the strangeness is compared with data previously known to eliminate as much of the strangeness as possible • this is the whole point of the paradigm and the paradigm shift • it is a reflection of the fact that human thought tends to be conservative • In engineering terms, one obstacle in this process is the quantity of analysis required for the translation • Equally, translating everything to the mundane also risks losing the innovation inherent in the strange idea R. Hornsey

  11. Making the Familiar Strange • “Genius . . . means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way” William James, The Principles of Psychology • This action is very tough to perform because strangeness and uncertainty are uncomfortable • To overcome this, synectics makes extensive use of analogies • personal analogy • direct analogy • symbolic analogy • fantasy analogy R. Hornsey

  12. Post-It Notes • Making the familiar – adhesive – strange by Art Fry from 3M My work has always been in new product development. Post-it note had its start in 3M's Central Research Department when Dr. Spence Silver was looking for ways to improve the acrylate adhesives we use in many of our tapes and in the medical, industrial and office markets. He was really trying to make them stronger by experimenting with new materials in the molecule and by changing the way they were made. What followed was a classic case of serendipity, where you find something you are not looking for. He had discovered an adhesive that formed itself into tiny spheres the diameter of a paper fiber. The spheres would not dissolve, could not be melted, were very sticky individually. When they were coated onto tape backing, they would not stick very strongly, because the little spheres made intermittent contact between the tape backing and whatever you tried to stick them to, as compared to normal adhesives with smooth surfaces that make complete contact. He tried it again, and got the same result. It is always exciting for scientists to be able to duplicate their work. Spence had discovered a new adhesive, but had no good idea of how to use it. If he had thrown it away, we all would have been the losers. Instead, he diligently told about his discovery to others in 3M that used adhesives. I went to one of his seminars and scratched my head, thinking that it was interesting, but I, too did not know how to use this new adhesive. This was a long introduction to your question about how I felt when I invented the notes and how I feel in retirement. I can remember the aggravation when it was time to stand up and sing in my church choir, only to find that the little piece of paper that I used to mark the music had fallen out, making me fumble about, trying to find the right page. This was followed by a dull sermon and my mind was wandering back to the music problem when I had one of those "flashes of insight": Eureka! I think I could make a bookmark, using Dr. Silver's adhesive, that would stick and remove without damaging the book. R. Hornsey

  13. The next day at work, I gathered paper and adhesive and prepared samples of the bookmark. I gave samples to my secretary, my supervisor, and to other colleagues. They were pleased to get them, but after two weeks when I asked them if they wanted more, they said the bookmarks were working well, but they had not used all of the samples I had given them. A short time later, I was writing a report and had a question about a piece of information, so I attached a sample of my bookmark to the report with an arrow pointing to the information and my question on the note. Bob Molenda, my manager at the time, wrote his answer on the bottom of the note and attached it to an item he was returning to me. It was during a coffee break the afternoon when we both realized that what we had was not just a bookmark, but a new way to communicate or organize information. Self-attaching Notes! Wow! we were very excited. My colleagues started using their bookmark samples as notes and soon were at my desk saying that they were instant addicts and demanding more samples. As the circle of addiction quickly spread within our product development laboratory, I came to the very exciting and satisfying realization that those little, self-attaching notes were a very useful product. This of course, was just the beginning of the innovation process. Samples had to be tested for every conceived and inconceivable application that we could think of. Many people thought they were frivolous or too expensive as compared to scratch-paper, but management still gave our small team the chance to continue. Our team soon was enlarged by others who recognized the merit of the notes and we set off on the tough task of building a business structure. I remember the reaction of engineering and production people who said, "What you are asking us to do is very difficult! None of our coating processes is suitable for your product. We do not have a good means of measuring the minute amounts of adhesive you need, and we can find no one that knows how to put sticky sheets of paper into the precise pads that you ask for!" I said, "Really. That is great news! If it were easy, then anyone could do it. If it really is as tough as you say, then we are the ones who can do it." People like a challenge that measures them. They like to contribute their time to something that they feel will succeed. We had many tough problems to solve in manufacturing, quality, packaging, and sales. It took a lot of us to solve those problems, and we all feel good about what we did. R. Hornsey quoted from

  14. Analogies • In the early 1940's, Swiss inventor George de Mestral went on a walk with his dog... Upon his return home, he noticed that his dog's coat and his pants were covered with cockleburrs. His inventor's curiosity led him to study the burrs under a their natural hook-like shape. • This was to become the basis for a unique, two-sided fastener - one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his pants. • The result was VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners, named for the French words "velour" and "crochet.” R. Hornsey

  15. Direct Analogy • Analogy: • inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others • resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike • The direct analogy makes links between the present problem and similar problems that have already been solved • Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is used for business strategy • Lego is analogous to real building bricks • “rip-stop” fabrics are derived from parachutes • to miniaturise an MP3 player, see how digital cameras are miniaturised • if you want to make a lightweight, strong laptop, look to see how other light and strong objects are made (e.g. planes) R. Hornsey

  16. direct analogy solution fantasy analogy Fantasy Analogy • ‘Fantasy” in this case is interpreted as ‘beyond belief’ • Many of today’s commonplace technologies were imagined by earlier science fiction/fantasy writers • escalator moving staircases (Arthur C. Clarke) • the laws of robotics (Isaac Asimov) • submarines (Jules Verne) • Fantasy analogies can be used to remove a block in the design process • “imagine the solution to this exists, and let’s carry on” • Or can be used to approach a practical solution from the reverse • “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” Albert Einstein R. Hornsey

  17. Symbolic Analogy • The symbolic analogy sums up the objective in a way that is not technically accurate but captures the essence of the situation • we want a car that moves like ‘greased lightning’ • a seal that is tighter than a ‘clam shell’ • a solution that is ‘outside the box’ • a basketball shoe that sticks to the floor ‘like glue’ • Many of these subconscious similes can suggest ways in which the problem can actually be solved • This can also involve ‘pictorial’ thinking • e.g. imagining electrons in an atom to orbit the nucleus like planets around a sun • electrons in a semiconductor to act like balls (see below) R. Hornsey

  18. Personal Analogy • In the personal analogy, the designer imagines being part of the system • when I teach how transistors work, I encourage students to “think like an electron” • electrons move in response to voltage gradients like a ball does to physical hills and valleys (a symbolic analogy!) • so you can imagine how you would respond to the electrical environment as if you were the electron • I used to think that this pictorial thinking was rather simplistic until I discovered that the famous physicist Richard Ferynman did the same thing for quantum mechanics • This requires a certain empathy with the problem at hand • i.e expertise and familiarity with the situation R. Hornsey

  19. Bionics – Biological Analogies • In many situations, particularly in mechanical and civil engineering, nature has solved the problem already • Velcro being a good example • animal backbones are similar to bridges • bamboo is similar to (and in some countries used for) scaffolding • tubes are used for mechanical stiffness in many applications e.g. truck crank shaft, spider legs, many plants, pipes, bones • artificial neural networks are based on models of the brain • radar and sonar are similar to the echo location of bats, whales and other sea mammals R. Hornsey

  20. Many medicines are derived from naturally occurring substances • a famous example is aspirin The effects of aspirin-like substances have been known since the ancient Romans recorded the use of the willow bark as a fever fighter. The leaves and bark of the willow tree contain a substance called salicin, a naturally occurring compound similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical name for aspirin. In 1897, a German chemist with Friedrich Bayer and Company was searching for a treatment for his father's arthritic pain and began to research acetylsalicylic acid, which worked well. As a result, he developed a product introduced as Aspirin. By 1899, The Bayer Company was providing aspirin to physicians to give to their patients. R. Hornsey

  21. Checklisting • Asking the appropriate questions can often hasten the determination of a solution • Checklisting is one approach to this which combines elements of Kepner-Tregoe and statement re-statement • what is wrong with it? • what doesn’t it do? • what is similar to it? • why is it necessary? • what can be eliminated? • how can its assembly be improved? • what new materials could be used? • in what way is it costly? • are there any other applications? • in what way is it inefficient? • can it be improved ergonomically? R. Hornsey

  22. Limiting the Design Space • All the previous examples were intended to expand the design space • but instead we sometimes need to limit the design space so we can reach a manageable solution • Here we can use some of the tools already introduced for structuring the search for a solution • general constraints (safety etc) • objectives and specific constraints (design goals) • order and structure our objectives (trees and Kepner-Tregoe) • eliminate impossible solutions R. Hornsey

  23. Morphological Charts • Morph charts are a widely used technique for getting an idea of the size of the design space and for synthesising partial solutions to the problem • morphology is the study of structure or form (Webster) • again, the start of the process is similar to the objectives tree, except we are primarily interested in features and functions rather than objectives • The morph chart is a means to select ideas that really work • The list of functions and/or features should be at the same level of detail in the objectives tree • and now we include all the possible ways of achieving these functions/features • we will return to our beverage container example from Chapter 2 … R. Hornsey

  24. Beverage Container Objectives Tree • Features and functions of the container might include • contain beverage • material for container • access to juice • display product information • sequence manufacture of juice and container • These are identified with the general objective to “promote sales” • How might we implement each item on the list? C.L. Dym & P. Little, "Engineering Design: A Project-Based Approach", Wiley, 2000 R. Hornsey

  25. Implementation R. Hornsey

  26. Beverage Container Morph Chart • The morph chart shows this information in a visually useful way • All we need to do is choose one option (1,2,3 …) for each feature, as above means feature/function R. Hornsey

  27. Design Space and Morph Charts • How many potential design options are there? • 4 x 6 x 6 x 3 x 2 =864! • Of course, not all of these 864 solutions are feasible • e.g. glass can with a tear-off corner • Hence the morph chart can be used to highlight impossible solutions and hence to limit the design space • constraints etc. can also be employed in the same way • also incompatible pairs can be eliminated (e.g. card and zipper) • this is effectively the activity of synthesis • Note that the functions and features were all identified with a fairly high (less detailed) level in the objectives tree • means of achieving shock and temperature resistance would be included on a separate morph chart because they were considered to be at much more detailed R. Hornsey

  28. Example:AnalogComputer C.L. Dym & P. Little, "Engineering Design: A Project-Based Approach", Wiley, 2000 R. Hornsey

  29. Prototypes • The next stage of the design process might be to build a prototype of the outcome of the morph chart • or to perform modelling or simulation of several of the options • A prototype is a working example of the finished design, or part of a design • it should resemble the final design as far as possible in its functioning • although the method of manufacture may be different (e.g. individually crafted rather than moulded or stamped – hand produced instead of mass-produced) • Extensive testing of the prototype identifies behaviours that were not anticipated in the original design and provides an opportunity to fix them • prototypes may also be used to obtain data for improved modellingm theory and simulation • Pre-production models (equivalents of beta versions of software) may also be tested on eventual users of the product R. Hornsey

  30. Proof of Concept • Proofs of concept are similar to prototypes but are usually closer to the ‘R’ end of R&D • They are typically versions of a final object that are restricted in some way • they are used to prove that an idea works and is worth exploring further • the idea should, in principle at least, be expandable or scaleable to the final object • For example • Marconi’s first transatlantic radio transmission • Bell’s first telephone call • Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley’s first transistor R. Hornsey

  31. Summary • In this chapter, we have explored the concept of design space and how synthesis fits within the design process • We looked again at how the design space could be expanded to increase the number of new design options • synectics is one technique for expanding the design space • we also considered analogies as a means to understand and solve problems • Morphological charts provide a good way to reorganise design possibilities • to help identify new combinations and to eliminate impossible combinations • Prototypes and proofs of concept are often essential ways of demonstrating and evaluating new designs R. Hornsey

  32. Homework • Read Chapter 7 of textbook • there are some sections we didn’t cover here • Read case studies 7.1 to 7.9 – they’re interesting! • Do problems 7.1 to 7.10 R. Hornsey

  33. Exercise – Forklift Truck • Use the morphological chart technique to design a forklift truck • used for lifting and carrying heavy loads in factories and warehouses R. Hornsey