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TRIZ for Evaluating Product Innovation

| On 03, Mar 2008

By Roberto Nani and Daniele Regazzoni

Abstract

This paper relates the use of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) to translate and manage silicone-based gasketing technology into new fields of application such as human necessities: baking and butchering, kitchen equipments and healthcare. The paper is formed by two main parts. The first part describes the approach used to identify new technological branches, starting from the intrinsic and extrinsic features of the reference technology. The second part of the paper thoroughly describes a case study regarding a specific kitchen-targeted silicone product. This approach is structured in order to define a new set of products and services targeting developers, start-ups and managing of intellectual property (IP).

Keywords

Intellectual property enforcement, patent search, time and space separation, silicone, colander

Intellectual Property Enforcement

Marketing strategies analysis, aimed at technological translation and developed by means of a patent investigation tool, together with the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) methodology, represent a valuable option to support strategies for technological innovation as well as a means of defense against competitors.1 This has the goal to stress the advantages for the subject matter experts (SMEs).

Starting from the silicone technology the authors:

  • Analyzed the patent portfolio of the main international companies operating in the silicone branch, without discriminating among the different fields of application;
  • Identified some technologies, among those at disposal of the SMEs, different from the silicone one but similar in terms of physical-chemical aspects;
  • Defined the compliance of these technologies to the needs of a potential evolution in the silicone branch.

The authors have specifically aimed to figure out the trend evolution of the most used kitchen tools if realized in silicone.

A patent investigation about silicone and similar technologies provided the researchers with the frame into which TRIZ solutions can develop. A patent investigation can be considered as a complementary activity in collecting problems – it helps to better define the working field and its limits. In this case, problems have been solved primarily by applying the ARIZ 85C algorithm.

This approach helped develop two new products that can be considered as evidence for the value of patent investigations:

  • As a real tool for the innovation of products developed and manufactured by SMEs;
  • As a method for saving time and increasing the quality of the collected information acquired by means of a strict use of appropriate Boolean algorithms on which the patent investigation is based;
  • Together with TRIZ principles to classify patents with an alternative method to the traditional international patent classification (IPC).

Marketing Strategy

The systematic approach proposed focusing on the following points:

  1. A marketing strategies analysis according to TRIZ tools and also based on an enhanced patent search method.The latter included:2
    • Definition of intrinsic and extrinsic features of the reference technology (silicone-technology)
    • Generalization of said features in order to detect different branches whose technology can export into the silicone-technology dedicated to silicone-made kitchen-tools
    • Enforcement of a new start-up in terms of production, selling and logistics
  2. A reclassification of the main functions of the silicone products according to TRIZ tools based on patent and commercial data, including:3
    • Determination of new arising contradictory areas and using TRIZ separation principles

TRIZ Generic Problem to TRIZ Specific Solution

According to TRIZ, detecting the generic problem must come first. In utilizing a technology without dismantling the corresponding manufacturing unit already in use was required. The generic problem was described as re-conversion.

The first effort was to find a generic solution (energetic model), which meant detecting some patent-classes compatible for production-process and materials with the plants at work. The next step was finding a specific solution by forcing the generic solution (forced model).

Kinetic model = intrinsic features

A kinetic model [M] = f(Class, r) of a system is an expression of class C to which said system refers and the intrinsic characteristic r of said class C. A kinetic model referring to the silicone technology is represented by the following Boolean expression:
[M] = f(C, r) = (((mould*) ‹in› (TITLE,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in› (TITLE,AB,CLAIMS))) (1)

where:

  • Mould = class C of the silicone technology
  • Flexible = intrinsic characteristic r of class C.

The classes (according to the IPC) characterizing the Boolean algorithm (1) applied to a patent database are shown in Figure 1.

  • Results set for query: M = (((mould*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS)))
  • Collections searched: European (applications – full text), European (granted – full text), U.S. (granted – full text), WIPO PCT publications (full text), U.S. (applications – full text)
  • 9,765 matched found of 10,446,533 patents searched

Figure 1: Main IPC Classes of Kinetic Model

Potential model = extrinsic features

A potential model [K] = f(Subclass, Extrinsic) of a system is an expression of the subclass or group S to which said system refers and the extrinsic properties E of said subclass or group S. It is represented by the following Boolean expression:

[K] = f(S, E) = (((gasket) ‹in› (TITLE, AB, CLAIMS) ) AND ((seal*) ‹in› (TITLE, AB, CLAIMS))) (2)

where:

  • Gasket = subclass S of the silicone technology
  • Sealing = functional action, as extrinsic properties E of subclass S

The classes according to IPC characterizing the Boolean algorithm (2) applied to a patent DB are shown in Figure 2.

  • Results set for query: K = (((gasket) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS) ) AND ((seal*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS)))
  • Collections searched: European (applications – full text), European (granted – full text), U.S. (granted – full text), WIPO PCT publications (full text), U.S. (applications – full text)
  • 26,706 matches found of 10,461,340 patents searched

Figure 2: Main IPC-R Classes of
Potential Model

Forced model

No relationship exists between the kinetic model and potential model, if taken separately. A model, capable of combining the class C and its intrinsic characteristic r, and the subclass S and its extrinsic properties E, exerts a force [F] acting on said system. M and K respect the following conditions:

Main IPC-R classes of M do not equal Main IPC-R classes of K

  • Main IPC-R classes of M = B29C: shaping or joining of plastics; shaping of substances in a plastic state, in general; after-treatment of the shaped products, e.g., repairing
  • Main IPC-R classes of K = F16J:pistons; cylinders; pressure vessels in general; sealings (16 child classes)

The statement (3) allows for the combining of M and K, constituting a model of the class C and its intrinsic characteristic r, and the subclass S and its extrinsic properties E.

The main IPC-R group obtained by the Boolean algorithm (2) is F16J15/10 (sealings with non-metallic packing compressed between sealing surfaces). Figure 3 represents the IPC code of classes constituting the main group F16J15/10.

Figure 3: IPC Class Code of
Main Group F16J15/10

The combination of every class forming the main group F16J15/10 with the Boolean algorithm (1) allows the individuation of two relevant IPC-R classes (Figure 4).

The relative global model is represented by the Boolean algorithms:
[K(b29c OR b65d)] AND [M] = (((B29C OR B65D) ‹in› IC ) AND (((mould*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in›(TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS)))) (4)

where:

  • B29C: shaping or joining of plastics; shaping of substances in a plastic state, in general; after-treatment of the shaped products, e.g., repairing
  • B65D: containers for storage or transport of articles or materials, e.g., bags, barrels, bottles, boxes, cans, cartons, crates, drums, jars, tanks, hoppers, forwarding containers; accessories, closures or fittings therefore; packaging elements; packages

Figure 4 shows the plot of the results obtained by the global model, in terms of IPC classes recurrence.

Figure 4: [K(IPC-R Class F16J15/10)] + M

The model represented by algorithm (4) can be forced. In the specific case “convertible” is one of the force that can be applied to the model represented by the algorithm (4):

[F]=((convert*) ‹in›(TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS)) (5)

The resulting exerted model is:
[K(B29C OR B65D)] AND [M] AND [F] = ((convert* ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND (( (b29c OR b65d) ‹in›IC ) AND (((mould*) ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS))))) (6)

The images shown in Figure 5 are taken form the patents obtained as a result of the exerted model (6).

Figure 5: EP1491456A2,
EP0853584B1, EP0738224B1

The results describe the state of the art referring to the specific features – convertible and converting, which are pertinent to the two relevant technological classes similar to the silicone technology (B29C, B65D). “Convertible” represents the combined conditions of separation in space and time.

At this stage, the patent classification obtained by exerting the energetic model described by the Boolean algorithm (4) by means of the following exert:
[F]=((40 principles) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS))(7)

Boolean algorithms specifying the actions and/or words and its related thesaurus have been performed according to TRIZ criteria and with reference to the 40 inventive principles in order to classify each application and patent (granted).2 This approach consists of:

  • Issuing an extensive list of actions and related thesaurus matching with Boolean operators,
  • Analyzing the patents by means of a commercial search engine on patent database and
  • Creating and filing the results.

The results of this further patent classification are listed in Figure 6 displaying the name of the TRIZ principle, the number of the patents characterized by the function of the principle and the pictures connoting some of the identified patents.

Figure 6: Pictures From Statement (7)

Product Innovation

This case study is about a specific silicone kitchen tool: a colander. It should be a new kitchen tool, made of an elastic and flexible membrane, capable of achieving a certain number of typical functions, thus developing the “traditional” colander into a “convertible” colander.
The traditional colander is a container for cooked pasta, rice or vegetables whose goal is to separate and drain food from the cooking water. This function is performed by means of small holes, placed along a regular pattern.
The convertible colander shares the main feature with the traditional one – it is a container characterized by small regularly drilled holes. But in the proposed version the holes are located only on the bottom. The colander (shown in Figures 7 and 8) is characterized by a bottom that is flexible and can be used in different positions – it can be concave or convex in respect to the internal volume. In other words, it can reach two different stable positions:

  1. Outwards, projected bottom or
  2. Inwards, recessed bottom.

Pressing the internal face of the bottom moves it outwards. The bottom reaches the stable position shown in Figure 7. As a result:

  • The inside face will have shrunken hole edges and
  • The external side will have stretched hole edges and will be dilated.

The operator pours pasta, rice or vegetables into the colander. These foods are poured together with the cooking water. Water flows out of the colander through the shrunken holes. The shrunken edges do not allow rice grains, small pasta or thin vegetables to pass through, or close, the holes.

Figure 7: Bottom With Convexity
Outwards, Restricted Holes

To change the colander to get the convex bottom inside (recessed bottom), the operator, by operating from outside the colander, pushes its bottom inwards. The bottom reaches the second stable position, rotating with respect to its edge profile as shown in Figure 8. In particular:

  • The extrados, or lower surface, is compressed, and the hole edges become smaller and
  • The intrados, or upper surface, on the contrary, by being stretched, makes the holes edges larger.

The operator throws into the colander pasta, rice or vegetables together with water used when cooking. Water penetrates the upper surface through the dilated holes. Finally, water reaches the extrados surface by abandoning the colander.

Figure 8: Bottom With Convexity
Inwards, Dilated Holes

Although this is a good underlying idea of a bi-stable bottomed colander, this technical solution still has some serious issues. The biggest problem is that when pouring a big amount of food inside a colander, the weight of the food and the speed of the pouring may change the convexity of the inside bottom into a concavity.

Focusing the Problem

The first four steps of ARIZ 85C have been applied solve this problem:

  • Formulating mini-problem, modeling technical contradiction
  • Intensification of the contradiction
  • Defining spatial, temporal and physical resources
  • Defining the ideal final result
  • Defining macro- and micro-level physical conflicts
  • Using resources to solve the conflicts4,5

An uncertain sketch of the problem must be moved to a clear and simple formulation of the same.
The problem: A straining system aimed at separating solids from liquids that fits for any foodstuff, such as various sizes of pasta, vegetables and rice, consists of a convertible colander made of an elastic and flexible membrane.

  • Technical contradiction (TC) 1: If the colander is convex to the outward, then the hole edges shrink. This means that the food does not pass through the holes, but the water will not easily flow outside.
  • TC 2: If the colander is convex to the inward, then water will easily flow through the holes, but small and filamentary foodstuffs will pass through the enlarged edges of holes – or will close them.
  • The ideal solution: Proper drainage, matching any kind of foodstuff. Proper drainage must be reached with minimal changes to the system.

Figure 9 depicts the system problem elements according to the law of system completeness and energy conductivity.

Figure 9: Elements According to System
Completeness and Energy Flow

Which will be the most effective model of conflict? Which will provide a better performance for the main process? The main useful function of the main process is to provide the required drainage of water. Consider that the colander’s bottom can be pushed up outward to reach a blown out shape. In this case, the diameters of holes on the upper face of the bottom become so tiny that water cannot flow through them and so does not leave the colander.

Problem model

  • Conflicting pair: water and colander bottom
  • Intensified conflict 1: The colander’s bottom can be pushed outward up to reach a blown out shape. In this case, the diameters of holes on the bottom decrease. Pushing this condition to the limit, there are no holes at all so that water and food cannot leave the colander making a sort of dam.
  • Intensified conflict 2: The bottom is pushed inwards to create a concave surface inside the colander. The edges of the holes on the upper surface become bigger. Exaggerating this condition, imagine that water is drained quickly but any kind of food passes through too or gets trapped in the holes.
  • X-element: This must be found. It will preserve the ability of our colander’s bottom, which has now been pushed up outward to reach a blown out shape, to let water flow through the holes while trapping food.

Analyzing and describing the operational zone (OZ)

The area included between the negative and the positive zoned is defined as the operational zone. In this specific case this zone is formed by the holes – the cave – shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Operational Zone

The operational time of the available resources of time (Figure 11) are:

  • The time when conflict occurs (T1) and
  • The time before the conflict (T2).

Figure 11: Operational Time

a) time before the water is poured into the colander;
b) time length from the moment when water when the
water starts pouring into the colander till it leaves the
colander ( > 5 s) = the deluge

Available resources

At this stage, try to define the substance-field resources (SFR) of the analyzed system, environment and product:

  1. System (internal) resources
    • Internal surface
    • External surface
    • Holes
    • Water (hot)
    • Cooked food
  2. Available (external) resources
    • Gravity
  3. SFR of the super-system
    • Kitchen tools
    • Cooking pan

Ideal final result (IFR)-1

Next formulate and describe IFR-1 using the following pattern:

X-element

ELIMINATES

harmful action

water from staying inside the colander

WITHIN the

operational time

the deluge

INSIDE the

operational zone

the cave

AND

keeps the tool’s ability to provide

keeps the bottom’s ability

useful action

to strain foodstuffs

without complicating the system and without harmful side effects

Intensify the formulation of IFR-1 by introducing additional requirements:

existing resources

internal surface

ELIMINATES

the negative effect

water from staying inside the colander

WITHIN the

operational time

the deluge

INSIDE the

operational zone

the cave

AND PROVIDES

a useful effect

straining of foodstuffs

without complicating the system and without harmful side effects

Physical contradiction (PhC)

Once the technical contradictions have been identified, the physical contradictions (PhC) (which prevent the IFR) can be defined:

  • Macro-level (shown below)

resource

internal surface

HAS to BE

physical macro-state

push-proof

IN ORDER to PREVENT

one of the conflicting actions

water from staying inside the colander

AND HAS to BE

opposite physical macro-state

convex-proof

IN ORDER to PREVENT

another conflicting action or requirement

that residues of filamentary foods gettrapped in holes

WITHIN the

operational time

the deluge

INSIDE the

operational zone

the cave

  • Micro-level (shown below)

THERE SHOULD BE

physical state or action

groove

IN ORDER to PERFORM

macro-state

the deluge

AND THERE SHOULD BE

opposite state or action

undercut

IN ORDER to PREVENT

another macro-state

obstructed holes

WITHIN the

operational time

the deluge

INSIDE the

operational zone

the cave

The operational zone ‹the cave› has to provide ‹undercut groove› within ‹the deluge (>5s)›. The colander has a blown-shaped bottom; water, however, can flow through the colander rapidly, seen in Figure 12.

Figure 12: Blown-shaped Bottom

  • A step back from the IFR: A good deal of water is layinginside the colander.
  • Micro-problem: How can water flow through small holes in a reasonable length of time (<5 sec. for 2 lt. of salted boiling water)?
  • Solution for the micro-problem: Several small holes into one single big external hole, shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Small
Holes Into One
Big External Hole

  • Intensification of the micro-problem: How to improve the action of sets of small holes?
  • Solution: Thin straight groves on the internal surface connecting big holes on the external surface, shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14: Thin
Segmented
Grooves
Connecting Big
Holes

  • Transition from the micro-problem to an optimized product: A continuous undercut grove can be used to replace several segmented undercut groves on the internal surface shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15: Continuous Undercut Grooves

Transition to the technical solution

The bottom comprises a set of grooves, arranged concentrically (as shown on Figures 16-18) or radially (not shown), so that the grooves cross the internal surface.

The convertible colander solves the physical contradiction as it simultaneously takes into consideration the need of using big holes for straining big-sized pasta and small holes for straining rice, cooked vegetables, thin pasta or other thin stuff. The convertible colander, with an internal grooved surface, allows for the draining of large amounts of water through big-sized holes while food is blocked by the edges of the internal surface without getting in contact with the draining holes.

Changing the bottom convexity between the two stable conditions (from convex to concave and vice versa) is no longer needed for the colander’s main function, but this feature is preserved to improve the washing process. (Actually, the configuration with a convexity inside the colander allows cleaning it since slits are easily reached by simply passing the fingers of one’s hand over them.)

Figure 16: Bottom
of Colander With
an Internal Grooved
Surface

Figure 17: Internal Bottom Perspective

Figure 18: External Bottom Perspective

Conclusions

The TRIZ-based paradigm has been specifically developed to overcome what lacks in the management of IP management.1 It can be used to evaluate parameters such as the level of obsolescence and the evolutionary potential of new products in different fields of application.

The developed product embodies the convergence of some partial solutions gained through the use of TRIZ tools. The final result has been achieved exploiting the characteristics of silicone that allow a focus on a single product, a certain number of typical state-of-the-art functions normally achieved by several kitchen products. Intrinsic silicone characteristics (such as flexibility) and extrinsic characteristics (such as buckling, enlarging) allow for easily highlighting contradictions and solving them using separation and inventive principles. The analysis allowed translating specific knowledge about silicone gaskets technology into the food and beverage market segment – identifying the problems caused by the modified environment and solving them.

The solution proposed has been filed as an international patent and will be soon available on the market.

Acknowledgments

This study has been developed thanks to the help and the support of FLUORGUM SPA and, in particular, thanks to their director, Mr. Giorgio Tosini, who is trying to apply extensively TRIZ-related research methods.

The authors would like to thank Nicoletta Locatelli for her kind support in writing this paper.

References

  1. Regazzoni D., Rizzi C., Nani R., “Intellectual Property Management: A TRIZ-based Approach to Manage Innovation within SMEs,” Proceedings of ERIMA07,March 15-16, 2007, Biarritz, France.
  2. Nani R., Regazzoni D., “Practice-based Methodology for Effectively Modelling and Documenting Search, Protection and Innovation,” Proceedings of ETRIA World TRIZFuture Conference, Belgium, Kortrijk,October 9-11, 2006.
  3. Nani R., “Boolean Combination and TRIZ Criteria: A Practical Application of a Patent-Commercial-Data Base,” Proceedings of ETRIA Conference, Graz, Austria, November 16-18, 2005.
  4. Khomenko N., “ARIZ Theory and Practice: First Acquaitance,” LGeCo, Laboratory of Engineering Design INSA Strasbourg, France, September 2006.
  5. Souchkov V., “Advanced TRIZ-based Systematic Innovation,” Hands-on training material, September 14-16, 2005.