Integrating TRIZ-Based Methods into the Engineering Curriculum
Editor | On 17, Oct 1998
“This paper was first presented at the Invention Machine Company Users Group Meeting, June, 1998. The software is being used in the class to give the students experience with a variety of approaches to TRIZ.”
Timothy G. Clapp, PhD, PE
Professor, Textile Engineering
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695
Today, manufacturing companies operate in an ever-changing global marketplace. The rate of change is increasing also. Two vital resources needed to compete and be successful are time and information. The time to create, design, manufacture, and sell is decreasing every day. The information via the world wide web and other electronic media is expanding exponentially each day. The challenge before us today is to maximize the use of information available while minimizing the time to create a product.
This challenge has been addressed in several areas of the product life cycle. Concurrent engineering strategies have been employed in the design and process development phases. Multifunctional teams work together to share information using Computer-Aided-Design software systems, greatly reducing the time for product development. Just-In-Time and work cell manufacturing strategies have been employed to reduce the work-in-process manufacturing time. Manufacturing information systems optimize the tracking and scheduling of raw materials and assembly operations. There are many other examples of how companies have implemented dramatic changes to shorten their product design-to-market cycle. Almost every strategy has employed the use of software systems to increase the availability, sharing, and use of information.
Unfortunately, there have been only evolutionary changes in the beginning stage of product design: the stage of creating or innovation. Techniques such as brainstorming and morphological analysis have been employed to enhance creativity through combining expertise from teams of people to collectively generate new, innovative solutions to problems. These strategies rely heavily on one’s personal experiential and academic knowledge, thus severely limiting the use of universal knowledge available, thereby slowing the solution time.
Dr. Altshuller’s Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) provides a systematic methodology for creating innovative solutions to problems. Software packages, such as TechOptimizerTM and Phenomenon,TM greatly increase one’s efficiency for creating innovative solutions through the application of Altshuller’s methods and rapid access of available information. The problem facing companies today is the availability of engineers with this knowledge and training. Most engineering students in the U.S. have no exposure to TRIZ-based methods.
Most engineering curriculums are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET requires at least 1.5 years of engineering sciences and engineering design. ABET recognizes that engineers must be prepared for engineering practice through the curriculum culminating in a major design experience. This major design experience is often received in a senior-level capstone engineering design course.
Today’s engineering graduates are expected to contribute faster through the application of an expanded knowledge base and informational tools beyond the traditional engineering sciences. The College of Textiles at NC State University recently conducted a review of the attributes every student should have to effectively contribute in the industry today. These attributes are presented in Table 1. The Textile Engineering program is engaged in an extensive review of its engineering curriculum. TRIZ-based methods are viewed as an integral component of the curriculum. These methods impact the attributes of engineering design, problem solving, entrepreneurial competency, physics, engineering sciences, and information management. This paper presents a strategy for integrating TRIZ-based methods into an engineering curriculum.
Table 1. Attributes of College of Textiles Graduates with Highlighted Attributes Impacted by TRIZ.
|I. Academic Knowledge||II. Professional Knowledge||III. Personal Skills|
|Math, Statistics||Fiscal Awareness||Leadership Skills|
|Chemistry||Global Awareness||Communications Skills|
|Physics, Engineering Science||Quality Awareness||Teamwork Skills|
|Textile Materials||Systems/Enterprise Understanding||Problem Solving Skills|
|Textile Chemistry||Environmental Awareness||Willingness to Learn|
|Textile Technology||Entrepreneurial Competency||Strive for Excellence|
|Humanities and Social Sciences||Business Ethics||Ability to Cope with Change|
|Foreign Language||Information & Knowledge Management|
The Textile Engineering (TE) curriculum is a four-year (eight semesters), 124 credit hours, ABET accredited program. Like most programs, the TE curriculum is under pressure to do more with fewer credit hours. Therefore, TRIZ-based methods will be integrated directly into the senior-level capstone engineering design experience.
The TE capstone engineering design experience spans two semesters (8 credit hours). Prior to the fall semester, a real industrial machine (or process) design problem is identified. If the problem is deemed by industry to be impossible or “never been solved before,” then it is an excellent candidate for the students. Students are combined into teams of five or six students. A typical problem is presented in very general terms with typical design constraints listed in Table 2.
The students are provided a general plan of work to follow, shown in Table 3. The plan of work is divided into four major phases: preparing a design proposal, conducting a detail design plan, constructing a proof-of-concept prototype, and conducting a design improvement evaluation. Each phase consists of a series of tasks that expose students to the major phases of the design process. It is within these tasks that TRIZ-based methodologies and Invention Machine software will be integrated. This plan is shown in Table 3.
In the proposal design phase, students must understand the industrial problem and redefine the problem in engineering terms. This involves breaking the psychological inertia in the industrial definition and identifying the root-cause engineering problem to solve. TRIZ-based methods will be employed to teach students how to identify conflicts or contradictions and properly define engineering problems to minimize psychological inertia to define problems that can effectively searched in generic databases. Students will use TechOptimizerTM in this project-definition process.
Once the problem(s) have been defined, students will be challenged to generate the “Ideal Solution” based in “Ideality” methodology. Students will be introduced to the “40 Principles.” Each student will be asked to identify possible solutions systematically using each of these principles. These exercises are designed to expand each student’s creative thought process and prepare them for more efficiently using TechOptimizerTM and PhenomenonTM to identify possible solutions.
Once a large number of possible solutions are identified, students will conduct a feasibility study to determine the solution(s) that meets the industrial customer requirements. A formal proposal is written and presented to the industrial sponsor describing the conceptual design.
The second phase addresses the detailed solution design. The concepts must be transformed into detailed plans and equipment specifications. New, smaller problems are encountered. Students will continue to apply TRIZ-based methods to these smaller problems. The “Effects” identified will direct the students to classical engineering equations and references that will be used for parametric analysis and detail calculations. At the end of the detailed design phase, students will have identified major systems components including machine drawings, control algorithms, power transmission systems, and a list of components to be purchased.
The third phase involves primarily construction of the proof-of-concept prototype. Now, even more detailed design problems are encountered. Often times, economic and spatial constraints require alternative solutions to an otherwise eloquent design. Students will be directed back to their “Ideal Solution” and apply the same problem solving methods taught in the first phase. The concept of invention evolution will be presented. Students will be asked to begin thinking about where their design falls on the evolution curve. At the end of the third phase, students are required to have a working prototype of their solution.
The fourth and final phase is focused on engineering analysis. Students will critically evaluate their solution to see if it meets the customer requirements. Emphasis is placed on enhancing, modifying, and improving their prototype. Students will conduct an Su- field analysis. They will conduct functional analysis using TechOptimizerTM. New problems resulting from the functional analysis will be solved using the TRIZ-based methods and the Invention Machine software. A final report of recommended design improvements will be written and an oral presentation will be made to the industrial sponsor.
Beginning the Fall Semester 1998, the senior textile engineering students will be taught basic TRIZ-based problem solving methodologies and given multiple opportunities to apply the methods to a variety of self-generated problems. The problems start out as large and vague. At each phase the problems become more defined and specialized. Over the course of the two-semester, nine-month period, students are challenged to practice the inventive problem solving methods at many levels in many different situations. The software will aid the students in all areas of the design process, including writing their reports.
In summary, it is the goal of the capstone engineering design experience to prepare engineering students to contribute immediately to any company to enhance the competitiveness through the efficient use of time and knowledge to create innovative processes and products. Integrating TRIZ-based methods will accelerate the creative thought process. Using TRIZ-based software will also greatly increase the access to knowledge and the application of the methodologies.
|Table 2. Typical Engineering Design Problem with Industrial Specifications|
Textile Engineering Senior Design Project 1996-1997
Description of Problem
|Table 3. Capstone Design Project Plan of Work with TRIZ-Based Methods and IM Software Integrated into the Experience.|
|Phase I: Design Proposal (8/17 – 10/15)||TRIZ-Based Methods||Software Usage|
|Assign problem||TRIZ Overview|
|Understand the Problem||Su-Field Language, Contradictions|
|Write Engineering Design Specifications||TechOptimizer (Problem Situation)|
|Identify Possible Design Solutions||ARIZ, Ideality, Effects Contradiction Table, Separation Principles, Inventive Principles||Phenomenon (Effects, Internet Assistant)
TechOptimizer (Effects, Principles, Prediction)
|Conduct Feasibility Studies|
|Propose Design Solutions|
|Write Formal Engineering Proposal|
Phase II: Detailed Design (10/16 – 12/20)
|Conduct engineering analysis||Ideality, Effects, Contradiction Table, Separation Principles, Inventive Principles||Phenomenon (Effects, Internet Assistant)
TechOptimizer (Effects, Principles, Prediction)
|Conduct detailed engineering design|
|Begin machine drawings and component specification|
|Write formal report|
|Present detailed design|
Phase III: Prototype Construction (1/8 – 3/10)
|Detailed Design Trend Analysis||Forecasting||TechOptimizer (Prediction)|
|Integrate Control System|
Phase IV: Prototype Analysis & Improvement (3/15 – 5/8)
|Analyze Performance||Su-Field Analysis|
|Recommend Design Improvements||Ideality, Contradiction Table, Effects, Separation Principles||Phenomenon (Effects, Internet Assistant)
TechOptimizer (Effects, Principles, Prediction)
|Write Formal Final Report|
|Present Final Oral Presentation|
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