This award provides funding for the research and development of a function-based representation to support concept modeling and solution synthesis in early design. The approach will focus on contributing to the standards currently under development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for function representation and knowledge interoperability. The representation of semantics, meaning of design intent, in a modeling and synthesis environment is a challenging problem. As envisioned, the representation will include knowledge that is fuzzy (difficult to quantify but reflects engineering expertise and preference) and computable knowledge (based on scientific and engineering principles). Through close collaborations with industry partners, Pratt and Whitney and Telaxis Communications, the research will address issues that are not only fundamentally challenging, but also responsive to and informed by the needs of industry. Example problems from jet engine and telecommunication design will inform, validate, and demonstrate the research and development of the function-based representation.

If successful, the generalized representation will provide the foundation needed for the exchange of design rationale, design preferences, and knowledge for modeling and design optimization currently not available in today's design systems. This project is the first step in the research needed for the development of an integrated design environment and the nation's next generation of design systems, wherein customers, designers, suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors work collaboratively in a distributed and integrated environment. The results of this work will provide the needed representation and foundation for such an environment.

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University of Massachusetts Amherst
United States
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