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Author: Allen, Richard Douglas
Supervisor: Culley, Steve
Institution: University of Bath
This research work investigates the information requirements of the engineering designer during the early phases of the design process. In particular, it focuses on the use of standard components, and the information requirements associated with them. The research presents a system for the representation of information, both formal catalogue data, and also what the author has termed “Informal Information”. Also presented is a system for the representation of catalogue information that will allow for standard component catalogue interfacing.
Initially, studies of the information requirements of engineering designers were undertaken. Catalogues of standard components were reviewed, these included paper based catalogues, CD-ROM based catalogues and Internet based catalogues. It was found that many engineers utilise personal experience and catalogues from a personal library when selecting components, rather than utilising other resources such as office libraries, colleagues or suppliers. Therefore there is a need for the capture of what can be thought of as “experience based information”, and for this information to be supplied to the designer when required, but without effort on the part of the designer.
This information, which is the foundation for this work, is termed “Informal Information” and has been categorised into four areas, Memory, Verbal, Written (unstructured) and Written (structured). To enable the collection, storage and reuse of informal information, four levels of information were identified, namely Company, Group, Type and Specific.
A data representation for engineering components was developed to allow both the creation of software that will enable informal information to be stored and distributed, and the interfacing of standard component catalogues, thus allowing the searching and retrieval of component information from many catalogues simultaneously. This, combined with the levels of informal information was tested through the development and application of a support tool. This demonstrated the benefits of informal information when applied to standard component selection.
This research has shown that it is beneficial for the engineering designer to be supplied with “experience based information” alongside formal catalogue information. Engineering designers will benefit from faster, more informed search results, and will therefore be able to produce better products with less time taken at the embodiment phase of the design process.