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Design synthesis knowledge and inductive machine learning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2001

S. POTTER
Affiliation:
Engineering Design Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, U.K.
M.J. DARLINGTON
Affiliation:
Engineering Design Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, U.K.
S.J. CULLEY
Affiliation:
Engineering Design Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, U.K.
P.K. CHAWDHRY
Affiliation:
Engineering Design Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, U.K.

Abstract

A crucial early stage in the engineering design process is the conceptual design phase, during which an initial solution design is generated. The quality of this initial design has a great bearing on the quality and success of the produced artefact. Typically, the knowledge required to perform this task is only acquired through many years of experience, and so is often at a premium. This has led to a number of attempts to automate this phase using intelligent computer systems. However, the knowledge of how to generate designs has proved difficult to acquire directly from human experts, and as a result, is often unsatisfactory in these systems. The application of inductive machine learning techniques to the acquisition of this sort of knowledge has been advocated as one approach to overcoming the difficulties surrounding its capture. Rather than acquiring the knowledge from human experts, the knowledge would be inferred automatically from a set of examples of the design process. This paper describes the authors' investigations into the general viability of this approach in the context of one particular conceptual design task, that of the design of fluid power circuits. The analysis of a series of experiments highlights a number of issues that would seem to arise regardless of the working domain or particular machine learning algorithm used. These issues, presented and discussed here, cast serious doubts upon the practicality of such an approach to knowledge acquisition, given the current state of the art.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2001 Cambridge University Press

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