Wednesday, January 29, 2003

(Dr. David Rosen, advisor)

"Configuration Design Methods and Mathematics for Product Families"

__Abstract__

Product families, groups of products that share a common underlying structure,

have recently been adopted in industry to help companies meet the demands of

diverse customers in a competitive global marketplace, lessen the time needed

to develop new products, and reduce costs by sharing common components among

many products. Design of product families often involves the use of a product

platform: a group of components, modules, interfaces, and technologies that
are

shared among all members of the product family. Configuration design serves
as

a useful method for identifying potential platforms for a product family.

Configuration design involves the identification of components in a product
and

a description of the relationships and physical arrangement of those components.

To solve configuration design problems in a systematic manner, discrete

mathematical models based on set and graph theory are used. Four viewpoints

describing modularity, physical connectivity, assembly, and relations involving

energy or material flows in the product are modeled using discrete mathematics

and are utilized to solve configuration problems. Using these mathematical

models as a framework, primary research contributions were made in the

following areas:

1) Mathematical modeling of flow relations in a product from a configuration

perspective

2) Development of computational models for combining multiple configuration

viewpoints

3) Identification of a method for partitioning the configuration design process

so that problems involving products containing a large number of components
may

be solved

The computer implementation of configuration design methods was also undertaken

in order to make the solution of configuration problems practical. Algorithms

for principal configuration design tasks are outlined in the thesis. The

configuration methods developed are tested with three case studies: a

flashlight, a mechanical pencil, and an automotive body structure. In the

flashlight case, application of the flow viewpoint allows product

configurations to be more accurately modeled. The mechanical pencil case is

used to investigate the efficiency of computational models for combining

multiple configuration viewpoints. The automotive body structure case

demonstrates how partitioning the configuration design problem enables larger

problems to be solved within the limits of available computing