Ph.D. Thesis Defense by Jonathan Gerhard
Monday, October 3, 2000

(Dr. Farrokh Mistree, advisor)

"Towards a Decision-Based Distributed Product Realization Environment for Engineering Systems"


Increased competition is forcing product realization to change: to become faster and to leverage facilities and expertise, wherever they may be.  Geographically distributed engineers must collaboratively develop, build and test solutions to design-manufacture problems to be competitive in the global marketplace.  Software systems to support design and manufacturing activities must continuously evolve to accommodate rapid acquisition and use of knowledge throughout a global manufacturing enterprise. Thus in this thesis technologies for software frameworks are explored in order to integrate distributed and heterogeneous computing resources and support the computationally intensive activities in the product realization process.  A fundamental perspective of open engineering systems in decision-based design is established to analyze differences between distributed computing frameworks.  A usage scenario relevant to distributed design and manufacturing activities is developed and presented along with a survey of relevant software technologies.

The example usage scenario, involving the Robust Concept Exploration Method and the Rapid Tooling Testbed, was implemented as a demonstration for distributed design and manufacturing activities.  A gear transmission is designed and rapid prototyped in this usage scenario using distributed and heterogeneous software tools.  The usage scenario is implemented with two prototype platform-independent frameworks based on Java Servlet, Java RMI, and software agent technologies.  A critical evaluation of the prototype frameworks in the context of open engineering systems and the requirements developed from the usage scenario is presented to evaluate the effectiveness of the framework designs and technologies.  Software agent technologies and the framework communications model are further explored as a tools to decompose product realization processes into distributed computing resources with in the framework.   Finally, in light of the development of the prototype frameworks, future development and research directions are suggested.