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Abstract

The interactive product design is of major economic and strategic importance in the development of new and innovative industrial products and processes. Designers have to deal with new constraints coming from the increasing customer requirements, the new environmental constraints (fuel consumption, emission of dioxide of carbon…), the constant mutation of the product and the continuous needed of specialist employees to drive and realize such products and processes. The research in interactive product design is related to a wide range of various thematic of research and engineering activities embracing high realistic multi-sensorial virtual prototyping. The main objectives are to facilitate, develop and support industrial innovations. The classical approaches supporting design and manufacture phases have to mute. This mutation should enable industrials to develop new techniques to quickly emerge creative ideas, development of effective low cost solution and the creation of technical consensus to market, leading immediately benefits on the economic requirements. Virtuality should be used as early as possible all along the lifecycle of the development of product and associated processes. Since the tools related to the virtuality allow exploring rapidly solution spaces, to accurate study draft solutions into their future environment through a high realistic way and to assess the product efficiency with their future product end-users. Interactive product design and manufacturing methods are implemented in various tools and processes responding to these expectations covering a wide spectrum of multidisciplinary research.
Interactive product design
Xavier Fischer, Georges Fadel, Yann Ledoux
In book: Research in Interactive Design Vol. 3
Project: Research in Interactive Design
1. Introduction
The interactive product design is of major economic and strategic importance in the
development of new and innovative industrial products and processes. Designers have to deal
with new constraints coming from the increasing customer requirements, the new
environmental constraints (fuel consumption, emission of dioxide of carbon…), the constant
mutation of the product and the continuous needed of specialist employees to drive and
realize such products and processes.
The research in interactive product design is related to a wide range of various thematic of
research and engineering activities embracing high realistic multi-sensorial virtual
prototyping. The main objectives are to facilitate, develop and support industrial innovations.
The classical approaches supporting design and manufacture phases have to mute.
This mutation should enable industrials to develop new techniques to quickly emerge creative
ideas, development of effective low cost solution and the creation of technical consensus to
market, leading immediately benefits on the economic requirements. Virtuality should be used
as early as possible all along the lifecycle of the development of product and associated
processes. Since the tools related to the virtuality allow exploring rapidly solution spaces, to
accurate study draft solutions into their future environment through a high realistic way and to
assess the product efficiency with their future product end-users.
Interactive product design and manufacturing methods are implemented in various tools and
processes responding to these expectations covering a wide spectrum of multidisciplinary
research.
2. Interactive product design through the lifecycle
The early design phases, usually called preliminary design, starting from the research of
feasible concepts to embodiment design, correspond to a series of crucial steps for the
product. It is well known that at this earlier stage, every decision on the product engages the
majority of the future costs of design, production, assembly, maintenance, disassembly… The
challenge is to ensure that the design matches the best concepts and associated technical
choices involved. The formalization of the behavior of the product through numerical or
analytical models is a complex phase because, until this stage of design, the product is only
partially defined (i.e. few elements of the system have been defined and some of data are
imprecise). Thus, a possible way to face with these requirements is to use the interactive tools
and methods. Since the recent research and technical improvements, interactive design and
associated methodologies propose tools that can assist:
Groups of specialists in their research of creative concept.
Designers to develop products efficiently, quickly and accurately to ensure the
required level of performance, by minimizing the associated risks during the situation
of using, to control possible failures, to warranty the reliability and the robustness, to
valid the maintainability ...
During all these phases related to the genesis of the product, the tools of virtual reality provide
solutions. Today, the exponential growth of simulation tools and the development of
advanced calculations and simulations have greatly contributed to their popularization. These
numerical tools are based on huge fields of knowledge, information and data which are
modeled, developed and capitalized for assisting engineering activities and lead to innovative
solutions.
During the phase of detailed design, the software supports are needed to improve the
efficiency of the designer, to encourage the exchange between the different actors of the
project. For that, an important among of knowledge, data base is available and has to be
structured in the aims to facilitate their uses.
Once the product is fully designed, it is necessary to realize a transfer between the numerical
models of the product, from cad system for instance, into the real product. Therefore, the
choices of production machines, the organization of processes (…) are major factors that will
achieve a good product quality that respects customer requirements assuring different
technical aspects like the robustness, the reliability and the durability For achieving these
points, many technical data, business rules, technical skills based are all available resources
that engineers have to exploit. The main difficulty is generally to formalize such knowledge
information into mathematical or numerical tools which could be directly interpreted for
example in the optimization phase of product or process.
In the framework of the manufacturing and product design, the most usual support is based on
concept of product and process simulations. The challenging is to model all the different
phases of the engineering activities into a virtual representation. This numerical artifact is
useful to valid new innovative solutions and choices, to anticipate engineering defaults and
allow the information supports between specialists, decision-makers and engineers in a
particular context of extended enterprise.
Today, the exponential increase in performance computing machines, simulation tools and the
development of advanced simulation techniques have greatly contributed to their
popularization. These numerical tools are based on huge fields of knowledge, information and
data which are modeled, developed and capitalized for assisting engineering activities and
assuring to lead innovative solutions.
This conjunction makes the creation of virtual object possible by considering the virtual
object behavior (in static or dynamic phase). The development of such tools has to be based
first, on complex numerical behavioral model by considering multi-physical and multi-scale
models, second, on structured model of engineering skills resulting from identified, extracted
and capitalized knowledge, and finally, on innovative concept solutions that only can emerge
from the creativity of the group of actors involved in project.
The uses of interactive tools are not restricted to the phase of design and phase of
manufacture. Indeed, since the product is globally designed, developed and manufactured,
virtual reality has useful support to guide and trains the users or future users. Among the first
virtual reality, tools in this field of application include driving simulators object such as flight
or boat simulators which consisted as primarily derive a particular behavior of the system
based on actions performed by the user. The interaction between the user and the simulator
were performed mainly through a screen and some actuators (i.e. buttons) on a dashboard.
This initial version has been gradually expanded to reflect more complex behavior of the
controlled system. It has been observed the emergence of active controls to stimulate different
senses of the user during simulation (noise, sounds, vibrations, accelerations ...). Now, these
simulation tools are spreading in more general contexts such as the sequential simulation of
the assembly phases of product, the training of medical personnel, for example, at the
introduction of biomedical implants in the patient body. The virtual reality proposes more rich
experiment with more realistic training for instance with total immersive experience by using
haptic interface devices for feeling the motion, shape, resistance and surface texture of
simulated objects.
Such numerical simulations can also improve the phase of maintainability of product by
replacing the classical technical books which require specialists to analyze, understand and act
on the defective product. For the disassembly phases of product, during the end of life of the
product, same simulation can provide a well knowledge base to trace the material use, the
disassembly procedure…
Finally, the virtual reality deals with very large topics which have started from the CAD/CAE
software, the development of innovative techniques for the modeling of product and systems
behavior. The generation of knowledge is a key factor of the virtual reality and it is necessary
to integrate and centre the human into the general process of product and process
development (i.e. research solutions and exploration of design space, interactive virtual
representation). Currently, one difficulty is that the initial product media is mainly based on
tools for CAD / CAE and it is difficult to integrate, in a dynamic and real-time, for example,
strains of adjacent parts of the product during the assembly phases or real interaction between
user and numerical product.
3. Needed requirements for the interactive design
3.1. Evolutionary model of product
To be effective and relevant throughout the life cycle of the product, the product model must
be scalable and adaptable. It must take into account different levels of knowledge:
Understanding physical, economic, environmental;
Business rules related to the formulation of manufacturing constraints, assembly,
disassembly, recycling ... (DFX)
Design heuristics
Models to manage the interaction with humans (cognitive, sensorial interaction).
These different types of models use analytical techniques and formalization (fuzzy logic,
rough sets, desirability functions...) to reflect uncertainties, requirements or rules.
These models reflect a priori the particular needs and requirements in terms of performance
and robustness. The common resolution of physical models and empirical rules will converge
through the numerical processing to the design problem of robust solutions both in terms of
mechanical behavior and in terms of the robustness of decisions.
The challenge is to produce and use knowledge for a "new" product, free from any baseline.
More the product is innovative, more the difficulties are amplified because they generate new
situations for project managers, designers and potential users.
Thus, the tools of virtual reality and advanced computer simulations of behavior should be
harnessed to fill up the lack of knowledge about this innovative product. The data can be used
and may be derived from knowledge base of previous design solutions from existing and
validated products. Different tools and methods can be used like data mining, pairwise
comparison (...) to create or use data models of empirical rules.
3.2. Interactions of product with human and environment
The product is initially design for particular set of functions. During the situation of using, the
product is in interaction with many different elements. First of all, the human is directly in
interaction with the product. The main challenge concerning engineers is that they have to
consider and mix both technical requirements and marketing sights. In this phase, the product
and a human can exchange energy flows. These energy exchanges lead to generate sensations
to the user or represents action of the user in the product.
To realize and channel this exchange, designers have to develop innovative system interfaces
through different variety of medias. Designers have to be concentrated on the aspects of the
interface that define and present its behavior over time, with a focus on developing the system
to respond to the user's experience and not the other way around. The system interface can be
realized thought artifacts (whether visual or other sensory) to lead designers and engineers to
better understand the wishes of the end users of products and to develop more efficient tools
and dashboards to interact with users.
The other type of interaction comes from the environment of the product and corresponds to
pure physical interaction. The physical behavior of components is inevitably due to
solicitations with other elements of its environment. The different energetic flows through the
components constituting the system and finally can be exchanged with the environment.
These energetic flows can be completely transmitted, operated or controlled by the component
and exploit it for upholding its own behavior. This modification of behavior has consequence
on the other one of the different components of the system.
These different coupling in the behavior of inner and outer component of system has to be
modeled and simulated to improve the global efficiency of the product and limit the negative
impact of the product on its environment.
3.3. Interactive simulation of product behavior
Traditionally, the simulation codes are used to model one or several physical phenomena. In
general, these simulations are implemented and set up by experts. After calculation, the
simulation produces results that are stored in files, then these results are analyzed using
visualization tools (post-processing), providing maps of results fields or graphics. After
analysis, the expert may choose to "re run" the simulation with new parameters and so on.
This approach has the advantage of being simple to implement and enable easily archiving the
results associated to each simulation. However, it requires a lot of manipulation and if the user
wants to make, for example, sensitivity analysis of a large set of parameters, it could become
very long and tedious analysis.
The interactive simulation is developed to improve this classical process of numerical
simulation (modeling, computation, analysis). In this approach, the user is not waiting
passively for the results of the simulation but can interact, in "real time" of the calculation, by
modifying certain parameters of the model and more generally by controlling the calculation
flows. This approach allows greater flexibility in the use of simulation tools. This alternative
approach improves the productivity and the efficiency of analysis by significantly reducing
the time between the changed parameters and the display of results. This approach can be
very useful for rapid detection of errors, especially in the case of long simulations.
Furthermore, by changing some parameters and visualizing the effects immediately on the
model, the relationship between cause and effect becomes more obvious and the user can
realize such approach as in experimental one. He can follow its own intuition, explore the
model, develop and test hypotheses quickly. From a technical point of view, the development
of such tools is a real challenge and must rely on multi-physics and multi-scale models.
During this exchange between the simulation tool and the user, it is necessary to develop tools
for multi-sensorial virtual prototyping with high realistic behavior to propose a real
interaction between the user and the simulated model. This immersion in virtual reality,
should simplify the exchange product - human to make tangible the product before its real
existence.
3.4. Decision support systems
Many applications of the engineering design are facing to the development of decision
support systems. It is possible to cite some of the different heterogeneous fields concerned
with the development of decision support systems like mechanical engineering, energy
engineering, process engineering, material engineering, design for manufacturing and more
generally design for X. The decision support systems have to manage the different models and
results coming from analysis, physical modeling, simulation and knowledge base. It fulfills an
important field in many industrial sectors dealing with decisional problems highly constrained
by complex and coupled physical phenomena.
The challenge is to bring enough information to assist the decision process. Usually, the
environment of the product or the process studied is often only partially defined and many
elements of the problem are still established only vaguely. The problem is thus essentially
posed in a very imprecise way while at the same time, coupled physical phenomena need to
be studied and analyzed and their interaction is very much affected by this imprecision. It is
essential to search for a compromise between the precision, exactness, complexity and extent
of the area of application of all the knowledge brought into play in order to resolve a design
problem.
The approach to develop here has to tackles this problem by focusing on the qualification and
the adaptation of the model to provide decision support to assure a possible exploitation.
These phases of qualification and adaptation have to lead to models which are sufficiently
precise, exact and parsimonious with an area of application sufficiently large to be useful with
decision support.
4. Feedback of the industrial engineering support systems and
outlooks
The recent industrial experiences lead to conclude that ideal engineering support systems
would be a tool able to:
Reinforce the interrelation within engineers by improving the creative efficiency of the
group. The creative activity and the research of innovative solutions always result
from the association of technical knowledge, professional skills and for above all,
from interactions between human.
Provide and develop extended simulations where the studied virtual solution is really
immersed in its future environment and being able of pure physical interactions with
other elements. It is really common that the suitable solution appears because
engineers have correctly anticipated the problem of possible noisly physical
interactions with other components. This effect has to be reinforced with the all virtual
where simulation of global environments may really highlight the problem of global
organization that can not being visible on only isolated simulation of components.
Allow a human to feel and to act on a virtual product as in the real life. It consists in
guaranteeing the perceptual relations between a user and its future product through
high realistic simulation.
Face to these challenges, commonly with industrial companies, the international scientific
community develops and sets up models, methods and tools to better consider these three
points. Most of them concern interactive simulations, the development of interfaces for virtual
representation, the integration of human consideration into new systems and products. More
particularly, tools and methods are devoted to the design phase such as interface for
improving the design, the representation of design spaces for instance through architectural
representation of feasible solutions.
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