Knowledge-Based System Applications in Engineering Design: Research at MIT

  • Duvvuru Sriram
  • George Stephanopoulos
  • Robert Logcher
  • David Gossard
  • Nicholas Groleau
  • David Serrano
  • Dundee Navinchandra


Advances in computer hardware and software and engineering methodologies in the 1960s and 1970s led to an increased use of computers by engineers. In design, this use has been limited almost exclusively to algorithmic solutions such as finite-element methods and circuit simulators. However, a number of problems encountered in design are not amenable to purely algorithmic solutions. These problems are often ill structured (the term ill-structured problems is used here to denote problems that do not have a clearly defined algorithmic solution), and an experienced engineer deals with them using judgment and experience. AI techniques, in particular the knowledge-based system (KBS) technology, offer a methodology to solve these ill-structured design problems. In this article, we describe several research projects that utilize KBS techniques for design automation. These projects are (1) the Criteria Yielding, Consistent Labeling with Optimization and Precedents-Based System (CYCLOPS), which generates innovative designs by using a three-stage process: normal search, exploration, and adaptation; (2) the Concept Generator (CONGEN), which is a domain independent framework for conceptual or preliminary design; (3) Constraint Manager (CONMAN), which is a constraint-management system that performs the evaluation and consistency maintenance of constraints arising in design; (4) the distributed and integrated environment for computer-aided engineering (DICE), which facilitates coordination, communication, and control during the entire design and construction/manu-facturing phases; and (5) DESIGN-KIT, which can be envisioned as a new generation of computer-aided engineering environment for process-engineering applications.