To What Extent is Knowledge-based Engineering CAD Driven?
A new engineering graduate who joins the workforce of a manufacturing company needs time to learn the engineering design methods and practices which differentiate the company from its competitors.
The type of knowledge that the new engineer acquires in order to become productive is knowledge based, in the sense that it is not acquired by formal training in the classroom.
Knowledge-based engineering (abbreviated as KBE) captures experiential knowledge which includes proprietary design and manufacturing practices which are exercised during a product development cycle. In order for an engineering company to protect and retain the knowledge within the organization,
- New engineers are trained as quickly as possible before retiring engineers leave the company with knowledge that took some time to develop.
- Engineers are required to sign non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements in order to protect company information,
- Most companies use patents, technical disclosures, and trade secrets to safeguard and protect intellectual information.
CAD is a necessary part of KBE, but it differs from KBE in one respect. CAD addresses the mechanics of design by defining dimensions, geometries, materials, and manufacturing details of a product. On the other hand, KBE addresses the engineering rules, governmental regulations, planning, market research, and all the factors which should be considered in building and marketing a product. One way to think of KBE is “rules-based” engineering which combines CAD technology with engineering knowledge, design methodologies, and best practices when designing and manufacturing a product.
This article tries to answer the following questions:
- What is the foundation and purpose of KBE?
- What role does CAD play in the implementation of KBE?
- Are modern CAD software packages aware of KBE?
What Is The Foundation and Purpose of KBE?
KBE has its foundations in CAD, knowledge-based systems, design analysis and optimization, and in manufacturing. KBE was first introduced into aerospace and automotive engineering about 25 years ago, and it has been undergoing improvements and formalizations since then.
The main goal of KBE is to develop a formalized process for capturing and retaining methods, techniques, and practices used for design and product development. By capturing and retaining in-house knowledge, a company finds it easier to re-use established and optimized design techniques and practices, and to reduce product development cycle or TTM (Time to Market).
When KBE is successfully applied, it shortens the product design cycle because it reduces wasteful expenditure of manpower and costs by optimizing resource utilization, and it creates an atmosphere for systematic and concurrent design.
What Role Does CAD Play In The Implementation of KBE?
CAD is an integral part of KBE, because KBE originated from a combination of design methodologies, knowledge-based systems, and the application of CAD software during product development. Because of this marriage between CAD and KBE, elements of KBE are available in new CAD software releases such as Autodesk® and Solidworks®. In particular, the BIM (Building Information Modeling) industry uses Autodesk to create synergistic relationships between all disciplines involved in a building project from beginning to end of the project. As a result, the product development cycle is shortened, design rework is minimized, and the planning stages of a project involve engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, and all disciplines throughout the project.
CAD software provides the ability to implement design methodologies such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis), CAS (Computer Aided Simulation), and design optimization. On the other hand, KBE applies design experience, manufacturing processes, engineering design rules, governmental rules and regulations, and experience-based knowledge and practices to facilitate the product development cycle.
The following list captures advantages that KBE provides during product development:
- KBE makes it easier for a company to retain in-house critical design knowledge and experience. Experienced engineers are able to store their design experiences, rules of thumb, corporate guidelines and experience-based knowledge in the form of logical constraints, referred to as domain knowledge.
- KBE protects a company from losing proprietary in-house knowledge due to attrition and retirement of senior and experienced engineers. Because certain types of experience-based knowledge and technical practices are not patentable, KBE provides a useful way for retaining in-house experience-based knowledge and practices.
- KBE enables established design methodologies, perfected over several years of practice, to be used in speeding up design tasks. Instead of “re-inventing the wheel”, established design techniques can be improved but not re-invented, and re-work will be significantly reduced.
Are Modern CAD Software Packages Aware of KBE?
The presence of KBE has appeared in new software releases of Autodesk, Solidworks, and other software releases, because these software packages implement an ISO format called IFC (Industry Foundation Classes). This format makes it possible to incorporate fully detailed CAD models and knowledge-based data from different disciplines into integrated databases.
Autodesk, Solidworks, and other CAD software packages already implement IFC import and export features in their new software releases, especially for the benefit of Building Information Modeling.
For example, an integrated database could contain precise data on design, validation, costing, materials, construction details, and lifecycle maintenance. The database could also provide details on budgeting, scheduling, workflow, and efficient use of manpower and resources. Such collaboration and information sharing between disciplines creates savings in cost, time, and redesign.
CAD technology is the foundation for KBE. Although there is no formalized integration between CAD and KBE, the benefits to be gained by implementing KBE within CAD packages are numerous.
The BIM (Building Information Modeling) industry has already demonstrated that by creating synergistic relationships between all disciplines involved in a building project, significant savings in planning, scheduling, cost, and time are achieved, and the product development cycle is shortened.
Research projects are ongoing toward formalizing systems engineering knowledge. Such research could result in (a) developing an artificial intelligence-based software implementation, (b) extending or improving CAD file formats, or (c) creating a new way for integrating KBE into CAD packages. What is important is that the CAD industry is aware of the benefits to be gained by integrating KBE into CAD systems.