|Title:||An agent-based framework to support collaborative product design|
|Subject:||Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations.|
|Department:||School of Design|
|Pages:||xv, 182 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.|
|Abstract:||This thesis investigates the requirements of collaborative product design and proposes a new agent-based framework to support collaborative product development by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the management and coordination of collaborative product design processes. Collaborative design creates added values in the product development process by bringing the benefits of teamwork and cooperation in a concurrent and coordinated manner. Furthermore, it reduces the loss of efficiency resulting from potential conflicts and misunderstandings among team members. However, the effectiveness and the success of collaborative design are undermined by the difficulties arising from the differences between heterogeneous system architectures and information structures. Recently, agent technology has been recognised by more and more researchers as a promising approach to analyzing, designing, and implementing industrial distributed systems. The way in which software agents residing in a multi-agent system interact and cooperate with one another to achieve a common goal is similar to the way that human designers collaborate with each other to carry out a product design project. Thus, the hypothesis of this research is that a collaborative product design framework implemented by taking an agent-based approach will be capable of assisting human designers and design teams effectively and efficiently in a collaborative product design process. Based on the investigation of a collaborative design process, the requirements for a product design framework which functions particularly to support design collaboration are identified. Then, a new framework for collaborative design is proposed and it adopts an agent-based approach and relocates designers, systems, and supporting agents in a unified knowledge representation scheme for collaborative product design. In order to model the constantly changing design process and the rationales resulting from design collaboration, a Collaborative Product Data Model (CPDM) and a Collaborative Design Process Model (CDPM) are proposed to maintain the consistency of product data and assist designers in making good decisions. The CPDM is established by extending the traditional feature-based parametric Product Data Model (PDM) to include information related to the management and coordination of a collaborative product design process. It can take maximum advantage of mature technologies and makes the integration of traditional CAX systems easier. The advantage of the CDPM is that, by taking a constraint-oriented approach to modelling the collaborative design process, the collaborative design process can be more efficiently and effectively managed and coordinated because, in product design, most of the design requirements can be represented in computational design constraints. The CDPM helps designers understand the design rationale behind a design decision made by other designers who may be geographically dispersed. Based on the proposed CPDM and CDPM, the system architecture of an agent-based framework to support collaborative design is proposed, and a prototype system is implemented. This system is capable of assisting designers in the management and coordination of the collaborative design process via the cooperation of a network of agents including mainly management agents, communication agents, and design agents. Design experiments are carried out with the prototype system to validate the feasibility and applicability of the system. The results of these design experiments demonstrate how the proposed framework improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the management and coordination of a collaborative product design process. This research is located in collaborative product design and field of CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) and CSCD (Computer Supported Cooperative Design) with an emphasis on evaluating the proposed framework using real design examples. It contributes to the development of new tools supporting collaborative product design using computational agents with unified data structures and software protocols in an integrated framework. The implemented framework with product design examples demonstrated the advantages of using agent technology to achieve better design cooperation, coordination, response, desired modularity, and improved software reusability in the process of product design collaboration.|
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