The application of knowledge based expert systems to mechanical engineering design
Investigation of the different approaches used by Expert Systems researchers to solve problems in the domain of Mechanical Design and Expert Systems was carried out. The techniques used for conventional formal logic programming were compared with those used when applying Expert Systems concepts. A literature survey of design processes was also conducted with a view to adopting a suitable model of the design process. A model, comprising a variation on two established ones, was developed and applied to a problem within what are described as class 3 design tasks. The research explored the application of these concepts to Mechanical Engineering Design problems and their implementation on a microcomputer using an Expert System building tool. It was necessary to explore the use of Expert Systems in this manner so as to bridge the gap between their use as a control structure and for detailed analytical design. The former application is well researched into and this thesis discusses the latter. Some Expert System building tools available to the author at the beginning of his work were evaluated specifically for their suitability for Mechanical Engineering design problems. Microsynics was found to be the most suitable on which to implement a design problem because of its simple but powerful Semantic Net Knowledge Representation structure and the ability to use other types of representation schemes. Two major implementations were carried out. The first involved a design program for a Helical compression spring and the second a gearpair system design. Two concepts were proposed in the thesis for the modelling and implementation of design systems involving many equations. The method proposed enables equation manipulation and analysis using a combination of frames, semantic nets and production rules. The use of semantic nets for purposes other than for psychology and natural language interpretation, is quite new and represents one of the major contributions to knowledge by the author. The development of a purpose built shell program for this type of design problems was recommended as an extension of the research. Microsynics may usefully be used as a platform for this development.