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Visual Analytics Tools for Sustainable Lifecycle Design: Current Status, Challenges, and Future Opportunities

posted Aug 17, 2017, 6:42 AM by Devarajan Ramanujan

Abstract: The rapid rise in technologies for data collection has created an unmatched opportunity to advance the use of data-rich tools for lifecycle decision-making. However, the usefulness of these technologies is limited by the ability to translate lifecycle data into actionable insights for human decision-makers. This is especially true in the case of sustainable lifecycle design (SLD), as the assessment of environmental impacts, and the feasibility of making corresponding design changes, often relies on human expertise and intuition. Supporting human sense-making in SLD requires the use of both data-driven and user-driven methods while exploring lifecycle data. A promising approach for combining the two is through the use of visual analytics (VA) tools. Such tools can leverage the ability of computer-based tools to gather, process, and summarize data along with the ability of human-experts to guide analyses through domain knowledge or data-driven insight. In this paper, we review previous research that has created VA tools in SLD. We also highlight existing challenges and future opportunities for such tools in different lifecycle stages---design, manufacturing, distribution & supply chain, use-phase, end-of-life, as well as life cycle assessment. Our review shows that while the number of VA tools in SLD is relatively small, researchers are increasingly focusing on the subject matter. Our review also suggests that VA tools can address existing challenges in SLD and that significant future opportunities exist

Link to article:
Citation: Ramanujan D, Bernstein W, Chandrasegaran SK, Ramani K., "Visual Analytics Tools for Sustainable Lifecycle Design: Current Status, Challenges, and Future Opportunities.", ASME. J. Mech. Des. 2017. doi:10.1115/1.4037479 (in print)

A framework for visualization-driven eco-conscious design exploration

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:29 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan   [ updated Mar 9, 2016, 7:42 AM ]

Abstract: A large portion of design activity involves reuse of previous knowledge in order to solve new problems. Therefore, facilitating eco-conscious exploration of archived designs is needed for advancing sustainable product design. It is thus necessary to create integrated exploration tools that share common data representations for design and sustainability related product metadata. This can allow designers to observe co-variations in design data and develop engineering intuition with regards to environmental sustainability performance.  In this work, we present a framework for relating sustainability and product metadata using taxonomy-based representations of lifecycle data. This facilitates simultaneous visualization of environmental indicators along with part similarities. To demonstrate this framework, we implement shapeSIFT, an interactive multi-dimensional visualization tool for eco-conscious design exploration. ShapeSIFT uses a visual analytics-based approach to represent part metadata and environmental indicators. This facilitates query-based dynamic exploration of part repositories.

Citation: Ramanujan, Devarajan, William Z. Bernstein, William Benjamin, Karthik Ramani, Niklas Elmqvist, Devadatta Kulkarni, and Jeffrey Tew. "A Framework for Visualization-Driven Eco-Conscious Design Exploration." Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering 15, no. 4 (2015): 041010.

Mutually coordinated visualization of product and supply chain metadata for sustainable design

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:26 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan   [ updated Mar 9, 2016, 7:43 AM ]

Abstract: In this paper, we present a novel visualization framework for product and supply chain metadata in the context of redesign-related decision scenarios. Our framework is based on the idea of overlaying product-related metadata onto interactive graph representations of a supply chain and its associated product architecture. By coupling environmental data with graph-based visualizations of product architecture, our framework provides a novel decision platform for expert designers. Here, the user can balance the advantages of a redesign opportunity and manage the associated risk on the product and supply chain. For demonstration, we present ViSER, an interactive visualization tool that provides an interface consisting of different mutually coordinated views providing multiple perspectives on a particular supply chain presentation. To explore the utility of ViSER, we conduct a domain expert exploration using a case study of peripheral computer equipment. Results indicate that ViSER enables new affordances within the decision making process for supply chain redesign.

Citation: Bernstein, William Z., Devarajan Ramanujan, Devadatta M. Kulkarni, Jeffrey Tew, Niklas Elmqvist, Fu Zhao, and Karthik Ramani. "Mutually coordinated visualization of product and supply chain metadata for sustainable design."Journal of Mechanical Design 137, no. 12 (2015): 121101.

The Status, Challenges, and Future of Additive Manufacturing in Engineering

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:25 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan


Abstract: Additive manufacturing (AM) is poised to bring about a revolution in the way products are designed, manufactured, and distributed to end users. This technology has gained significant academic as well as industry interest due to its ability to create complex geometries with customizable material properties. AM has also inspired the development of the maker movement by democratizing design and manufacturing. Due to the rapid proliferation of a wide variety of technologies associated with AM, there is a lack of a comprehensive set of design principles, manufacturing guidelines, and standardization of best practices. These challenges are compounded by the fact that advancements in multiple technologies (for example materials processing, topology optimization) generate a “positive feedback loop” effect in advancing AM. In order to advance research interest and investment in AM technologies, some fundamental questions and trends about the dependencies existing in these avenues need highlighting. The goal of our review paper is to organize this body of knowledge surrounding AM, and present current barriers, findings, and future trends significantly to the researchers. We also discuss fundamental attributes of AM processes, evolution of the AM industry, and the affordances enabled by the emergence of AM in a variety of areas such as geometry processing, material design, and education. We conclude our paper by pointing out future directions such as the “print-it-all” paradigm, that have the potential to re-imagine current research and spawn completely new avenues for exploration.

Citation: Gao, Wei, Yunbo Zhang, Devarajan Ramanujan, Karthik Ramani, Yong Chen, Christopher B. Williams, Charlie CL Wang, Yung C. Shin, Song Zhang, and Pablo D. Zavattieri. "The status, challenges, and future of additive manufacturing in engineering." Computer-Aided Design (2015).

Prioritizing Design for Environment Strategies Using a Stochastic Analytic Hierarchy Process

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:24 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan

Abstract: This paper describes a framework for applying design for environment (DfE) within an industry setting. Our aim is to couple implicit design knowledge such as redesign/process constraints with quantitative measures of environmental performance to enable informed decision making. We do so by integrating life cycle assessment (LCA) and multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA). Specifically, the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) is used for prioritizing various levels of DfE strategies. The AHP network is formulated so as to improve the environmental performance of a product while considering business-related performance. Moreover, in a realistic industry setting, the onus of decision making often rests with a group, rather than an individual decision maker (DM). While conducting independent evaluations, experts often do not perfectly agree and no individual expert can be considered representative of the ground truth. Hence, we integrate a stochastic simulation module within the MCDA for assessing the variability in preferences among DMs. This variability in judgments is used as a metric for quantifying judgment reliability. A sensitivity analysis is also incorporated to explore the dependence of decisions on specific input preferences. Finally, the paper discusses the results of applying the proposed framework in a real-world case.

Citation: Ramanujan, Devarajan, William Z. Bernstein, Jun-Ki Choi, Mikko Koho, Fu Zhao, and Karthik Ramani. "Prioritizing Design for Environment Strategies Using a Stochastic Analytic Hierarchy Process." Journal of Mechanical Design136, no. 7 (2014): 071002.

Teaching Design for Environment through Critique within a Project Based Product Design Course

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:22 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan

Abstract:  Future environmental regulations are creating new employment requirements within traditional engineering organizations. These organizations require recent graduates to have a strong handle on environmental issues related to new product development. Since mechanical engineering curriculum is saturated with courses covering a broad spectrum of engineering fundamentals, there is little room to develop a separate course to teach principles of sustainable product design. This manuscript presents a novel method for teaching Design for Environment ( DfE ) strategies within a mechanical engineering product design course through the use of expert critiques. The results from this study indicate that integration of a critique based module within an existing design project is an effective medium for teaching sustainable product design. Also, receiving feedback in the form of design critiques, breeds innovative design modifications that lower the energy and carbon footprints of the design across multiple lifecycle stages. More importantly, the results indicate that after participating in this teaching module, students are more likely to apply the learned DfE principles within academia and industry.

Citation: Bernstein, William Z., Devarajan Ramanujan, Fu Zhao, Karthik Ramani, and Monica F. Cox. "Teaching design for environment through critique within a project-based product design course." International Journal of Engineering Education 28, no. 4 (2012): 799.

Integrated Sustainable Lifecycle Design: A Review

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:18 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 12:20 PM ]

Abstract: Product design is one of the most important sectors influencing global sustainability, as almost all the products consumed by people are outputs of the product development process. In particular, early design decisions can have a very significant impact on sustainability. These decisions not only relate to material and manufacturing choices but have a far-reaching effect on the product’s entire life cycle, including transportation, distribution, and end-of-life logistics. However, key challenges have to be overcome to enable eco-design methods to be applicable in early design stages. Lack of information models, semantic interoperability, methods to influence eco-design thinking in early stages, measurement science and uncertainty models in eco-decisions, and ability to balance business decisions and eco-design methodology are serious impediments to realizing sustainable products and services. Therefore, integrating downstream life cycle data into eco-design tools is essential to achieving true sustainable product development. Our review gives an overview of related research and positions early eco-design tools and decision support as a key strategy for the future. By merging sustainable thinking into traditional design methods, this review provides a framework for ongoing research, as well as encourages research collaborations among the various communities interested in sustainable product realization.

Citation: Ramani, Karthik, Devarajan Ramanujan, William Z. Bernstein, Fu Zhao, John Sutherland, Carol Handwerker, Jun-Ki Choi, Harrison Kim, and Deborah Thurston. "Integrated sustainable life cycle design: a review." Journal of Mechanical Design 132, no. 9 (2010): 091004.

Integration of Sustainability Into Early Design through the Function Impact Matrix

posted Nov 9, 2015, 12:11 PM by Devarajan Ramanujan   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 12:11 PM ]

Abstract: The issue of environmental sustainability, which is unprecedented in both magnitude and complexity, presents one of the biggest challenges faced by modern society. Design engineers can make significant contributions by incorporating environmental awareness into product and process development. It is critical that engineers make a paradigm shift in product design from centering on cost and performance to balancing economic, environmental, and societal considerations. Although there have been quite a few designs for environment (or ecodesign) tools developed, so far, these tools have only achieved limited industrial penetration. The present-day methods are either too qualitative to offer concrete solutions and not effective for designers with limited experience or too quantitative, costly, and time consuming. Thus, current ecodesign tools cannot be implemented during the early design phases. This paper develops a novel, semiquantitative-ecodesign methodology that is targeted specifically toward the early stages of the design process. The new methodology is a combination of environmental life cycle assessment and visual tools such as quality function deployment, functional-component matrix, and Pugh chart. Since the early design process is function-oriented, a new visual tool called the function impact matrix has been developed to correlate environmental impacts with product function. Redesign of office staplers for reduced carbon footprint has been selected as a case study to demonstrate the use of the proposed approach. Life cycle assessment results confirm that the new stapler design generated using this methodology promotes improved environmental performance.

Citation: Devanathan, Srikanth, Devarajan Ramanujan, William Z. Bernstein, Fu Zhao, and Karthik Ramani. "Integration of sustainability into early design through the function impact matrix." Journal of Mechanical Design 132, no. 8 (2010): 081004.

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