Visualising Complex Products and Processes
Research Theme: Change Management
Traditional visualisation techniques for products and design processes cannot be applied to today's complex situations where multidisciplinary teams are involved in the design and require different representations for their work.
No current method can provide such support. Thus, the aim of this research is to find representations that help designing complex products.
Several industrial case studies showed that there is a gap between currently used techniques and state-of-the-art visualisations available in other research disciplines.
- Revising existing and new visualisation techniques and their usability in engineering design
- Implementing and integrating visualisation techniques into existing and future software tools
- Assessing the usability of the suggested visualisations using empirical evidence and in close co-operation with industry
In interviews with our industrial partners we derived requirements for software tools for supporting their design processes and for visualisations that help designers in their daily work in particular. An HCI methodology is followed in order to find and test human-computer interfaces that benefit the design process.
"Focus and context" visualisations can provide both, a global overview over a complex product or process and a detailed view into a specific part of it, allowing designers to make detailed decisions with respect to global issues. In combination with multiple views they allow designers to rapidly change between abstractions and provide different views on the product and process.
The benefits so far were:
- "Product Change" software tool to support designers by assessing risks in design change
- Interactive visualisations included in the "Signposting Tool" for design-process simulation and analysis
Current visualisation techniques for process and product data are applicable for small or medium scale projects and products. However, products like helicopters and gas turbines consisting of hundreds of thousands of components, designed by large and multidisciplinary teams require new visualisation approaches.
This research project aims at improving existing visualisation techniques and finding new ones that are able to show complex products and processes. Focus and context visualisations can provide such functionality as they focus on one particular piece of information of the complex information while only providing a broad overview over the remaining object. These techniques were included into existing computer tools for supporting design.
These focus and context visualisations require an interactive software environment in order to benefit the designer. Such an interactive environment also requires fast algorithms, so a substantial part of this research also aims at improving existing algorithms so that information is available in real time.
A third area of research is which visual representations are superior for showing models of design processes and products. As both matrix-based and network based techniques have their strengths, one contribution of this research is to show which one is better suited for displaying process and product data and which are the influencing factors.
Support and feedback is provided by:
- Support for this project was provided by EPSRC.
- Keller, R., T. Eger, C.M. Eckert, and P.J. Clarkson, Visualising Change Propagation, in Proceedings of ICED '05. 2005.
- Keller, R., C.M. Eckert, and P.J. Clarkson, Multiple Views to Support Engineering Change Management for Complex Products, in Proceedings of CMV '05. 2005.
- Eckert, C.M., R. Keller, C. Earl, P.J. Clarkson, Supporting change processes in design: complexity, prediction and reliability, Technical Report CUED/C-EDC/TR136 – June 2005.