Our vision is of a global manufacturing
economy connected through Internet and telecommunications technology.
In this vision, manufacturing companies will cost-effectively design new
products in direct collaboration over information networks. The information
infrastructure will enable groups of companies to organize themselves into
This vision requires that we develop a highly
interactive means to conceptualize, design, test, plan, fabricate, and
serve products --- a concept we call Networked Engineering.
is a fruit of the growth in computer power and networking connectivity,
and will reshape the relationships among creators (i.e., design and manufacturing
companies) and consumers (i.e., product customers).
Environments network product life-cycle knowledge from diverse disciplines,
integrates them interactively and collaboratively through remote interaction
between engineers and users --- having unique
organizational and human impact. It increases the
effectiveness of engineering teams, industry organizations
and consumer communities that work together across
distances and over time to rapidly and economically
produce the most desirable products.
A distributed team of designers
are developing a mechatronic system for motion control, each team assigned
a specific subsystem. Design begins with an overall conceptual specification
of the mechatronic device, including annotations about desired functions,
performance, response time, acceptable materials, strength, weight limits,
tolerancing information, etc. The design teams use the network to
communicate with each other and contact engineering service agents.
For example, one team accesses a searchable digital library of design artifacts
and their associated simulations, personnel, and process knowledge.
As the design evolves, participants in the process download custom tools
for detailed CAD, negotiation, system simulation, software, and fabrication.
Eventually, the preliminary designs for product and its subsystems become
the starting points for collaborative design, involving negotiation and
interaction among human players and software agents. Each move in
the game of collaborative design may result in proposals from other agents
(e.g., changes in parameter values of subsystem design) to be evaluated.
This evaluation may trigger redesign, accesses to previous design histories
and corporate data, and refinements of simulation models. As the
process iterates, the moves and decisions are recorded and archived until,
eventually, the final product is defined and
Networked Engineering requires
new modes of human-computer interaction, collaborative and interactive
negotiation, proactive CAD and simulation environments, and repositories
to store the knowledge generated by the distributed engineering enterprise.
This project includes basic research, prototype development, and empirical
studies to understand the fundamental processes through
which knowledge is created, communicated, negotiated, validated,
archived and reused in distributed engineering environments.