Bei Yu, Ken MacCallum
The aim of the process of product configuration in engineering design is to determine a set of elements and their relationships; i.e. to create an "arrangement" that satisfies design requirements and constraints. It becomes a difficult process when there are a large number of elements with various relationships and many design constraints. Current AI-based systems for product configuration have not been as successful as expected in their take-up by industry. This paper suggests that one reason for this is that the reasoning mechanisms in these systems are being developed without reference to product structures. Product structures on the other hand is a topic of increasing interest in both research in design and industrial practice in order to cope with a modern engineering design environment. This paper presents a linkage between configuration process and product struc-tures. The approach, i.e., a Virtual Configuration Workbench, is product structure based in contrast with existing approaches which are mainly rule driven or decision tree/network driven, integrated with an effective reasoning engine with a reason maintenance mechanism. A demonstration system called CONFIGMAN has been developed and illustrated briefly in the paper.