Deterministic design could be described as creativity based on facts. It greatly reduces risk and redundancy, thus resulting in simple, high performance, cost-efficient and reliable machines.
Deterministic Design: Funneling of creativity
The key to deterministic design is the funneling of creativity by means of continuous risk assessment and systematic collection, creation and analysis of design information. The performance of the resulting machine is predictable because the entire process is deterministic, i.e. based on facts and analysis. This procedure also ensures an appropriate allocation of engineering resources, thus leading to highly efficient yet economic designs.
The first step in any design process is to clearly identify the functional requirements. To meet these requirements, a set of possible strategies is generated. These are basic approaches to solving a problem at a high level. For example, suppose a functional requirement was to create a system to control the flow of traffic at an intersection. Possible strategies might include
- Human traffic director
- Traffic signals
- Traffic Circle (rotary or roundabout)
At this stage, there is room for creative thinking and one may come up with many ideas. Once these ideas have been complied, they are funneled through the process of fact based analysis and risk assessment, so as to obtain the most promising strategy.
After a strategy has been decided, the next step is to develop concepts to implement it. If the strategy is the “what”, the concept is the “how”. In our traffic control scenario, if the chosen strategy was traffic signals, concepts would involve the actual design of a system of traffic signals. We would need to determine how many there would be, what style (e.g. overhead or on poles), how they would be controlled, etc.
The procedure of idea generation and selection that was used to produce strategies is repeated again, at a different level this time. As before, there can be multiple concepts that may be employed to make a strategy successful. Free thinking allows for the generation of many ideas, and based on the previously stated design principles, we make a deterministic choice of the best concept. Once a concept has been decided, we move on to the modules that are the building blocks of a given concept. In our example, there would be a traffic light module, a traffic controller module, etc.
After selecting the best modules, we finally work out the details that constitute the modules i.e. hardware/software components.
Each stage involves generation of ideas followed by selection of the best ideas by means of risk management and fact based analysis. Thus, deterministic design allows us to harness creativity to produce the best possible machines within given resources.
For further discussion and case studies on deterministic design, please refer to Prof. Alex Slocum’s Design and Manufacturing (2.007) course website, especially the course lectures. Also refer to the PowerPoint presentation given to Lemelson High School Invention Teams for a good general exposition of this process.