Illustration: Line Halsnes

Order out of chaos

  • Published 01.04.13

“With automated construction, you can just go in and change one parameter, and suddenly the whole design adapts to the change.”

Professor Ole Ivar Sivertsen talks to Gemini journalist Lisa Olstad:

BEGINNINGS: Imagine an oil platform. Think about how many calculations and models and simulations are needed to plan and build something like this. Think of the enormous volume of data generated from the design, dimensions, materials, components, new machinery, professionals, providers, lifecycle calculations, logistics and a host of other things – for every single platform that sees the light of day.

Today, a large number of different systems are used to create an engineering product, whether the product is an oil platform or something else. What I am talking about is all the different computer programs and tools used in the engineering and design work. The problem is that we – or industry – don’t always know what kind of data or computer software is out there, or what these tools have been created for, what kind of technologies they contain, or how we should use them. You could compare it to an incredibly huge and chaotic collection of books in many languages, where no one has created a catalogue, no one uses the same dictionary, and no one has made a system for finding and sharing information that is found in all the chaos.

LinkedDesign has as its overarching goal to integrate all relevant computer tools, to make it easy to find tools and information. Also to make new connections between systems and technology. This is to ensure that those who need the information can find it, use it, code it, share it with others, and even add new information. In short, to make all these tools readily available and easy to use.

NEW SYSTEM FOR FUTURE PRODUCTION

startgr_sivertsenEUROPEAN RESEARCH PROJECT: LinkedDesign (Linked Knowledge in Manufacturing,
Engineering and Design for Next-Generation Production).
COORDINATORSAP, Europe's largest IT company. Project leader in Norway: Professor Ole Ivar Sivertsen,Department of Engineering Design and MaterialsNTNU.
Participants: 13 European partners from various industry and research institutions. From Norway: Aker Solutions and NTNU Departments of Engineering Design and Materials, Computer and Information Science, and Production and Quality Engineering. SINTEF Technology and Society is also involved as a subcontractor to NTNU.

“With automated construction, you can just go in and change one parameter, and suddenly the whole design adapts to the change.”

The LinkedDesign Project is composed of a large number of subprojects. One of them is about what we call automated construction. Think back to my example of the oil platform. People have sat with their data sets and their graphical tools and put it together, piece-by-piece, and have elegantly designed it. Every single component is meticulously modelled and simulated, based on various parameters. This is all well and good. But if a manufacturer one day wants to plan a platform that is similar to a previous structure, but just wants to make minor changes, all the design work has to be done again! Every single calculation, every single design of every single component. With automated construction, you can just go in and change one parameter, and suddenly the whole design adapts to the change, without losing the qualities the product needs – such as strength and security. Aker Solutions already uses a technology that makes it possible to automate these kinds of design tasks. With LinkedDesign, we will investigate ways to make this technology more accessible, user-friendly and transparent for the engineers who use it.

The source of the terms and conditions for what we are trying to do is the industry. This is who is telling us what it needs, how it wants us to interact, and who provides us with specific projects with which to work. In addition to the IT company SAP, Aker Solutions from Norway, Volkswagen from Germany and the Italian robot development company Comau are all heavily involved in LinkedDesign. We had a kick-off for the project in September 2011, and will continue for three-and-a-half years. NTNU will invest six-and-a-half work-years in this – and several of the other partners will invest even more. So it’s great stuff.

And … it’s a fun project to work with! We get to work with the best people in Europe in this area. Here at NTNU, our strength is in engineering-oriented interactions, among others. It is important, when we have a little piece that we are very good at, that this is seen in conjunction with all the other little pieces that are found all around. I also think it is important that Norway, which puts a lot of money into the EU cashbox, should be able to benefit from its investment by being awarded a good research project. We now have a total of five EU-financed projects at our department alone. Moreover, we have built some new and very good connections between other departments and faculties here at NTNU.