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Unified Interdisciplinary Methodology for Concurrent and Collaborative Engineering in Chemical Process Industry Open Access


Other title
Chemical process engineering modeling
Change propagation
Feature-based modeling
Engineering informatics
Interdisciplinary engineering
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Xie, Yanan
Supervisor and department
Yongsheng Ma
Examining committee member and department
Xue, Deyi (Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Calgary)
Lipsett, Michael (Mechanical Engineering)
Doucette, John (Mechanical Engineering)
De Klerk, Arno (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Ma, Yongsheng (Mechanical Engineering)
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Chemical process engineering projects are complex and multi-disciplinary, requiring collaboration of different domains, such as business project management, chemical process, mechanical, electrical, and instrument with specific computer-aided tools. Current research on semantic interoperability is still domain specific. The lack of interoperability across domains remains a big issue in industry practice. The industrial demand for systematically managing the information generated throughout the lifecycle of engineering processes and associations across disciplines imposes a great research challenge. Rather than exchanging documents from one department to another, such as the chemical process department to the mechanical one, this research proposes an interdisciplinary engineering methodology based on a unified informatics approach to develop a systematic technology for supporting chemical process project lifecycle. Semantic characteristics of information entities and flows across chemical and mechanical engineering domains, and the implicit associations, are discussed. The similarity between the two disciplines inspires a unified engineering framework. Under this framework, two categories of new features that can be identified from commonly-observed chemical engineering processes, associative chemical process features and inter-domain functional features, are modeled. Related to those traditional product-related features in the mechanical engineering domain, the above two sets of features offer new mechanisms to support a multi-disciplinary and feature-based chemical process modeling system. Based on the proposed feature models, interdisciplinary engineering information association mechanisms are constructed. Such interdisciplinary engineering associations are explicitly expressed and systematically managed by constraint models. Hence, the feature associations are well-maintained along the project life cycle. A mechanism is then developed to dynamically construct feature parameter association map, which provides context association information among engineering entities. Based on the generated map, a well-controlled, incremental and dynamic engineering change propagation method is proposed to assist engineers with an intelligent change propagation solution. This proposed unified engineering methodology offers a solution of comprehensive and feature-based system modeling for real-world complex problems of system integration and interoperability, and hence, is capable of supporting engineering collaboration across disciplines. The insights gained by this research work also add to the growing understanding of relationships among engineering design in separate disciplines. Implementation of a prototype system based on feature definition and consistency maintenance mechanisms leads to a collaborative engineering platform for the chemical process design, which provides a feature-based modeling to explicitly represent characteristics of engineering significance as well as such associations. Thus information sharing is facilitated, while the feature models and constraints are all systematically managed. The prototype of applications of the proposed features shows the effectiveness towards consistency and efficiency improvement for chemical engineering informatics modeling. The mechanism proposed is capable of maintaining a consistent design through the life cycle of the chemical process project, and hence, the efficiency can be potentially improved by reducing the tedious revision work led by inconsistent design.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Xie, Y., & Ma, Y. (2015). “Design of a multi-disciplinary and feature-based collaborative environment for chemical process projects”, Expert Systems with Applications, Elsevier, 42(8), 4149-4166.Xie, Y., & Ma, Y. (2014). “Unified Interdisciplinary Methodology for Collaboration in Chemical Process Industry”, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Foundations of Computer-aided Process Design, reprinted in Computer-Aided Chemical Engineering, 34, Elsevier, 747-752.Xie, Y., Wei, J. & Ma, Y. (2012). “Multi-view Feature Model Representation to Support Integration of Chemical Process and Mechanical Design”, Computer-Aided Design and Applications, 10(4), Taylor & Francis, 619-628.Xie, Y., & Ma, Y. “Well-Controlled Engineering Change Propagation via a Dynamic Inter-Feature Association Map”, submitted to the journal, Research in Engineering Design.Xie, Y., & Ma, Y. “Systematic Interdisciplinary Constraint Association Management in Feature-Based Modeling Scheme”, submitted to the journal, Computers in Industry.

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