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Dundee Navin-Chandra
Adjunct Faculty, RI
No longer a member of RI.
Research Interests

The main goal of my professional work is to continue the development of the Science of the Artificial (Simon '69). It is my aim to understand the intellectual activity involved in the design of material artifacts that are eventually manufactured, sold and used by society. At present my research is focused on understanding the interface between the conceptual phase of an artifact's development and its eventual commercialization. This interface is called the Concurrent Engineering problem, the study of design processes that yield products that are easily manufactured, marketed, used, and disposed of or recycled.

In my investigations into concurrent engineering, I have concentrated my work in two areas: Design by Hindsight and Green Engineering.

Design by Hindsight. Human designers use previous designs extensively in the process of producing a new design. Designers reason analogically from previous cases to avoid earlier mistakes and to re-use previous approaches.; Even though it is known that designers rely heavily on previous cases, there is (as yet) no computer-aided tool that can help designers find and re-use precedent designs. Having recognized this problem, I started research on this topic in 1986 and wrote the first paper (and later a book) in the area of Case-Based Reasoning applied to Engineering Design.

The CMU project, called CADET, is aimed at the development of a theory and related methodology for synthesizing new behaviors from prior design cases. The research represents a modest breakthrough in conceptual design research. By re-using cases we have avoided the problem of having to make the elusive, and almost magical, 'leap' from function to structure. The methodology has been published and demonstrated for a particular class of non-intermittent electro- and hydro-mechanical devices.

The long term goal of the effort is to combine the CADET results with my previous work on innovative design to develop a designer's 'brainstorming assistant'.

Green Engineering. Green Engineering is an approach to product and process design that achieves environmental friendliness without compromising the product's quality or its commercial viability. The aim is to identify, develop, and exploit new technologies that can bolster productivity without costing the environment. The notion of green engineering is based on the idea that products which incorporate environmental concerns will play a role in avoiding environmental problems before they occur, thereby taking a pro-active approach to environmental problems rather than a reactive approach which tries to fix problems only after they occur. I have been developing a methodology and software tools that can be used in an engineering setting to support design for recycling, re-manufacturing and reuse. Within this framework, careful attention is being given to the economics and the tradeoffs involved. Green design works because of conservation and recovery -- every time a part or material is recycled, one saves the energy, material and environmental impacts of creating the product from scratch. This translates to cost savings for industries and leads to the creation of new jobs in re-manufacturing and recycling.

The project was started in 1989 with the disassembly and recycling analysis of an automobile under sponsorship from Ford Motors Company. We have since developed a Design-for-Environment tool called ReStar (NSF support). The tool has been applied to problems at Motorola and Northern Telecom, and has also been reported multiple times in the professional and popular press. I am currently doing research on the de-manufacturing and recycling of computers. A de-manufacturing laboratory is now being established with some support from NSF and IBM.

The Future. I believe that environmental issues in design and manufacturing are going to play an ever increasing role over the next quarter century. By concentrating my research on both the marketing and technical issues of green products, I hope to lay the foundation for a fundamental change in the way products are designed, manufactured, sold and recovered. I envision a future where most products will be leased, where customers will mortgage the materials contained in products, and where the accelerated obsolescence of high-tech products will be exploited through de-manufacturing and re-manufacturing. Above all, I hope to play a role in changing the way our society consumes products so that future progress is achieved through sustainable means, not be destroying the environment.

Research Interest Keywords
concurrent engineering