Technology Reinvestment Project
Manufacturing Education and Training Program
1997 Grantees Conference Proceedings

EDLIB - AN ELECTRONIC DESIGN LIBRARY

Sundar Krishnamurty1
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Ian Grosse2
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Abstract: A state-of-the-art Electronic Design Library (EDLIB) has been developed at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to provide engineering students access to design information that are typically difficult, if not impossible, to obtain otherwise. The many features of EDLIB, sponsored by NSF under the EASNE (Educational Alliance of Southern New England) Coalition grant, include gathering and dissemination of information on electronic vendor catalogs of standard mechanical components, databases of materials and their properties, and appropriate codes and standards. In addition to such archival information, the EDLIB infrastructure also includes design modules to reinforce fundamental fundamentals and enhance communication skills. Included among the design modules are the DFM/DFA guidelines for various manufacturing processes, guidelines and formula for mechanical components' design, links to design case studies, as well as a comprehensive database of design courses and student design projects.

Introduction: Design is inherently a collaborative, interdisciplinary information-rich activity. Often, student designs are limited in creativity, detail, and effectiveness by both a lack of timely information available to the students and a lack of a dedicated easy-to-access design knowledge. A design environment is needed that supports access to such information, reinforces design fundamentals, and sustains an integrated product and process development based engineering design curriculum based on one coherent theme. To meet these needs, a web-based engineering design library has been developed at the University of Massachusetts that serves as a design information infrastructure to facilitate identification, acquisition, and dissemination of design-related information, as well as to reinforce design methodologies and concepts from a product realization system approach to engineering design.

In recent times, the proliferation of Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) resources have made them an integral part of our educational environment. However, in spite of its popularity among students, the use of WWW resources in actual teaching and learning has been minimal. There are three main reasons for this: 1) The chaotic state of flux that characterizes the current WWW [1]; 2) a lack of an easy-to-access comprehensive database of relevant material; and 3) a lack of integration of WWW resources into actual classroom teaching and learning [2]. So what is needed is an effective mechanism for evaluating and consolidating relevant material towards developing a comprehensive electronic design repository that will empower students and improve their proficiency in dealing with engineering design and manufacturing problems.

This paper presents the development of such a library that includes criteria-based accumulation of outside WWW resources, as well as in-house developed fundamental and course-based design modules. To date, this engineering design library (EDLIB) infrastructure includes gathering and dissemination of information on electronic vendor catalogues of standard mechanical components, databases of materials and their properties, and appropriate codes and standards. In addition to archival information, the EDLIB infrastructure also includes design modules to reinforce fundamental concepts and methodologies such as DFM/DFA guidelines for various manufacturing processes, guidelines and formula for mechanical components' design, links to design case studies, and a database of design courses with emphasis on students' design projects.

EDLIB - ENGINEERING DESIGN LIBRARY: The main objective of the developed library funded by the NSF-sponsored Engineering Academy of Southern New England (EASNE) is to serve as a framework for design-related archival information. In addition, a secondary objective of EDLIB is to provide curriculum integration and continuity by reinforcing the single theme of integrated product and process development (IPPD) through the entire design course sequence. Integrated process and product development is the process by which products are conceived, designed, produced, marketed, and disposed of eventually. It includes determining customers' needs, relating the needs to company strategies and products, developing the product marketing concept, developing the engineering specifications, design both the product and the process required to produce it, running the process to manufacture it, and distributing, selling, repairing and disposing of the product [3].


Figure 1: EDLIB Infrastructure

EDLIB Organization: An overview of the EDLIB infrastructure is shown in Figure 1. The structure of this library emphasizes the single coherent theme of integrated product and process development and reflects the natural inter-connectivity among the different activity phases in design. As such, links to information database that are integral to any engineering design are categorized in a systematic manner.

Design Library Information Database: In EDLIB, Design Library Information Database category consists of links that act as pointers to a wide-ranging design-related external archival information and in-house developed design modules. The primary sources of archival information include many relevant and useful external links to other design libraries. Among the wide range of design information web sites included in this library are links to the Center for Design Research [4], NSF Engineering Education Coalition [5], an extensive collection of engineering case studies [6], a comprehensive engineering design aids web site [7], an advanced Internet-based parts information service location [8], and the ASME Code-of-Ethics for Engineers web site [9].

In addition to such design-related archival information that students use to support their design projects, these links also contain brief design modules for reinforcing basic design methodologies and practices. The three sub-categories under the Injection Molding Advisor in Design for Manufacturing category link best illustrates this novel approach to coupling information from external web-based sources with basic design concepts and fundamentals. Figure 2 shows its hierarchical structure with three sub-categories. The first link leads to a re-printed information in a tabular form that is typically used to estimate costs associated with injection molded parts based on wall thickness and internal, and/or, external undercuts. The second category shown in Figure 2 is an interactive Java applet-based cost estimator developed by Professor Kazmer at the University of Massachusetts. This applet allows you to estimate the cost of manufacturing an injection molded part given the approximate geometry and other application details. The third link aims to further reintroduce and reinforce students to the fundamentals of injection molding process. This is achieved by including a link to the General Electric plastics site [10] that provides detailed design for manufacturing guidelines.


Figure 2: Injection Molding Cost Estimator

This pedagogical philosophy of providing students with information from multitude of external sources and coupling them with design concepts and methodologies forms the basis for the development of EDLIB design library. The collection of design-related information covering a wide range of topics is catalogued as follows:


Figure 3: Standard Machine Components Design

Each of these links contains topic-specific design information from a multitude of sources. Figure 3 shows the classification under the standard machine components design category, highlighting the manner in which these links are used to reinforce design fundamentals and basic concepts. This consistent and methodical hierarchical manner is adopted in storing and disseminating information in all the above design-related topics.

Courses and Course Projects: The second major component in this design library is our web pages for the design courses in our curriculum. These courses start with the sophomore level Introduction to Mechanical Design Course (MIE 213) where design from the integrated product and process development perspective is first introduced. This single coherent theme is then carried out throughout the curriculum, including the graduate level Finite Element Course (MIE605). Accordingly, the course-related web pages reflect the emphasis on students' ability to perform and present design projects. For example, consider the web page for the junior level Design of Mechanisms course (MIE318). This page contains, in addition to course description and links to relevant external sites, a collection of case studies of past and current course projects (Figure 4). As stated before, emphasis is placed on the students' team design projects. As such, web sites to these course projects include students' design proposals, relevant external links specific to individual projects, their work schedule, engineering drawings, and their final presentation material. These are designed to serve as a valuable database for current and future students in this, as well as, in other design courses.

In addition, the design project presentation material included on these pages are also intended to teach students team work and communication skills. Figure 5 shows a sample of students' design projects from three different courses. Work is currently being done to further introduce, sustain, and update design project information in all these design-related courses.


Figure 4: Design of Mechanisms Course Web Page


Figure 5: Illustrative Design Projects

In summary, a web-based engineering design library has been developed that is uniquely capable of serving as an effective medium of learning based on its inclusion of students' work along with archival information and modules on design fundamentals. To further illustrate the potential and advantages of this design library, EDLIB also includes a demonstrative gear design problem using web resources (Figure 6).

On the basis of its salient features and its effective use of web-medium, we expect EDLIB:

The Future: A successful and useful electronic design library has to be developed on a strong commitment to quality and continuity. Material contained in many WWW resources are too often either self-promotional or commercial. More importantly, information contained in them are sometimes either unsubstantiated or the links themselves have expired. Therefore, it becomes imperative that the development and implementation of a successful web-based design library need a comprehensive and measurable evaluation plan. Towards testing of the EDLIB, as well as to facilitate us with a clear vision for its future growth, we are currently developing a comprehensive assessment model involving formative evaluation techniques. These techniques are based on testing improvement in students' competency to make better quality designs. Our assessment plan will also address students' self-efficacy and how well our design library has succeeded in improving their proficiency in solving design problems. We will also evaluate EDLIB's usefulness and relevance, and use the feedback to make changes towards improving its quality.


Figure 6: Illustrative Design Problem on the Web

Conclusion: This paper presents the development and implementation of a virtual Engineering Design Library (EDLIB). The purpose of this library is to provide a state-of-the-art web-based framework for engineering students for teaching and learning design and manufacturing related information. World Wide Web (WWW) has become a powerful communication tool that is currently used by many students and practicing engineers. As such, this web-based design library will greatly facilitate easy search and finding of relevant information quickly with a click of a few buttons. With its inclusion of students' work along with archival information and modules on design fundamentals, this library can be expected to empower students and improve their competency and proficiency in solving design problems. Its many salient features and its emphasis on integrated product and process design approach to mechanical design makes this virtual design library a valuable learning medium for students in different courses and with different levels of expertise. In addition, by virtue of its transparent and transportable nature, we expect EDLIB to be of significant benefit to students, faculty, and practicing engineers everywhere as well.

Acknowledgments:This material is based upon work supported by the multi-agency Technology Reinvestment Project as National Science Foundation Cooperative Agreement with the EASNE Coalition. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions of research assistants Nellian and Jensen.

References

  1. Bennet, L. T., Wilkinson, G. L., and Oliver, K. M. "The Development and Validation of Instruments to Assess the Quality of Internet Information," ED-MEDIA 96 - International Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, June 17-22, 1996, Boston, MA.
  2. Reeves, T. C., "A Model of the Effective Dimensions of Interactive Learning on the World Wide Web, ED-MEDIA 96 - International Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, June 17-22, 1996, Boston, MA.
  3. Dixon, J. R. and Poli, C., "Engineering Design and Design for Manufacturing - A Structured Approach," Field Stone Publishers, Conway, MA.
  4. Center for Design Research at Stanford University (URL http://cdr.stanford.edu/html/cdr.html)
  5. NSF Engineering Education Coalitions (URL http://www.needs.org/coalitions/)
  6. Engineering Case Library at the University of Carleton (URL http://www.civeng.carleton.ca/cgi-bin2/ecl-query/ECL/abstracts.db)
  7. Engineering Design Aids Web Page, Staffordshire University, Stfford, England (URL http://www.staffs.ac.uk/sands/engs/des/aids/aids.htm)
  8. PARTNET - The parts Information Network (URL http://part.net/partnet/home.htm)
  9. ASME Code-of-Ethics for Engineers, University of Washington (URL http://www.seattleu.edu/~mmedept/code_ethics.html)
  10. Illustrated Tour of World-of-Thermoplastics, GE Plastics (URL http://www.ge.com/plastics/educate/gpmold00.htm).

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1MIE Department, Box 32210, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MA 01003
2MIE Department, Box 32210, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MA 01003