Research Papers

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization for Complex Engineered Systems: Report From a National Science Foundation Workshop

[+] Author and Article Information
Timothy W. Simpson1

 Fellow ASME Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802tws8@psu.edu

Joaquim R. R. A. Martins

 Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109jrram@umich.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Mech. Des 133(10), 101002 (Sep 27, 2011) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4004465 History: Received January 27, 2011; Accepted June 13, 2011; Published September 27, 2011; Online September 27, 2011

Complex engineered systems are typically designed using a systems engineering framework that is showing its limitations. Multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO), which has evolved remarkably since its inception 25 years ago, offers alternatives to complement and enhance the systems engineering approach to help address the challenges inherent in the design of complex engineered systems. To gain insight into these challenges, a one-day workshop was organized that gathered 48 people from industry, academia, and government agencies. The goal was to examine MDO’s current and future role in designing complex engineered systems. This paper summarizes the views of five distinguished speakers on the “state of the research” and discussions from an industry panel comprised of representatives from Boeing, Caterpillar, Ford, NASA Glenn Research Center, and United Technologies Research Center on the “state of the practice.” Future research topics to advance MDO are also identified in five key areas: (1) modeling and the design space, (2) metrics, objectives, and requirements, (3) coupling in complex engineered systems, (4) dealing with uncertainty, and (5) people and workflow. Finally, five overarching themes are offered to advance MDO practice. First, MDO researchers need to engage disciplines outside of engineering and target opportunities outside of their traditional application areas. Second, MDO problem formulations must evolve to encompass a wider range of design criteria. Third, effective strategies are needed to put designers “back in the loop” during MDO. Fourth, the MDO community needs to do a better job of publicizing its successes to improve the “buy in” that is needed to advance MDO in academia, industry, and government agencies. Fifth, students and practitioners need to be better educated on systems design, optimization, and MDO methods and tools along with their benefits and drawbacks.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 2

Example of requirements (left) versus objective function (right) flow-down [24]

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Figure 3

Selecting the right tool for the right problem at the right time [36]

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Figure 1

Potential for MDO in engineering design and development (D&D) process [23]

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Figure 4

MDO usage in the automotive industry [37]

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Figure 5

MDO challenges in microgrid design [39]



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