Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University
"Development of Tools to improve efficiency Industrial and Engineering Design"
The Kato Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University is conducting research on design theory and methodology for effective design that is crucial to ptoduct developments, and it also researches product design that applies the theory and methodology.
"User demands for products have become diversified in recent years. As a result, not only are products becoming more complex with greater functionality, their design processes have also become more complex. At our lab, we are conducting research on techniques and tools so that product design can be carried out more effectively and efficiently."
The Kato Laboratory conducts research on three main topics: optimal design, in which multiple specifications and evaluations concerning design are optimized; design management, in which specifications and processes are managed and design reworkings are minimized; and Kansei (sensitivity) design, in which people's feelings and impressions are valued.
"Within optimal design, Our Laboratory is particularly focused on robust optimal design. Optimal design sets design parameters for best performance, while robust optimal design is not only concerned with performance quality, it also aims to reduce performance variation due to product user or usage environment. Although it may appear that the only variable added is variation, in fact when variation is taken into consideration, the amount of calculations needed for optimization greatly increases. Our Laboratory is developing an algorithm for efficient optimization."
In addition, research on design management involves the study of techniques to support accurate and smooth operations sought by designers.
"Designers do their design work while organizing and and arranging a huge number of the items that must be addressed in the design process. If this does not go well, design reworkings will occur due to the design and specification changes, which leads to increased development costs and time. As such, design management is very important. Our Laboratory is developing an analysis tool for organizing the relationship between the numerous items."
The Kato Laboratory uses the techniques of quality function deployment and design structure matrix—which are capable of organizing complex relationships between items such as customer design requests, function, physical characteristics, and parts—to develop tools that can visually display these relationships in an easy to understand manner. The laboratory is also developing products that use these tools.
In research on Kansei design, methods to evaluate beauty of two- and three-dimensional shapes are being studied.
"As with the golden ratio that is found in many works of art and architecture, shapes considered to be “beautiful” are said to be characterized by some hidden rule. If this rule can be discovered and “beauty” is quantified, it can be used to support styling design of products."
"Our Laboratory is focused on curved lines and surfaces and proposed a system for evaluating cognitive features of shapes said to influence beauty, including complexity and order, which uses an index related to curvature variation."
In addition, the Kato Laboratory uses Near-infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment to measure cerebral blood flow changes as it aims to quantitatively evaluate impressions felt by people when they see a design.
Focused on these three research areas, by quantifying the design process and people's sensitivities, the Kato Laboratory is aiming to bring about AI-coordinated design and automated design.
"Through this research, we want to improve the design activity, and to contribute if even in a small way to the manufacturing industry."