Technology Evolution Modeling and Decision Making Under Uncertainty
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Design is an uncertain human activity involving decisions with uncertain outcomes. Sources of uncertainty in product design include uncertainty in modeling methods, market preferences, and performance levels of subsystem technologies, among many others. The performance of a technology evolves over time, typically exhibiting improving performance. As the performance of a technology in the future is uncertain, quantifying the evolution of these technologies poses a challenge in making long-term design decisions. Here, we focus on how to make decisions using formal models of technology evolution. The scenario of a wind turbine energy company deciding which technology to invest in demonstrates a new technology evolution modeling technique and decision making method. The design of wind turbine arrays is a complex problem involving decisions such as location and turbine model selection. Wind turbines, like many other technologies, are currently evolving as the research and development efforts push the performance limits. In this research, the development of technology performance is modeled as an S-curve; slowly at first, quickly during heavy research and development effort, and slowly again as the performance approaches its limits. The S-curve model typically represents the evolution of just one performance attribute, but designers generally deal with problems involving multiple important attributes. Pareto frontiers representing the set of optimal solutions that the decision maker can select from at any point in time allow for modeling the evolution of technologies with multiple attributes. As the performance of a technology develops, the Pareto frontier shifts to a new location. The assumed S-curve form of technology development allows the designer to apply the uncertainty of technology development directly to the S-curve evolution model rather than applying the uncertainty to the future performance, giving a more focused application of uncertainty in the problem. The multi-attribute technology evolution modeling technique applied in decision-making gives designers greater insight when making long-term decisions involving technologies that evolve. Copyright © 2012 by ASME.
author list (cited authors)
Arendt, J. L., McAdams, D. A., & Malak, R. J.