Keeley, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
and Dana W. Clarke, Sr., TRIZ Scientist
Genrich Altshuller developed the Theory of
Inventive Problem Solving. Although his work applies directly to
engineering and patent information there is a great opportunity in the
field of Industrial Design. The result is a systematic approach to
research and innovative discoveries.
A recent project involving university
researchers and industrial partners, has taken a fresh look at innovative
problem solving. Mind mapping, morphological analysis, brain scrolling,
and brain storming are creative thinking tools that have the potential to
increase the likelihood of a successful design solution. Many creative
people do these things intuitively, weather or not they write or draw
while doing it. At worst, creative tools provide us with documentation of
our thought process. At best they lead us to a breakthrough that we could
never have come up with on our own.
Genrich Altshuller developed the Theory of
Inventive Problem Solving between 1946 and 1985. His work was based on the
research and abstraction of knowledge from the worldwide patent files and
the history of technology.
Altshuller originally viewed inventive
solutions and realized that the patents contained a well-documented
history of how mankind solved tough inventive problems. His research
resulted in the abstraction of knowledge such as the 40 Principles, 76
Standard Solutions, 4 Separation Principles and more. Today these are
This research and today’s
practical application of TRIZ (an acronym for the Russian term for
Inventive Problem Solving) is resulting in a paradigm shift. Let’s look
at an example of another significant paradigm shift to more fully
understand the paradigm shift that is occurring in the field of creativity
In early Rome, mathematical
calculations were performed using Roman numerals. This system provided the
Romans with the ability to add and subtract, but not to multiply and
divide. Only a few people were able to mentally process multiplication and
division. And in all likelihood, their peers regarded them as geniuses for
Later, the Arabic numbering
system was created, and its "change agents," or
"believers," caused a paradigm shift. As a result, nearly
everyone soon had the ability to multiply and divide by using a systematic
process consisting of new methods and tools. The paradigm shift was that
"genius ability" was no longer required.
The same thing is happening
today with the ability to be innovative. Historically, only truly unique,
highly creative people could repeatedly come up with highly innovative
concepts. But due to the pioneering efforts of Genrich Altshuller and his
followers, we now have a set of methods and tools with which we can apply
our creative abilities at new levels. Are we geniuses, or are we simply
lucky enough to be at the forefront of a paradigm shift that can make it
appear that we have a higher degree of creative ability?
The mind contains many of
the pieces required to innovate; these pieces are collected over time as a
result of education, experience, and observation. But because of this
random-like accumulation, the mind requires training or some other form of
guidance in order to exploit these pieces. Somehow, this is attained
within the creative mind of a genius. For the rest of us, whether we admit
it or not, a systematic approach is required, along with the appropriate
knowledge that will allow us to take on and resolve the toughest of
challenges. It is this systematic approach that has been missing – until
One point of difference with the Innovation
WorkBenchTM is a reference abstracted from worldwide patents.
It is entirely likely that the solution to a problem lies in a technology
that we do not know about or do not understand.
As Altshuller examined patents in the
1940s, he recognized that the same fundamental problem had been addressed
by a number of inventions – regardless of the area of technology. He
also observed that the same fundamental solutions were used over
and over again to solve inventive problems even if the solutions were
separated by many years. Altshuller reasoned that if the latter inventors
had access to the knowledge of the earlier solutions, their task would
have been much more straightforward.
As a result of Altshuller’s premise that
the process of inventive solutions could/should be transferable, he sought
to extract, compile, and organize such information.
Unrelated problems – common solutions
A solution to a problem often exists in an
unrelated field. Seemingly unrelated problems have a basically common
solution. The commonality is as follows . . .
Removing stems/core from bell peppers
Placing some quantity of the product being
analyzed (peppers, filters, seeds, etc.) into a hermetic chamber
- Slowly increasing the pressure inside
the chamber until the pressure becomes uniform inside and outside the
- Then, abruptly dropping the pressure
- The rapid pressure change destroys some
part of the system, ideally this would occur at the parting line
around the core
A drop in pressure inside the chamber
creates a pressure differential inside and outside the product. This, in
turn, results in an "explosion" which splits the product in some
fashion depending on the amount of pressure and the porous conditions. As
for the green pepper, as you can imagine it exploded in the wrong places
due to irregularities in the pepper, but what is important is the
principle that has been used over and over. Here is a sample of the 200
patents where this has been applied.
- Removing shells form sunflower seeds
- Cleaning filters
- Unpacking parts wrapped in protective
- Producing sugar powder from sugar
- Breaking natural diamonds along
artificial fracture lines
This is a pattern of invention, the same
problem being solved over and over. It basically states that if we have a
porous material or the relationship between two or more materials is
porous that you can use pressure change to destroy the system or some
relationship within the system. The pattern of invention illustrated above
applies in any situation where there is a porous material (note that
porosity can be defined at many levels) in some configuration that you
wish to destroy by using a change in pressure.
Researchers Scott Keeley and Steve Beletire
at Southern Illinois University are working on a new product concept,
partnered with Chief Scientist Jack Bitterly of U.S Flywheels Inc.. The
goal of the research is to bring a successful satellite technology down to
earth. The problem solving process led to an additional partnership with
Dr. Dan Dyer of Polymer Chemistry at SIU.
Flywheel energy storage is a more
efficient, pollution-free solution to chemical batteries. Total recharge
can be accomplished in about 15 minutes at any rate of energy draw or
frequency yielding a cycle life of over 100,000 charges, or 30 years, with
no deterioration in performance. The intent of the research is to
facilitate the integration of flywheel technology in products related to
personal mobility. Fork lifts, golf carts, lawn tractors or power
wheelchairs will benefit from this technology.
Problem Solving and Technology
The point of departure was in making the
technology consumer viable. It’s easy to suggest putting an expensive
technology into a tightly cost controlled product like a power chair, the
challenge is making it likely to happen. The cost will reduce if
production volumes increase. Production is not likely to increase until
consumer confidence in the safety of the product increases.
Pioneered by Jack Bitterly at U.S.
Flywheels, benign failure has proven successful in laboratory testing, our
goal is to increase the safety margin to assure feasibility.
Current flywheel rotors are composed of
resin soaked fibers wound around an axle. Failure occurs as the rotational
force pulls the material to the outside rim and causes a separation in the
winding. A separation is visible to computer aided structural monitoring
systems before any damage to the containment occurs allowing for safe
shutdown of the system. It has been proven that continued failure or a
second failure will not occur at 80% of the speed at which the first
failure occurred. Although when the system fails it still operates at 80%
of its optimum potential, an improvement in the rotor strength will
increase the safety margin.
In order to avoid catastrophic failure the
method of filament winding is essential, however, the process does not
allow for the most effective use of the fiber’s tensile strength. The
forces on the rotor at are in a radial direction, while the wound fibers
reside perpendicular to the radii. The point of failure occurs between the
surface of the fiber and the resin. Any changes in the resin have yielded
no improvement in overall rotor strength. The addition of reinforcement
aggregate to the resin has proved to increase the distance between fibers
such that the resin is reinforced but there is more of it. The strength of
the rotor is optimized when the highest possible ratio of fiber to resin
is achieved. TRIZ was employed to look at unresolved areas.
The Innovation WorkBench™
is software that references an extensive knowledge base and the tools of
TRIZ. It is entirely possible to perform the process without the software
in the same way that it is possible to calculate sine, cosine and tangent
without a calculator.
An analytical tool of the Innovation
WorkBench™ is the Innovation Situation Questionnaire™(ISQ™).
The user begins the questionnaire by describing the problem using free
style wording. Following the questions prompted by the ISQ, a second
analytical tool, the Problem Formulator, is used to develop a detailed
diagram of the problem and the system where it resides. The Problem
Formulator, which contains a patented algorithm, uses the diagram of the
system functions to generate what are called "directions for
The following is the function graph for the
flywheel rotor. It is usually in this stage that students find that the
software does not do the thinking. If the graph is poorly constructed,
obvious or useless directions will be generated.
For the flywheel function graph, the
software generated 31 Basic Directions for Innovation and three hundred
ninety-three "Refined Directions for Innovation", which provide
an abundance of opportunities. From this the following Basic Directions
for Innovation were selected.
- Find an alternative way to obtain [the] (cohesive bond), that
provides or enhances [the] (rotational direction of fiber) and (rotor
- Find an alternative way to obtain [the] (radial direction of fiber),
that is not in a conflict with [the] (adhesive bond), (fiber resin
ratio), and (rotational direction of fiber).
- Find a way to enhance [the] (radial direction of fiber).
- Find a way to enhance [the] (rotational direction of fiber).
- Find a way to protect [the] (rotational direction of fiber) from the
harmful influence of [the] (radial direction of fiber).
- Find a way to enhance [the] (cohesive bond).
These and other more refined directions
guide the problem solver through a knowledge base that contains over 400
principles, methods and standard solutions. These are structured to model
the thought process of great innovators. Among these 400 principles are Genrich Altshuller’s original 40 principles from which the following
#10 Prior Action
a. Carry out all or part of the required action in advance
b. Arrange objects so they can go into action in a timely matter and
from a convenient position.
#25 Self Service
a. Make the object service itself and carry out supplementary and
b. Make use of wasted material and energy
#36 Phase transition
Implement an effect developed during the phase transition of a
substance. For instance, during the change of volume, liberation or
absorption of heat.
#40 Composite Materials
Replace a homogeneous material with a composite one.
The ideal solution would have microscopic
radial fibers that would not be present during winding and would be
present during and after the curing process.
After Winding/Before Curing
Dr. Dan Dyer concluded that polymers can be
composed to form modified glass fibers which will grow perpendicular to
the cross section of the fiber. The modified fibers form during the resin
curing process after filament winding is complete.
Excerpt from the first lab report by Dan
Dyer and Research Assistant Rohit Ramkumar:
Experiments indicate that
treatment of the fiberglass will result in covalent attachment. The
linkage is achieved by attaching epoxy [1-monomer] or amine [2- initiator]
or Phatlic anhydride [3-monomer] or hydroxyl [4- initiator] (Table 1)
to the fiber.
Table 1. Monolayer
TRIZ is a method with the ability to place
technology on the market sooner with greater potential for innovative
products. The problem formulator generates an exhaustive list of
directions, and can be used to model any type of complex problem. The
method is most useful when new styling simply won’t do, when a
contradiction exists between physical or technical systems.
Acknowledgement: The authors would like to
thank Ideation International Inc. for allowing the reproduction of
portions of educational materials for Inventive Problem Solving using the
Innovation WorkBench™ System Software.
About the Authors
graduated from Syracuse University in 1989 with a bachelors of Industrial
Design and began his career in product design in Barcelona with Bernal
Isern Inc., a consultancy. The range of products that the design team were
involved in varied from small electronics products to furniture, lighting
and glassware. He was deeply immersed in an appreciation of the aesthetic
in design and fine art. From 1989 to 1992 Scott exhibited furniture and
sculpture in Barcelona, Berlin, and Moscow. After completing an MFA in
sculpture at Texas Christian University in 1994 Scott began to look for a
way to bring his interests in the creative and technical aspects of
product design together. Two years teaching at the Kansas City Art
Institute served as a constructive transition from artist to research
designer. In 1997 Scott joined Southern Illinois University, a Carnegie II
institution with abundant support for creative scholarly research.
Scott’s current research involves a comprehensive plan to integrate
alternative power systems into personal mobility devices while considering
social and economic balances.
Clarke, Sr. became the first American to be
certified as a TRIZ Specialist in April of 1995 and is the author of the
Through the Eyes of an American TRIZ Specialist. His expertise
encompasses the practical application, consulting, and training of such
methodologies as: Taguchi Methods, Value Engineering/Analysis (VE/VA),
Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA), Quality Function Deployment (QFD),
Quick Setup Techniques (SMED), Work Simplification, and FAST Cycle Time.
His seasoning and education span the areas of product development,
industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, computer science, and
© 2001 Ideation International Inc.