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Monday, October 3, 2011

Business, business ...

Dear all,
I wanted to inform you that I have a new professional website (for the moment in French) :
It describes my business offers, and some other relevant information.
Furthermore I decided to continue my blog on this new professional website, and to stop it here.

Thank you very much to have followed me on blogspot. My blog continues here.

With my best regards
Stéphane Savelli

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dyson, initiator of new paradigms

Sir James Dyson is a British great inventor and entrepreneur.

He is worldwide known as the inventor of a bagless vacuum cleaner whose working principle is cyclonic separation (see Figure below). This technology is called Dual Cyclone. His first US patent dates back to 1986.

The advantages of this technology are :
* no need for purchasing bags
* suction force which does not decrease over time
* higher suction force for the same power input (at least for the last version)
This concept has made Dyson's fortune, first as a license provider, then as a manufacturer (as from 1992). Actually the technology has constantly evolved. Nowadays Dyson's US market share is around one third.

In late 2000 Dyson launches commercially the Contrarotator, a washing machine whose washing drum is divided in 2 parts and rotate in opposite way. The washing action is claimed to be greater.

Unfortunately this was not a commercial success.

In 2006 the Dyson Airblade is launched. This is a hand dryer which functions without heat (contrarily to almost all other air dryers). The working principle is a pair of opposite, sheet-shaped powerful air jets which wipe off water from the hands, water being mainly liquid, whereas conventional airdryers slowly evaporate water. The drying of the total hands' surface occurs through the movement of the hands in front of the jet. This is the quickest hand dryer available on the market.

And this is a commercial success. I have tested it myself several times, including in airports, and I have been impressed by its speed and performance.

Most recent Dyson's invention is the Air Multiplier. This is a bladeless ventilator. The air is taken (with the help of a "digital motor" driving a little turbine) from its vertical base and is projected towards the user through the ring (see Figure below).

Which conclusions can be drawn from this valuable information ?
* innovation is a matter of company culture ; clearly the Dyson company belongs to the companies group called "innovators"
* all the former examples show products possessing inventive designs
* it is worth of note that the Dyson company has built and developed products, based on a key engineering competence (aerodynamics/hydrodynamics), and on the key market of domestic or public appliances
* from a TRIZ point of view, to remove/displace the apparently necessary component of a technical system, which causes some disadvantages of this technical system, might be a powerful method for the improvement of its main useful function. As shown before, the bag (or filter) causes the progressive lack of suction of the vacuum cleaner ; the heated element of the hand dryer is energetically inefficient ; the blades of the ventilator cause irregular flow, some danger for kids, noise, and difficulty to clean. In these three examples, the removing/displacing of an important component of the technical system necessitates the choice and use of a new working principle, which is based on some physical effects (cyclonic separation, air jet peculiarities).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Problem solved : new ice cube tray design

The problem proposed in the former post has been successfully solved by Yves Guillou (France), TRIZ practitioner, member of this blog and author of a blog about TRIZ in French language. My congratulations to him !

Let us recall the pair of technical contradictions describing the ice cube tray problem :
TC1 : If the opposite lateral faces of the compartment unit are parallel to each other, the geometry of the ice blocks is cubic, but demoulding of the ice blocks is difficult
TC2 : If the opposite lateral faces of the compartment unit are not parallel to each other, the demoulding of the ice blocks is easy, but the geometry of the blocks is not cubic

Remarks :
* it is written "ice blocks" instead of "ice cubes", for their non cubic or cubic character is a main parameter of the problem
* more exactly, TC2 describes lateral faces which make an angle > 90° with the bottom face 
* the elementary compartment C of the classical ice cube tray (see the Figure on the former post) is composed of 5 faces which form the shape of a truncated pyramid ; there are 2 pairs of opposite, non parallel, lateral faces : F1 and F2 and also F3 and F4 ; F5 is the bottom face

The problematic situation draws a physical contradiction which can be simply expressed as follows:
PC : the lateral faces must be parallel in order to obtain cubic ice blocks, and the lateral faces must be non parallel to ensure an easy demoulding
This is only a re-formulation of the pair of technical contradictions. As we have already seen on this blog, the choice of the right physical contradiction is crucial, and the physical contradiction must express the real causality of the problem.

Is it possible to separate the opposite requirements of this PC in time ? (separation in space does not mean much here since one speaks about the relationship between two parts of the technical system).
Actually the parallelism of the lateral faces is needed to produce the ice cubes during a first time T1. If the lateral faces are non parallel during a secong time T2, the demoulding is easy. Thus the opposite requirements can be naturally separated in time. Now only the embodiment of such an ice cube tray is needed.

How to create the non parallelism of the lateral faces ? If the walls are flexible, for example. This is possible with a silicone ice cube tray (see Figure below).
By experience, the ice cubes must be demoulded one by one from a silicone ice cube tray: this is not an easy job ...
There is a possible open solutions space for other types of flexible ice cube trays which all fulfil the opposite requirements.

TRIZ proposes a tool called STC (Size-Time-Cost). This tool can help removing psychological inertia* through the proposal of 6 thinking prompts where size, time and cost values are successively forced to zero and to infinity. The consideration of extreme values can lead to interesting, non obvious solutions. Actually it may be interesting to apply extreme values to any well chosen specific parameter of a technical system.
Here the property of interest is the relative position of the faces F1 and F2 (resp. F3 and F4) which controls both producing and demoulding of cubic ice blocks. Until now we have considered the parallelism character of the opposite faces. Alternatively, it is possible to consider the distance between the opposite faces in order to quantify this relative position. This has physical meaning, for an increasing of this distance makes the demoulding easy. Let us apply inifinity to the value of the parameter "distance between the opposite faces". This means that F1 and F2 belong necessarily to separated parts of the ice cube tray. F3 and F4 belong also to separated parts of the ice cube tray.
As a conclusion, for the considered compartment of the ice cube tray which fulfils the opposite requirements - and this is generalized for all compartments of the ice cube tray - a practical solution is that F1 and F3 belong to one part of the ice cube tray, and F2 and F4 belong to another part of the ice cube tray. F5 belongs to the first part, and as will be easily understood (completion of the cubic shape), it is necessary to create F6, the face opposed to F5, with F6 belonging to the second part of the ice cube tray.
This elegant solution has been patented by the cooking tools company Lékué (from Barcelona). The design of this innovative ice cube tray is seen below :

* : psychological inertia is a central TRIZ concept, which depicts an effect of the usual state of mind, where the thinking of new schemes and designs is difficult because of the former experience of the thinker, and the associated usual schemes and designs ; as an illustration, in the present example, psychological inertia is created by the one-piece design, and makes non obvious to think about the two-piece design of an ice cube tray

Friday, July 1, 2011

Problem to solve : ice cube tray

Let us consider a very simple object from home : an ice cube tray. A typical ice cube tray is as shown below.

The ice cube tray considered here is filled with water (mineral water for the purists, for it has a good taste), and put into the freezer ; later on it is taken out of the freezer, and the ice cubes are manually removed from the tray.

Observe the shape of the compartments : it is a truncated pyramid. It is not a cube. Why ? Because this shape makes the demoulding easier.
Now what's happening if the shape is cubic ? The demoulding is difficult.

It is wished an ice cube tray which produces ice cubes which have the precise shape of cubes and which are easy to demould.

What should be done ? Can you propose a new ice cube tray design which fulfills these two contradictory requirements ?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to turn a real drawback into an advantage : example from the welding industry

Friction stir welding - FSW- was invented by TWI (The Welding Institute) in England in 1991. This is a very interesting process, which allows to weld metals in their solid state. The principle of FSW is visible on the above figure (usually the plates are static and the tool advances) :

In comparison to older similar older processes (rotary friction welding was first developed ; linear friction welding later, in 1969), FSW is a strong step forward. Actually this process has a lot of advantages. One very interesting possibility is to butt weld aluminium alloys which are otherwise not arc-weldable. This is the case of 2000 series aluminium alloys containing magnesium, and of 7000 series aluminium alloys containing copper, among which one finds the usual aerospace aluminium alloys. An example of application is the assembly of many parts of the Eclipse low-cost private jet with the intensive help of FSW (60% of the rivets have been eliminated on the structure of this aircraft).

FSW is an innovation which has generated an important amount of related research studies, industrial applications and patents. As of today around 2700 patents related to FSW have been applied for and delivered. And there are around 180 licensees of this technology all around the world.

Actually FSW has also allowed the invention and development of related processes (for example): 
    * for the elimination of casting defects
    * for the modification of the metallic microstructure 
          * in order to generate superplasticity (thanks to fine grains)
          * in order to enhance formability
* friction stir spot welding (as an alternative to usual resistance spot welding)
* friction stir channeling

The latter process is very interesting from the TRIZ point of view. Actually FSW is not straightforward, because a lot of parameters are to be controlled. It was observed that under certain circumstances (= certain set of welding parameters) internal channelling defects are produced when welding two metal sheets (see photograph above). Advantageously an internal continuous hole can be generated in a monolithic sheet or plate, as explained in US patent 6923362, in order to manufacture heat exchangers, where fluids circulate within the holes. Therefore this provides an alternative route for the manufacturing of such products.

Finally friction stir channelling illustrates how it is possible to turn a harmful effect into a benefit. More precisely, this transformation of a harmful effect into a benefit is operated in this specific case from one industry (welding) to another industry (heat exchangers). It could benefit some other specific applications.

But how ? I mean the following: imagine a situation where somebody looks for a solution where this channeling effect could be helpful for him/her (for example: lower cost). But this person does not know this possibility. How can this person come to this idea ? In the case this person does not know TRIZ ? And in the case where this person knows TRIZ, will TRIZ help ?
If not, how to change TRIZ to take this lack into account ?

Remark : there is an opportunity to develop specific FSW tools which allow the production of holes whose geometrical aspect is as close as possible to a round cylinder 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Business problem to solve

A and B are two people. A is CEO of his own company, and his company is well established since many years. B is an independent worker.

This is the beginning of May.
B is looking for (a) mission(s) to work on during July and August, but has difficulties to find them, because B is new on the market and his network is poorly developed. A has proposed B a one month contract for July. B ideally fits the need of A, in terms of timing and expertise. B is very much interested by the offer, but does not want to sign the contract immediately because he absolutely needs to work in July and August for reasons which are not necessary to be detailed. Consequently he waits before signing the contract, because if he finds in the meantime a mission for July and August for another customer, he will go for this latter mission. It is out of question for A to offer B a mission for July and August : the need is clearly for one month, not more.

What is the best plan for action which maximizes the probability to obtain a win-win* situation ?
(* : ideal in the TRIZ meaning)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Korea is the world model of TRIZ"

This sentence was said by Dr Denis Cavallucci, after he gave a keynote speech ("Beyond TRIZ limits"), a tutorial lecture about computer assisted innovation, and attended the last Global TRIZ Conference 2011 in Korea (10th and 11th of March 2011).

Very remarkable fact, the CEO of POSCO (Pohang Iron and Steel Company ; 4th steel producer in the world) Joonyang Chung welcame the participants to the conference with words of encouragement. He said that POSCO 3.0 is going to be realized through the use of TRIZ as a core tool. He added that "TRIZ is a tool that allows you to leap forward to become a true global leader, and the POSCO family is also gathering its efforts to fully utilize TRIZ since last year". POSCO created a TRIZ-based unique methodology which is used for new product development, as well as for cost reduction in the production. To deploy it, POSCO created an internal TRIZ university, where 1800 employees (10% of the POSCO employees) have already been taught.

You may say : OK, but for what results ?

Joonyang Chung claimed that in 2010 TRIZ helped POSCO to earn 277 million US$, and to apply for 2.4 times more patents.

Dr Denis Cavallucci says that "a little bit like Jack Welsch (CEO of General Electric) was a starter for 6 Sigma, Junyang Chung paves the way for quantitavely bigger investments in TRIZ which will allow the deployment of TRIZ in companies" all around the world. It seems that some companies (Samsung, LG, Hitachi, Intel) begin to follow this model.

I have a last personal remark. MATRIZ is the international TRIZ association. If you go to the MATRIZ website and you give a look at the countries of origin of the 3rd MATRIZ level certified people (it has not been updated since around 1 year, but the following analysis would certainly be the same today), you will notice that 239 from 570 are from South Korea (for the sake of comparison : only 38 in all the countries of western Europe, 134 in Russia, 81 in the USA, 17 in China, 10 in Malaysia, 7 in Costa Rica !). There is even one Korean TRIZ master (level 5) (none from western Europe).

The 1 M$ question asked by Denis Cavallucci is : "what are the western European companies doing with TRIZ ?"

Here are some possibilities for an explanation of the delay in their TRIZ deployment (that's what he means):
* these companies are too conservative, not open minded enough to explore a new method, that must be just like another "new" method
* these companies do not know the existence of TRIZ
* these companies recognize the interest of TRIZ but not for their own business
* these companies do not need any help from outside for their innovation and/or the solving of their tough problems
* TRIZ was not invented in western Europe
* the TRIZ consultants are not sufficiently convincing in western Europe