With an increasing competition, there is a need for faster innovation and a reduced time-to-market cycles in the development of manufactured products. Such pressure increases the risk for failures to be embedded in the design. Currently, there is a lack of support to assess such risk in early stages of design and decision-making. Normally, risk analysis is carried out at later stages, where the possibility of design changes is very limited. Therefore there is a need for the integration of assessing the risk of failure at an early conceptual design phase [1, 2]. This early analysis will enable designers to explore more innovative solutions that are less likely to fail, leading to products that will be more robust and last longer.
This analysis of potential failures at an early stage can be conducted in numerous ways – computer simulation and physical experiments – where different scenarios of use for a new product can be reproduced and tested . However, both these techniques have their setbacks. Computer simulation at early stages lacks precision, whereas physical experiments can be too expensive and time consuming to conduct.
A more systematic integration of failure analysis in the design process has been proposed by different methods. Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA) is an important example of a methodology for more rigorous identification and management of multiple failure scenarios during the entire life span of a product [4, 5]. Within the general framework of FMEA, we are interested in the combination of computer simulation and experiments with physical prototypes to overcome the limitations of these approaches when tackled separately during early design.
To test our hypothesis, we focus on the design of fasteners used for the attachment of photovoltaic (PV) modules in large scale solar energy installations. This case study allows us to model and analyse different sets of possible failure modes associated with lifecycle requirements of PV systems. In particular, this research will explore the interactions of different loading conditions including, structural loads, metal fatigue, heat transfer, and electrical conductance, as defined by relevant industry standards (e.g. UL 2703). For that purpose, the development of prototype testing device is envisioned as the main objective of this research, with the goal of testing different combinations of such loading conditions under the FMEA theoretical framework.
This task is considered part of a larger interdisciplinary research project currently carried out between the schools of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at OU, under the direction of Professors Cavieres and Siddique, in association with industry partners. In this context, this research proposal is expected to contribute to the development of a more general framework to support the design decisions at early stages of product development.
Based on the understanding from these experimental and simulation work, we expect to publish our methodology in Advanced Clean Energy Summit from September 15th to 19th, 2019 organized by Association of Mechanical Engineers.
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T. Stålhane, “FMEA, HAZID, and ontologies,” in Ontology Modeling in Physical Asset Integrity Management: Springer, 2015, pp. 45-85.