An adaptable product is a product that can be reconfigured or upgraded to satisfy
different requirements. Among various advanced design methods, modular design
approach is employed in this research for the design of adaptable products. A module in a product is a group of components that can be disassembled non-destructively from the product as a unit. In the traditional modular design approach, components of a product are grouped into modules based on similarity among their functions and/or manufacturing processes. This traditional approach does not consider that the product may have to be modified or upgraded due to a change in the requirements during the operational stage of the product. This results in a problem since the part that needs to be modified to satisfy the new requirement cannot be solely replaced and the entire module where it belongs to has to be replaced.
The objective of this research is to improve the adaptable design method by developing a module design approach considering the different life-cycle properties of the components in the adaptable product. In addition, optimization is used to identify the optimal design of adaptable product.
In this research, the product description in different life-cycle phases is modeled by different configurations, and each of these configurations is described by a set of parameters. The product components with similar life-cycle properties such as maintenance frequency, life-span, degradation of performance, etc. are grouped into
modules. A hybrid AND-OR tree is used to model all feasible design solutions considering different configurations with their corresponding parameters at different life-cycle phases. The adaptable product at a certain life-cycle time point is evaluated by a number of evaluation measures which can have different measurement units. The evaluation measures in different units are converted into comparable evaluation indices. The overall evaluation index for an adaptable product is defined by individual evaluation indices and their importance weighting factors considering the whole product life-cycle span. A multi-level optimization method is employed to identify the best design solution, its configurations in different life-cycle phases and parameter values of the relevant configurations. A case study is implemented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the developed new adaptable design approach.