System Operator and the Methodology of Prediction
Consultant - TRIZ Specialist
Poitiers - France
Enumeration of all the sub-systems in the 9-screen presentation (system operator) combined with the use of Altshuller's laws of evolution simplifies the method for predicting the technology and operation of future systems.
Keywords: TRIZ, system operator, laws, evolution, prediction, function, sub-system, super-system
In the TRIZ literature, where the system operator is mentioned, its diagram is presented in form of 9 screens. Each level (system, super-system and sub-system) contains 3 screens (in the past, in present, and in the future), as shown in Fig.1:
Such presentation is simplified. Really, the minimal number of subsystems composing any system must be not less than two. Otherwise, a system effect may not appear. The same reasoning concerns a super-system composed by at least two systems. Usually, the number of components in any level is much greater.
One of the types of problems where "9-screens diagram" can be helpful is an attempt to predict the future of a system. Of course, the general instrument for this kind of problem is Altshuller's laws of evolution. But the system operator can help to specify some components as well.
This possibility is "declared" everywhere in the TRIZ literature where the system operator is mentioned. However, the sequence of actions to be accomplished is not explained. There are no standing rules whose realisation permit to achieve the goal. Each user must be guided by his/her own experience and intuition.
The purpose of present article is to fill this lacuna.
Starting point: there is a system for which all the sub-systems are known, both in the past and in the present. Each sub-system in the past delivered some useful function (U.F.). The total sum of these UF's formed a main useful function (M.U.F.) of the system in the past. Evidently, the system in the present is a "new generation" of the previous system. This means, that its M.U.F. remains the same as in the past, but the components are not the same.
We can analyse the UF's of all the sub-systems in the past from a common point of view: do these functions exist in the present system? Independently of the number of sub-systems in the past, they can be separated in two groups. The first - those whose functions continue to exist in the present sub-systems, the second - those whose functions disappeared during the transition from the past to present.
Note a principally important feature that here we have to deal with a traditional coupling in TRIZ: object + its function, although 9-screen diagram contains only the objects.
Then we examine all the UF's of the present sub-systems:
Which of them still exist from the past?
Did they change?
What material elements (sub-systems) deliver now these functions?
What new sub-systems appeared?
What new functions do they perform?
Why did these new functions appear?
The next step is to put the same multitude of questions to the future sub-systems. Of particular importance is the forecast of new functions. Here, Altshuller's law of increasing of degree of ideality provides guidance. As the future system will be closer to the ideal, the "bad" features will decrease even disappear, whereas the "good" features will grow and the new positive functions can appear. Evidently, the functions are to be realised by the material elements - subsystems. Thus, one can find a set of sub-systems which will compose a new system in the future (the arrow changes its direction as shown in Fig.2).
Consider an example: a light source for local illumination. At present, it is a filament electrical lamp; in the past it was a kerosene lamp (Fig.3).
The past sub-systems and their functions:
Kerosene (oil). Its useful function is to provide the system with energy. Here the source is presented as liquid inside the system. In the TRIZ terminology, pursuant to Altshuller's law of System Completeness, its role is an "Engine"
The wick. Its function is to transport the liquid ("Transmission" according to the same law) into a zone of combustion.
Vessel: the function - to hold the inflammable liquid.
Flame: plasma in the upper end of the wick, a zone of transformation of the chemical (potential) energy to visual light, or electro-magnetic field, a "Working Unit".
Regulator ("Control Unit"), which changes the size of the combustion zone and thus the rate of kerosene transportation; and, consequently, the light intensity.
Lamp-chimney delivers three functions:
- creates the air flux to support burning;
- protects the flame against the wind that can blow out the flame;
- guards the user from the burn with the flame. This function is badly accomplished because the user can burn oneself with the same lamp-chimney.
Figure 3. The Kerosene Lantern and the Electric Light Bulb
Analogous examination of the modern system. Its sub-systems:
Conductors transport the electric current to the filament.
Filament transforms it into the light.
Regulator/switch "controls" the system.
The bulb protects the filament against the destruction.
Now we can compare two sets of sub-systems and their functions.
The principal change is that the hot filament replaces the flame. It is an evident illustration of Altshuller's law "Non-homogeneous development of the parts of a system". This law notes that it is a "Working Unit", which changes more quickly than other parts of a system.
The second peculiarity is that is no energy source in the present system. In according with a "Law of Transition to a Supersystem", the electric network is the super-system in respect to our system (we don't consider here the torches or “flashlights” with batteries inside). Using electricity instead of kerosene is using a "Field instead of a material object". Thus, we see here the illustrations of the laws of evolution.
The function of transmitting the energy is conserved. Now the conductors perform this function.
The filament now implements energy transformation that was executed by the end of the wick and the flame. This line "supply - bring - transform" the energy is the main line and one has to analyse how all the stages of this chain were accomplished in the past and how they are accomplished now.
In order to predict the future of our system, we have to address Altshuller’s law of "Increasing the Degree of System Ideality" (growth of useful functions and reduction of harmful ones).
Now, some sub-systems, which existed in the past, disappeared. The annoying smells, lamp-black, absorption of oxygen, the necessity to prepare and to add the combustible disappeared with the kerosene together. The necessity of the vessel ceased to exist as well.
The conductor, which "replaced" the wick, has a shortcoming: the losses of energy because of electric resistance. The bulb of glass protects the filament well against the destruction, but protects the user as badly as the lamp-chimney. Thus the defect is conserved.
Finally, the most important sub-system, the filament, transforms only some part of the incoming energy to the light. A considerable amount of energy is dissipated in form of heat.
This short analysis makes it possible to outline the directions of future evolution of a system under consideration.
As the source of energy has already moved to the super-system, the next step is to move the nearest sub-system there also, that is, the conductors. But, if the conductors are not present inside of our system, that means that the energy transmission is realised without the wire (from without or from within). Clearly, the efficiency of transforming input energy to light will be much higher in this case.
Electrical energy is not the only possibility. Electromagnetic energy is always around. We can predict its accumulation (for example, in form of a light by day) and its emanation in the dark time.
At last, the law of transition to super-system makes it possible to predict that the whole system will pass to a new super-system and will be presented as light-emitting elements of the furniture, rooms or architectural constructions.
Altshuller G., To Find an Idea. Edition "Nauka", 1991 (in Russian).
Salamatov Y., TRIZ: The Right Solution at the Right Time. Published by Insytec, 1999.
About the author:
Avraam Seredinski, Ph.D., is a TRIZ specialist certified by MATRIZ (International TRIZ Association), Certificate #2. He is the first who implemented TRIZ in France, and the Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Association TRIZ-France. Dr. Seredinski is an independent consultant. He works for the French firms as a Problem Solver and for the Engineering Schools as a TRIZ Professor.
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