By Val Kraev
Editor's note: Kraev's Korner was first published in the newsletter of the Altshuller Institute, www.aitriz.org, in 2005. Our thanks to the Altshuller Institute and the Technical Innovation Center for letting us reprint this educational series. Previous lessons can be found by searching the TRIZ Journal's archives.
Once you have identified your technical system and defined your contradiction, you need to evaluate what resources are available to overcome the contradiction. To solve the contradiction, TRIZ recommends using the substance-field resources of the existing system this meets the requirements of an ideal system.
According to www.dictionary.com, a resource is:
In TRIZ, a resource is broadly defined as everything that can be applied for solving a problem and improving the system without any large expenses. Resources should be easily attainable, free or low cost. Resources can be internal or external to the system and belong to the conflicting pair of elements (called product and tool). They can be found in the supersystem, environment and by-products as well. Resources can be substances or fields. Other resources include space and time or even other nearby systems.
The resources of an existing system and its elements are the base of the strongest and most efficient solutions. The identification of these resources provides abundant opportunities for solution concepts to be developed. Each resource is a potential solution to the problem. The more resources that are available for use, the greater the solution space is to generate more solution concepts. By using already accessible resources, nothing needs to be added from outside the system to achieve good results.
A novice inventor should create a list of all available system resources with the aid of the following table. It is easer to find a solution once the resources are clearly defined.
When reviewing the list of resources, it is important to look for a resource's latent properties and functions that can be utilized to solve the problem.
To solve a difficult problem, sometimes the necessary resource can often be found inside the system.
Very often buttons on our clothes quickly tear off because attaching thread is worn. How can the buttons be safe from chafing? How can the lifetime of sewed buttons (especially for outer clothing) be increased? Resources!
A small bevel (created by a drill, screwdriver or penknife) forms sharp edges in the buttonholes and keeps the thread from strong friction and fast wear, and increases the button's lifetime. Our resource in this case is a simple modification of the hole's shape.
What types of resources are used in problem solving? The resources can be classified as substances, energy, space, time, functions, information and combined resources.
The substance resources are all substances used in the analyzed system and the external environment.
What if the voltage of your battery is low and your flashlight shines poorly?
The energy resources are all known energies and fields (electrical, electromagnetic, thermal fields, etc.). These resources are already present in the system or in its external environment.
How can you raise the heating efficiency of a central heater with existing resources and without increasing the heater's temperature and overall dimensions?
Attach aluminum foil between the wall and central heater. This improves the heating efficiency due to the reflection of the heat off the aluminum.
The space resources are found in an unoccupied space or "hollow," that can be used for changing the initial system's efficiency and functionality.
How can a key be used to open a bottle top without using the original key?
Use the key's space resources! The key for the bottle top will be always available if we make a notch in the key as shown in the picture.
The time resources are the time prior to the beginning of some main production process and the times between separate stages of the production process. Both of those intervals can be used for improving the basic operation of the system.
The finest dust is very difficult to remove from a carpet by a vacuum cleaner. What to do?
Use time resources before vacuuming. The finest dust can be removed more easily if the carpet is first sprayed with an antistatic pulverizer. Antistatic substance neutralizes the static electrical charge of the dust and removes its adhesion to the carpet.
The functional resources are using known functions of the object for a different purpose or for detecting a new function in the system. Carrying out additional functions after changes is also a functional resource. The application of different features for a new function of the same resource can create new inventions.
The pencil can be used as a writing element. This is one property and one function of the pencil. But the same pencil has other unusual and useful features that serve as resources for solving difficult problems at home.
How can you prevent an electric light bulb fusing to its socket and allow for easy unscrewing without risking breaking off the bulb from the screw cap?
How can you prevent jamming, decrease friction and improve the work of a metal zipper without any structural changes?
How can you test a plug on a working car engine without unscrewing the plug?
The information resources are usually used in solving problems on measuring, detection and separation. Therefore, information resources are data on parameters of substance, fields, or change of properties or object. The more differences between substances are observed, the more efficiently they can be measured or detected.
How do you detect a break in broken wire without cutting the wire and removing the insulation layer?
The combined resources are the combination of all previously-described prime resources. An important point of resource utilization is the application of the properties of substances which can be changed under some influence. Sometimes, there is no resource in the system with the required property for solving the problem. Without changing the existing substances in the system. For example, a liquid can become a solid substance and vice versa, iron can become a magnet, and a solid substance can change size under heating or cooling.
How do you straighten a crumpled flask or container with only water during winter?
In TRIZ, the following order is used to achieve the maximum result with the minimum of charges of substance-field resources (SFR):
In the last step, the "product" must be the unchanged element of the system. The eliminations arise when the "product" can:
Use these groups with the following recommendation: consider using simple resources of the conflicting pair "tool-product" and system in general. If this is impossible, then try derivatives from prime resources. The last resort is to use a complex resource.
It is important to consider "free charge resources" such as: modification of shape, change of dimensions, change of material and change of inter-disposition of elements. These modifications don't require significant changes and save the structure of the system.
How do you use resources for problem solving? Use the following short workflow for resources and utilization examples:
1. Formulate the problem
2. Compose list of resources in the next order: internal, external, of by-product and complex
3. Define the resources needed for solving the problem
4. Estimate quantity of existing resources and effects from their utilization
5. Propose use of found resources
Utilization of system resources of is a powerful TRIZ tool for problem solving. Exploring and applying existing resources for system improvement provides excellent possibilities for approaching the ideal solution without additional expenses.
TRIZ recommends using the internal, external, by-product and complex substance-field resources of the existing system during problem solving. This meets the requirements of an ideal system and leads to strong solutions with minimal reconstructions as the best result.
Quiz: What kinds of resources are used in the problem solving process described below?
Problem: How can you make a hole with a 20mm diameter in fiberboard or plaster without a drill?
Problem: How can you keep your hands clean without protective rubber gloves when working with dust, paint, glue and engine oil?
Energy Consumption Problem
Cleaning Narrow Area
Light's Life Time
Val Kraev is the chief TRIZ officer of the Technical Innovation Center in Worcester, MA, USA, and has contributed several very valuable case studies to The TRIZ Journal. Contact Val Kraev at kraev (at) triz.org or visit http://www.triz.org.