New fizz behind Triz

Tom Shelley reports on two recent novel applications of the Triz method of problem solving

The Russian-invented innovation process Triz, which emerged from screening patents for inventiveness, is now being applied to designing around patents – and seeing how ideas from nature can help as well.
The base idea goes back to the 1940s and Genrich Altshuller’s work in the patent department of the Soviet Navy where he screened some 200,000 patents and identified about 40,000 that were truly inventive. This led to the Triz process of thought to help designers and inventors think ‘out of the box’ and look at solutions they might not otherwise have considered. Built into Invention Machine’s TechOptimizer, those ideas are now quite widely used – even if they still tend to cough out distinctly Russian solutions involving ice and the permafrost.
Now Yung-Chieh Hung and Yeh-Liang Hsu in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Yuan Ze University, Taiwan have begun applying the method to designing around patents. At the same time, Chen-Chu Tasi and Professor Ching-Huan Tseng in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University have been running a course for students on how to do it.
“Designing around existing patents of competitors is a task constantly faced by designers,” Hung and Hsu have observed. “New design problems, which are often a ‘local innovation’ of an existing patent, are generated during the design-around process. Innovative design methodologies are needed to solve these new design problems, while the rules of patent infringement judgement present the major constraints to such design problems.” They proposed an “integrated process” for designing around existing patents through the theory of inventive problem solving (Triz).
“This process integrates patent ‘design-around’ strategies, innovative design methods in Triz, and rules of patent infringement judgement systematically to design around existing patents and increase the patentability of results of innovation,” they concluded.
Triz continues to expand and develop, but one of the latest advances is from Julian Vincent, professor of biomimetics at the University of Bath. Among other things, he is working on incorporating ideas from nature into the process.
Writing in a discussion forum, he comments: “We started using Triz because it was created specifically to enable ideas, mechanisms and functions to be moved from one realm to another. It also provides a useful summary of the manipulations required in order to achieve specific functions (originating in engineering) – and thus provides a very compact working definition of technology. The question then is: ‘How well can this system describe biology and how close is biology to technology?’ The differences are the gap which biomimetics can fill, at whatever level. If you have a better way of transferring ideas or concepts between biology and technology, then we would like to hear about it!”


* The Triz method of thinking ‘out of the box’ continues to advance

* It is now being used to systematically design around patents

* It is also being extended into biomimetics to systematically see how ideas from nature can help

Tom Shelley

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