Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Semantic methods for intelligent distributed design environments

Paul W Witherell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Continuous advancements in technology have led to increasingly comprehensive and distributed product development processes while in pursuit of improved products at reduced costs. Information associated with these products is ever changing, and structured frameworks have become integral to managing such fluid information. Ontologies and the Semantic Web have emerged as key alternatives for capturing product knowledge in both a human-readable and computable manner. The primary and conclusive focus of this research is to characterize relationships formed within methodically developed distributed design knowledge frameworks to ultimately provide a pervasive real-time awareness in distributed design processes. Utilizing formal logics in the form of the Semantic Web’s OWL and SWRL, causal relationships are expressed to guide and facilitate knowledge acquisition as well as identify contradictions between knowledge in a knowledge base. To improve the efficiency during both the development and operational phases of these “intelligent” frameworks, a semantic relatedness algorithm is designed specifically to identify and rank underlying relationships within product development processes. After reviewing several semantic relatedness measures, three techniques, including a novel meronomic technique, are combined to create AIERO, the Algorithm for Identifying Engineering Relationships in Ontologies. In determining its applicability and accuracy, AIERO was applied to three separate, independently developed ontologies. The results indicate AIERO is capable of consistently returning relatedness values one would intuitively expect. To assess the effectiveness of AIERO in exposing underlying causal relationships across product development platforms, a case study involving the development of an industry-inspired printed circuit board (PCB) is presented. After instantiating the PCB knowledge base and developing an initial set of rules, FIDOE, the Framework for Intelligent Distributed Ontologies in Engineering, was employed to identify additional causal relationships through extensional relatedness measurements. In a conclusive PCB redesign, the resulting “intelligent” framework demonstrates its ability to pass values between instances, identify inconsistencies amongst instantiated knowledge, and identify conflicting values within product development frameworks. The results highlight how the introduced semantic methods can enhance the current knowledge acquisition, knowledge management, and knowledge validation capabilities of traditional knowledge bases.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Computer science

Recommended Citation

Witherell, Paul W, "Semantic methods for intelligent distributed design environments" (2009). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3380041.