Project Smart Synthesis Tools

Smart Synthesis Tools

IOP-IPCR Project 501

The Smart Synthesis Tools project aims to develop a next generation of CAD-systems. This new type of synthesis based computer tools help mechanical engineers to design solutions of higher quality in a significantly shorter time than is currently done.

It is a joined research effort of the University of Twente (CTW, EWI) and Delft University (3ME) together with four Dutch industries.

This project is funded by SenterNovem, an agency of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, in the framework of the IOP-IPCR program (Innovative Product Creation and Realization).


For available positions for PhD-students, please click here.

The partners

University of Twente (faculty CTW), contact

Technical University Delft (faculty 3ME), contact

University of Twente (faculty EWI), contact

Océ Technologies, Venlo

PANalytical, Almelo

Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care (DAPC), Drachten

Vanderlande Industries, Veghel


The objective is a further development of syntheses based design tools, of which several prototypes already have been build in Twente. Synthesis is seen in this context as the process of creating solutions from a set of (incomplete) specifications of the required behavior. The solutions are completely defined and optimal configured designs.

Experiences with the existing prototypes are very promising. They show that it is possible to generate optimal solutions for engineering problems, in significantly shortened time: up to ten times faster than with the current way of creating designs.

For a designer, the biggest gain can be achieved with the selection of a good concept. The research focuses on the development and integration of synthesis tools into a multidisciplinary design support system that can be applied at this concept level of design.

The tools will not, like a wishing well, invent new products, but they will assist engineers take the right decisions early in the process. They also will generate- and evaluate many solutions and help the engineer gain insight in his solution space.


The project encloses four subprograms, each of which are handled by one PhD student. The four subprograms together create the opening for future synthesis developments.

Domain Integration (Delft, 2ME): This subprogram will handle the design of mechatronic systems, which calls for a special kind of integration between mechanical, electronics, control systems and software design.

Structured design (Twente, CTW): For large problems, it helps to divide the total problem into smaller functional components to allow for tuned partial problem solving. Integrated solving on a global level has to be combined with detailed solving of separated details. An automated sub structuring of functions and integration of solutions is addressed in this subprogram.

Experience based synthesis (Twente, CTW): Incorporating existing design knowledge of experienced designers into synthesis tools will be used to increase the speed and quality of the solution finding process. This knowledge will be applied to the process of creating solution proposals, the process of parameter reduction, interpreting analysis results and to create feedback for optimization.

Large solution spaces (Twente, EWI): Efficient interactive ‘navigation’ techniques through high dimensional solution spaces are required in order to find the best design. The mathematical techniques for this have to be developed.

A bottom-up approach is used, where for each industrial partner a specific prototype tool will be developed. This ensures the generation of knowledge that has a broad applicability and that will create knowledge that can be used to build design tools for a whole range of industrial applications.


The research has important innovations:


The idea of a synthesis based design tool is itself a unique approach to the phenomena design support. In a synthesis tool, the designer can tell what he wants to achieve (by entering incomplete specifications). In a traditional tool you enter how you want to achieve it (the solution).


Finding solutions in large design spaces, and the ability for a designer to navigate, and gain insight in his options for solutions is an important innovation with a reach far outside this project.


The combination of a controlled generate-and-test algorithm to create solutions for design problems with a multi domain design system (horizontal integration) is unique.


Knowledge will be collected to apply synthesis support for design problems with a higher complexity than the existing prototypes. The result will be threefold: there will be generic knowledge, a generic toolkit and prototype design systems.

The knowledge includes methods for development of synthesis tools, tool architectures and methods to characterize design problems and solution spaces.

With a combination of knowledge and generic software bundled in a toolkit, new industrial applications can be developed for specific areas of design.

Prototype tools will be developed for each of the four industrial partners. The tools applications are the design of mechatronic systems in a high volume printer, systems design of röntgen analysis equipment, cooling system for injection moulds and the design of luggage handling systems. All support the design process in the conceptual phase. The engineer is provided insight through the possibility to compare the many different solutions that are available.