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An Engineering Design Strategy for Reconfigurable Products That Support Poverty Alleviation

[+] Author Affiliations
Patrick K. Lewis, Christopher A. Mattson, Vance R. Murray

Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Paper No. DETC2010-28739, pp. 249-263; 15 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 1: 36th Design Automation Conference, Parts A and B
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 15–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4409-0 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3881-5
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


Reconfigurable products can adapt to new and changing customer needs. One potential, high-impact, area for product reconfiguration is in the design of income-generating products for poverty alleviation. Non-reconfigurable income-generating products such as manual irrigation pumps have helped millions of people sustainably escape poverty. However, millions of other impoverished people are unwilling to invest in these relatively costly products because of the high perceived and actual financial risk involved. As a result, these individuals do not benefit from such technologies. Alternatively, when income-generating products are designed to be reconfigurable, the window of affordability can be expanded to attract more individuals, while simultaneously making the product adaptable to the changing customer needs that accompany an increased income. The method provided in this paper significantly reduces the risks associated with purchasing income-generating products while simultaneously allowing the initial purchase to serve as a foundation for future increases in income. The method presented builds on principles of multiobjective optimization and Pareto optimality, by allowing the product to move from one location on the Pareto frontier to another through the addition of modules and reconfiguration. Elements of product family design are applied as each instantiation of the reconfigurable product is considered in the overall design optimization of the product. The design of a modular irrigation pump for developing nations demonstrates the methodology.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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