Automatic construction of virtual technical documentation
The main objective of the research reported in this thesis is the generation of intelligent documentation of complex manufactured products. The construction of documentation is a major part of product support that increases the competitiveness of the product and its effective and proper use during its life-time. At the same time, it is also a complicated and time-consuming task occupying highly trained personnel. The need for systems that increase the productivity of documentation authoring teams becomes even more apparent as other design and manufacturing activities progress towards their automation and integration through the various CAD/CAM systems. The first target of this research is to provide a system to assist the integration of the documentation authoring to the Product Data Management System, the primary source of product data. The second target is to increase the efficiency of the information systems used for this purpose and automate the process to the extent that is feasible using the available tools and ideas that are proposed in this thesis. The first contribution presented in this thesis is an Object-Oriented framework that aims to assist software developers in the design and implementation of electronic documentation systems. The second contribution is a novel distributed architecture for an intelligent documentation system that will allow the automation of a major part of the authoring procedure and the generation of electronic manuals based on information reused from the Product Data Management System. The third contribution is a new technique for the generation of virtual documents. The technique is rule-based so as to support the decision-oriented nature of data selection within the authoring procedure. The technique follows knowledge-based principles allowing authors to design documents at a higher level of abstraction.
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