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TRIZ Part 3

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 39: TRIZ Part 3


In part 1, we looked at functions, harm, ideality and contradictions that occur within this Russian invention system. Part 2 gaves the first twelve common principles that are used in many patents. Part 3 now continues this list. Use these principles at any time during problem solving and inventing. Just go through them all and ask, ‘How can I use this to help solve my problem?’

13. Inversion

Inversion means doing the opposite of what might seem normal, such as having a tray come out of a hi-fi system to accept a CD, rather than having to insert the CD into a static part of the system. You can lift instead of lower, do things in reverse order, turn things upside down and a thousand other inverting actions.

14. Spheroidality

 We tend to like flat surfaces and often do not challenge them. Spheroidality asks us to consider curves, in all of their various forms. We can use ball bearings to reduce friction, bend metal smoothly to retain strength or move things around in smooth curves rather than angular jerks. Where there already is curvature, change the radius, or let a flat curve take off into another dimension.

15. Dynamicity

If a system is made up of parts which are all connected rigidly together, then any force applied to the system is felt equally by all parts. When things are fixed, then when their environment changes, they are unable to cope well with the change. Dynamicity means creating systems which are able to cope with change and intrusions from outside it. Separating parts, using suspension systems, flexible connections and cushioning all are methods of achieving dynamicity.

16. Partial, overdone or excessive action

Sometimes perfection is either impossible or too expensive to consider. What you can always consider is how you can do things at less than or even more than 100%, and to what degree you can do this. Animals cope with varying food supplies by storing food that is not needed now as body fat (which can also double up as insulation) or slowing down their metabolic rate, such as by hibernating or sleeping.

17. Moving to a new dimension

When you are having problems that has to do with straight lines, try using a second or third dimension. Go upwards, sideways or around corners. Reflect energy, bend metal, change your route. You can also move dimensions by rotating the object, changing your viewpoint, or even changing the number of objects.

18. Mechanical vibration

Vibration is effectively a way of injecting energy into an object, which can break it away from other things or allow it to be moved (‘bounced’) easily. You can do this by shaking, vibrating, sound waves or ultrasonics. By varying both the frequency and amplitude, you can create different effects.

19. Periodic action

A vibration is a constant series of energy bursts. We can also put gaps between those energy bursts to create Periodic action. If you are using continuous force, pulsed energy can be more effective (this is what a hammer drill does). You can change the force, how long it is applied and how long between each application. Rear cycle lamps were once all constantly red, then someone came up with the idea of a flashing light which not only saves energy, it also attracts motorists’ attention.

20. Continuity of useful action

Not all parts of all machines are being optimally used all of the time. We can thus improve matters by reducing this idle time or putting it to better use. For example a reciprocating saw has a dead time at the end of each stroke which is eliminated  by the circular saw. An alternative may be to put the reciprocation to good use, such as actuating a pump which removes the sawdust.

21. Rushing through

Doing things at high speed reduces the time during which problems may occur. For example, if you are cutting a soft material slowly, it will deform, making the cutting a difficult job. By doing it very fast, the material does not have time to deform.

22. Convert harm into benefit

Sometimes harmful or undesired effects, such as the creation of waste, result from the process. A simple conversion of harm to benefit is when the heat from a vehicle engine is used to warm the people in the car. Many industries born from inventively looking at how waste can be not only recycled but also put to good use. If something does not work well, ask ‘where else would this limited effect be useful?’ You can even increase the harm to create benefit, such as making enough flammable waste gasses to heat the building.

23. Feedback

Feedback is taking or sensing the output of a system and using this to change events which happen before, such as a thermostat being used to control temperature. You can also reverse feedback, perhaps to exaggerate or accelerate change or to cancel out an undesirable effect. Pop stars use positive feedback to create howling guitar noises. People who like silence can use noise cancelling feedback.

24. Mediator

Sometimes you need an action carried out which cannot easily be done by the system as it is. In this case, you have the option of either adding a new part or temporarily bringing in something to perform the action. To remove liquid from a vessel, you can build in a tipping mechanism or bring in a pump when it is needed.

25. Self-service

Can your device do things for itself, even occasional actions such as testing or maintenance? To create a hole into which a tube must fit very snugly, you might be able to get the tube to drill the hole itself by heating or sharpening the end, perhaps in combination with another principle such as vibration.

26. Copying

Rather than use the expensive, delicate or inaccessible original, can you use a simple copy. This may be done physically or optically, such as using an image of some sort. Once you have a copy, you can change it different ways to achieve the desired benefit. Image intensifiers work by taking a copy of the light available and amplifying it.  It may, for example, be easier to measure a copy of an object than the object itself.


Next time: TRIZ Part 4


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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