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Structure of Complex Systems

Chapter 2

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2.1 System Building Blocks and Interfaces


System engineers need broad knowledge of several interacting disciplines. How deep does understanding need to be? Sufficient to recognize Program risks Technological performance limits Interfacing requirements Trade-off analyses among design alternatives
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2.2 Hierarchy of Complex Systems


Definition of a system is inherently applicable to different levels of aggregation of complex interacting elements. Every system is a subsystem of a higher-level system, and every subsystem may itself be regarded as a system.

System of systems.
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Model of a Complex System


The scope of a system is ambiguous.
Modeling is one of the basic tools of systems engineering.

Purpose to define a relatively simple and readily understood system architecture.

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Complex systems have a hierarchical structure.

Subsystems are major interacting elements


Subsystems are composed of more simple functional entities, down to primitive elements, called parts. Common used terminology: system and subsystem for uppermost levels; parts for the lowest. Intermediate levels are called components and subcomponents.
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Definition of System Levels


Systems:

Possess the properties of an engineered system, as defined in Chapter 2


Perform a significant useful service with only the aid of human operators and standard infrastructures (e.g. power grid, highways, fueling stations, communication lines, etc.)

Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

While these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, we still need to agree on common definitions to facilitate discussion.

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Subsystem a major portion of the system that performs a closely related subset of the overall system functions
Component middle level of system elements; often correspond to configuration items (CIs) in government system acquisition notation.

Subcomponents perform elementary functions Parts perform on significant function except in combinations with other parts.
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Domains of the Systems Engineer and Design Specialist


Components are products fitting within the domain of industrial design specialists. Specification of components, especially to define performance and ensure compatible interfaces, is the task of systems engineering. When a subcomponent or part happens to be critical to the systems operation (e.g., the ill-fated seal in the space shuttle Challengers booster rocket), the systems engineer should be prepared to learn enough about its behavior to identify its potential impact on the system as a whole.
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Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

Components level point at which two knowledge domains overlap. This is where the systems engineer and design specialist must communicate effectively.

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2.3 System Building Blocks


Component - an intermediate level of elements that recur in a variety of systems, which typically constitute product lines of commercial organizations. Result: advanced and versatile products that can finda large market (and hence achieve a low cost) in a variety of system applications.
COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components attempt to capitalize on economies of scale found in the commercial component market.

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Functions on the component level first to provide a significant functional capability, as well as being found in a variety of different systems. Components basic system building blocks

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Functional Building Blocks: Functional Elements


Information the content of all knowledge and communication Material the substance of all physical objects

Energy which energizes the operation and movement of all active system components
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Subdivide into two classes Elements dealing with propagating information (e.g., radio signals) are called signal elements Elements dealing with stationary information (e.g., computer programs) are called data elements Results in four classes of system functional elements: Signal elements: sense and communicate information Data elements: interpret, organize, and manipulate information Material elements: provide structure and transformation of materials Energy elements, provide energy and motive power
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A set of generic functional elements are also defined.


Criteria to ensure elements are neither trivially simple nor inordinately complex: Significance Each functional element must perform a distinct and significant function, typically involving several elementary functions Singularity Each functional element should fall largely within the technical scope of a single engineering discipline Commonality The function performed by each element can be found in a wide variety of system types
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The functional design of any system may be defined by conceptually combining and interconnecting the identified functional elements.
Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

The system inputs are transformed and processed through the interconnected functions to provide the desired system outputs.
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Physical Building Blocks: Components


Component elements or simply components - the physical embodiments of the functional elements, consisting of hardware and software.
Have the same distinguishing characteristics Are at the same level in the system hierarchy.

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Issues with implementing functional elements into components: reliability, form and fit, compatibility with the operational environment, maintainability, producibility, testability, safety, cost, integrity of the functional design.
Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

The system-level significance of these factors must be understood.


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Applications of System Building Blocks


Identifying the classes of functions that need to be performed by the system may help group the appropriate functional elements into subsystems, and thus facilitate functional partitioning and definition. Identifying the individual functional building blocks may help define the nature of the interfaces within and between subsystems. The interrelation between the functional elements and the corresponding one or more physical implementations can help visualize the physical architecture of the system. The commonly occurring examples of the system building blocks may suggest the kinds of technology appropriate to their implementation, including possible alternatives.
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2.4 The System Environment


Everything outside of the system that interacts with the system. This interaction is the main substance of system requirements.

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System Boundaries
Necessary to precisely define what is inside the system and what is outside.
In a functional sense, the operators are integral parts of the system. However, operators constitute elements of the system environment, and impose interface requirements that the system must be engineered to accommodate. In our definition, the operators are considered external to the system.

For example, the electrical power grid is a standard source of electricity, an essential element in its operational environment, and interfacing requirements.
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Types of Environmental Interactions


Distinguish between primary and secondary interactions. Primary represent functional inputs, outputs, and controls
Secondary relate to elements that interact with the system in an indirect nonfunctional manner, such as physical supports, ambient temperature, etc.
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Inputs and Outputs

Primary
Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

System Operators
Human-machine interface is one of the most critical, but also most complex to define and test

Operational maintenance
Designed to provide access for monitoring, testing, and repair.
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Secondary
Support Systems
Standard available resources with which it must interface harmoniously Examples: electric power grids, automobile filling stations

System Housing
Operating site, which imposes compatibility constraints on the system

Shipping and Handling Environment


Transport from the manufacturing site to the operating site Examples: extreme temperatures, humidity, shock and vibration. Sometimes more stressful than those of the operating environment.
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2.5 Interfaces and Interactions


Interfaces, external and internal
Proper interface control is crucial. This involves:
Identification and description of interfaces as part of system concept definition, and Coordination and control of interfaces to maintain system integrity during the engineering development, production, and subsequent system enhancements.
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Interactions
Interactions between two individual elements of the system are effected through the interface connecting the two.
Requires access to a number of vital system functions for testing purposes.

Built-in tests (BIT)


The definition of such interfaces is also the concern of the systems engineer.
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Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

This material is copyrighted and is the property of Colorado State University

Interface Elements
Three different types
Connectors, which facilitate the transmission of electricity, fluid, force, and so on between components Isolators, which inhibit such interactions Converters, which alter the form of the interaction medium.

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Points to note:
The function of making or breaking a connection between two components is an important design feature.
Source: Kossiakoff, A., & Sweet, W. (2003). Systems engineering : principles and practice. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley-Interscience.

The function of connecting nonadjacent system components by cables, pipes, levers, and so on, is often not part of a particular system component. The relative simplicity of interface elements belies their critical role in ensuring system performance and reliability. Experience has shown that a large fraction of system failures occurs at interfaces.
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Homework Problems (page 48)


2.1) Referring to Figure 2-1, list a similar hierarchy consisting of a typical subsystem, component, subcomponent, and part for (a) a terminal air traffic control system, (b) a personal computer system, (c) an automobile, and (d) an electric power plant. For each system you need only name one example at each level.

2.4) The last column of Table 2-1 lists examples of the applications of the 23 functional elements. List one other example application than the one listed for three elements in each of the four classes of elements. 2.6) For a passenger automobile, partition the principal parts into four subsystems and their components. (Do not include auxiliary functions such as environmental, entertainment.) For the subsystems, group together components concerned with each primary function. For defining the components, use the principles of significance, (performs an important function), singularity (largely falls within a simple discipline), and commonality (found in a variety of system types). Indicate where you may have doubts. Draw a block diagram relating the subsystems and components to the system and to each other.
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