How TRIZ-journal Wished to Demonstrate That Contradiction Matrix Works but Instead Demonstarted That It Does not

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.

In September 2007 Michael Slocum posted two notes in TRIZ-journal titled "TRIZ meets Cassini" and "Seawolf meets TRIZ". He wrote them in such a way that the reader gets impression that TRIZ was really employed by "Seawolf" submarine designers and by the designers of "Cassini" Saturn orbiter. For instance, he writes:

"The separation in space principle sparked a question: What if the extrusion process could be divided into different zones, or instances? Using further experimentation, the design team determined the best way was to slice space in eight zones, or “layers,” each with its own different extrusion parameters."

Thus, Michael Slocum alleges that the solution was prompted by a question sparked by resorting to the TRIZ separation principle. But this is doubtful because the submarine was commissioned to the US Navy in 1997 and designed well before, when TRIZ has not have time yet to penetrate American companies and agencies.

Similarly, Cassini orbiter was also launched in 1997 and designed well before, which makes it highly improbable that TRIZ was used in its design. Nevertheless, Michael Slocum alleges:

"Among the many Cassini space mission problems requiring innovative solutions was a technical contradiction related to keeping harmful radiation from damaging on-board instrumentation and digital electronics components. If too much radiation gets through to the equipment and electronics, they fail. The details of the technical contradiction were that the improving feature was a reduction in radiation density (parameter 7), while the degrading feature was an increase in system complexity (parameter 39). Cross-referencing these two parameters, the contradiction matrix produced principles number 26 (copying) and 1 (segmentation) as generic solution principles.

Mainly the idea of segmentation provided the impetus for a solution. The design team segmented equipment and components into two distinct layers: outer and inner. Less radiation-susceptible components were re-allocated to the outside of the Cassini structure ..."

Besides being highly improbable that Cassini designers were aware of contradiction matrix in the first half of the 1990s (i.e. before "Ideation International" and "Invention Machine" became sufficiently known in America, which did not happen until 1996), the above example demonstrates that contradiction matrix does not work. Indeed, the described solution falls into "Taking out" category rather than "Segmentation" category. Of course, taking out of a portion of an object requires segmentation of the object into the part which will be taken out and the part which will remain where it is. But not segmentation is the essence of the trick here. Taking out is the essence. And "Taking out" is not suggested by contradiction matrix when applied to the above contradiction !

Slocum provides even more impressive examples of contradiction matrix not working, unsuspectingly though, indulging in the belief that he demonstrates contradiction matrix at work ! Here are these examples:

"Another problem was the need to isolate the main engines and thrusters from spacecraft instrumentation, as heat, shock and vibration can interrupt or cause instruments to fail. At the same time, all components of Cassini had to be as small and compact as possible, so they could fit into the cone of the launch vehicle on which Cassini would leave earth and enter space. The associated technical contradiction involved improving parameter #8 (volume of a stationary object) and its degrading counterpart, parameter #31 (harmful effect). All Cassini components had to be close and compact (volume of object), but such closeness put instrumentation at risk of damage (harmful effect). Looking in the contradiction matrix, the team encountered inventive principles 30 (flexible thin films), 18 (mechanical vibration), 35 (parameter change) and 4 (asymmetry).

Using the mechanical vibration principle, the engineers reduced vibration frequency by dampening the instrument cases. Instead of mounting instrument cases directly on the Cassini structure, they used rubber mechanisms to isolate each case from the structure - and elegant solution that protected the cases from heat, shock and vibration without expanding their size ..."

So, of 4 principles suggested by the matrix only one allegedly "worked". Slocum claims that that was principle 18 - use of mechanical vibrations. But the irony is that the solution does not employ mechanical vibrations. On the contrary, it reduces/prevents them ! And this is not principle 18 at all ! Moreover, there is no principle amongst 40 TRIZ principles which recommends reducing/neutralizing/preventing/dampening harmful vibrations! Principle 18 only suggests introducing or increasing useful vibrations! Michael Slocum either forgot what principle 18 is about or never bothered to read it intently.

Every professional ought to know his trade in order not to lose reputation. The notes, which Michael Slocum posted in TRIZ-journal, clearly demonstrate that he does not know his trade.