Research: Integration Tools


SFB 476

Subproject B2

Incremental Integration Tools

Project Description of the CRC 476 subproject B2

Development Processes in engineering disciplines as software development, computer-integrated manufacturing, or chemical process engineering usually involve different developers. These developers produce certain documents between which complex dependencies exist. Simultaneous engineering aims at accelerating development processes by starting dependent sub-processes as early as possible with preliminary results of preceding sub-processes. Concurrent engineering allows to develop different perspectives of the same product in parallel. Therefore, tool support is needed to ensure the consistency of the different documents. In this project the necessary integration tools are developed.

The documents' contents are represented by fine grained entities that are called increments. As a basis for all integration functionality integration tools establish and maintain inter-document links between these increments to express their dependency. These links can later be used for example to check the documents' consistency or to generate one document from the other. In general, human interaction is necessary to establish these links. Integration tools work incrementally, i.e. only modified parts of the documents are propagated into other documents by changing their corresponding parts.

There are different types of integration tools that can be built. For example, transformation tools generate one document based on a given input document and are executed in a batch like manner. Consistency checking tools can be used to check and restore the consistency between two ore more existing documents. Browsing tools can be built that allow to navigate the dependencies between increments that are related to each other. We distinguish between integration tools that are developed a-posteriori and a-priori. The former means that the tool is constructed to integrate given systems that cannot be changed, in the latter case the systems can be modified to fit the integration tool's needs.
We support the whole range of different integration tools, but focus on interactive, bidirectional, and incremental tools that are built a-posteriori. Most of our tools work rule-based, i.e. their behaviour is specified in a human-readable way. Currently, in most cases we use a UML-based specification method to define rules that are interpreted by integration tools at runtime. Hard-coded rules and code generated from rule definitions are supported as well.

A framework that consists of the components that are common to all integration tools is used to execute integration rules. It contains interface definitions as well as fully implemented system parts.

The semantic of rule execution in integration tools is defined using the PROGRES language: Integration rules can be translated
into a PROGRES specification that is executed in our integration rule evaluation environment IREEN.

As part of the CRC 476 scenario some integration tools were built. For instance, one tool integrates the process flow diagram (PFD) describing a chemical plant and the corresponding Aspen Plus simulator input file. The simulator input can be generated from the PFD and the simulator results can be transformed back into the PFD. If the PFD is modified, the simulator input file can be adapted without altering the not affected parts.

Currently, our results are going to be transfered into practice. The B2 project is continued by the TC 61 transfer project T5 together with our industrial partner innotec GmbH.

General overview about CRC 476:

Contribution to:
Springer Nagl, M. and Westfechtel, B.:
Integration von Entwicklungssystemen in Ingenieuranwendungen: Substantielle Verbesserungen der Entwicklungsprozesse, Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York (1999)

Nagl, M. and Marquardt, W.:
SFB 476 IMPROVE: Informatische Unterstützung übergreifender Entwicklungsprozesse in der Verfahrenstechnik,
in: Jarke, M., Pasedach, K. and Pohl, K.: Informatik'97 - Informatik als Innovationsmotor, Informatik aktuell, Aachen, Germany, pp. 143-154, Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York (1997)

(O) Elsevier ScienceDirect PDF Marquardt, W. and Nagl, M.:
Workflow and information centered support of design processes — the IMPROVE perspective,
Computers & Chemical Engineering, vol. 29, no. 1, pp.65-82 (2004)

Project Data

Duration: July 1997 - June 2006
Financed by German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)

Created by: system last modification: Thursday 01 of March, 2007 [09:07:44 UTC] by theresa