Towards a formal ontology of engineering functions, behaviours, and capabilities

Tracking #: 3188-4402

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Francesco Compagno
Stefano Borgo

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Guest Editors SW for Industrial Engineering 2022

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In both applied ontology and engineering, functionality is a well-researched topic, since it is through teleological causal reasoning that domain experts build mental models of engineering systems, giving birth to functions. These mental models are important throughout the whole lifecycle of any product, being used from the design phase up to any diagnosis activity. Though a vast amount of work to represent functions has already been carried out, the literature has not settled on a shared and well-defined approach yet. This work develops some crucial steps towards an ontological description of functions and related concepts, such as behaviour, capability, and capacity. A conceptual analysis of such notions is carried out using the top-level ontology DOLCE as a framework, and the ensuing logical theory is formally described in first-order logic and OWL, showing how ontological concepts can model major aspects of engineering products in applications. In particular, it is shown how functions can be distinguished from the implementation methods to realize them, how one can differentiate between capabilities and capacities of a product, and how these are related to engineering functions.
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