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Energy-efficient components do not automatically lead to energy-efficient systems. Technical Operations Research (TOR) shifts the focus from the single component to the system as a whole and finds its optimal topology and operating strategy simultaneously. In previous works, we provided a preselected construction kit of suitable components for the algorithm. This approach may give rise to a combinatorial explosion if the preselection cannot be cut down to a reasonable number by human intuition. To reduce the number of discrete decisions, we integrate laws derived from similarity theory into the optimization model. Since the physical characteristics of a production series are similar, it can be described by affinity and scaling laws. Making use of these laws, our construction kit can be modeled more efficiently: Instead of a preselection of components, it now encompasses whole model ranges. This allows us to significantly increase the number of possible set-ups in our model. In this paper, we present how to embed this new formulation into a mixed-integer program and assess the run time via benchmarks. We present our approach on the example of a ventilation system design problem.

The understanding that optimized components do not automatically lead to energy-efficient systems sets the attention from the single component on the entire technical system. At TU Darmstadt, a new field of research named Technical Operations Research (TOR) has its origin. It combines mathematical and technical know-how for the optimal design of technical systems. We illustrate our optimization approach in a case study for the design of a ventilation system with the ambition to minimize the energy consumption for a temporal distribution of diverse load demands. By combining scaling laws with our optimization methods we find the optimal combination of fans and show the advantage of the use of multiple fans.

Finding a good system topology with more than a handful of components is a
highly non-trivial task. The system needs to be able to fulfil all expected load cases, but at the
same time the components should interact in an energy-efficient way. An example for a system
design problem is the layout of the drinking water supply of a residential building. It may be
reasonable to choose a design of spatially distributed pumps which are connected by pipes in at
least two dimensions. This leads to a large variety of possible system topologies. To solve such
problems in a reasonable time frame, the nonlinear technical characteristics must be modelled
as simple as possible, while still achieving a sufficiently good representation of reality. The
aim of this paper is to compare the speed and reliability of a selection of leading mathematical
programming solvers on a set of varying model formulations. This gives us empirical evidence
on what combinations of model formulations and solver packages are the means of choice with the current state of the art.

Pure analytical or experimental methods can only find a control strategy for technical systems with a fixed setup. In former contributions we presented an approach that simultaneously finds the optimal topology and the optimal open-loop control of a system via Mixed Integer Linear Programming (MILP). In order to extend this approach by a closed-loop control we present a Mixed Integer Program for a time discretized tank level control. This model is the basis for an extension by combinatorial decisions and thus for the variation of the network topology. Furthermore, one is able to appraise feasible solutions using the global optimality gap.

In times of planned obsolescence the demand for sustainability keeps growing. Ideally, a technical system is highly reliable, without failures and down times due to fast wear of single components. At the same time, maintenance should preferably be limited to pre-defined time intervals. Dispersion of load between multiple components can increase a system’s reliability and thus its availability inbetween maintenance points. However, this also results in higher investment costs and additional efforts due to higher complexity. Given a specific load profile and resulting wear of components, it is often unclear which system structure is the optimal one. Technical Operations Research (TOR) finds an optimal structure balancing availability and effort. We present our approach by designing a hydrostatic transmission system.

The conference center darmstadtium in Darmstadt is a prominent example of energy efficient buildings. Its heating system consists of different source and consumer circuits connected by a Zortström reservoir. Our goal was to reduce the energy costs of the system as much as possible. Therefore, we analyzed its supply circuits. The first step towards optimization is a complete examination of the system: 1) Compilation of an object list for the system, 2) collection of the characteristic curves of the components, and 3) measurement of the load profiles of the heat and volume-flow demand. Instead of modifying the system manually and testing the solution by simulation, the second step was the creation of a global optimization program. The objective was to minimize the total energy costs for one year. We compare two different topologies and show opportunities for significant savings.

Cheap does not imply cost-effective -- this is rule number one of zeitgeisty system design. The initial investment accounts only for a small portion of the lifecycle costs of a technical system. In fluid systems, about ninety percent of the total costs are caused by other factors like power consumption and maintenance. With modern optimization methods, it is already possible to plan an optimal technical system considering multiple objectives. In this paper, we focus on an often neglected contribution to the lifecycle costs: downtime costs due to spontaneous failures. Consequently, availability becomes an issue.

Gearboxes are mechanical transmission systems that provide speed and torque conversions from a rotating power source. Being a central element of the drive train, they are relevant for the efficiency and durability of motor vehicles. In this work, we present a new approach for gearbox design: Modeling the design problem as a mixed-integer nonlinear program (MINLP) allows us to create gearbox designs from scratch for arbitrary requirements and—given enough time—to compute provably globally optimal designs for a given objective. We show how different degrees of freedom influence the runtime and present an exemplary solution.