Technical Systems

As can be learned from his biography, Genrick Altshuller analyzed thousands of worldwide patents from the leading engineering fields. He then analyzed solutions that were, in his judgment, most effective. This work provided the first understanding of the trends, or patterns, of evolution for technical systems. It also laid the foundation for the development of an analytical approach to solving inventive problems, later becoming the foundation for TRIZ, his theory of inventive problem solving, with its axiom: The evolution of all technical systems is governed by objective laws.

These laws reveal that, during the evolution of a technical system, improvement of any part of that system having already reached its pinnacle of functional performance will lead to conflict with another part. This conflict will lead to the eventual improvement of the less evolved part. This continuing, self-sustaining process pushes the system ever closer to its ideal state. Understanding this evolutionary process allows us to forecast future trends in the development of a technical system. Over the past 40 years, TRIZ has developed into a set of practical tools for inventing and solving technical problems of varying complexity. Today, we can identify several basic TRIZ tools as well as other methods and techniques that combine to makeup what is known as Systematic Innovation. Students and followers of Altshuller developed these additional techniques over the past 15 years. This section provides a short introduction to some basic TRIZ tools. It is here for two reasons:

First, it is important for new readers to first learn TRIZ terminology and its meaning so that they may effectively utilize TRIZ tools and concepts to solve problems.

Second, it is important for the reader to be familiar with the philosophy underlying TRIZ tools and techniques in order to be able to fully apply them.

Tools and Concepts of TRIZ

Everything that performs a function is a technical system. Examples of technical systems include cars, pens, books and knifes. Any technical system can consist of one or more subsystems. A car is composed of the subsystems engine, steering mechanism, brakes and so on. Each of these is also a technical system unto itself (with its own series of subsystems) — and each performs its own function. The hierarchy of technical systems spans from the least complex, with only two elements, to the most complex with many interacting elements.

The table below shows the hierarchy of the technical system called “Transportation.” In the left column are names of technical systems. They are placed in descending order. Horizontal rows contain names of subsystems that belong to the technical system described on the left. For example, the technical system “Brake” is a subsystem of the technical system “Car” — as well as a supersystem for the technical system “Pad.” When a technical system produces inadequate or harmful functions it may need to be improved. This requires the imaginative reduction of the system to its simplest state. In TRIZ, the simplest technical system consists of two elements with energy passing from one element to the other. Chalk and a blackboard are not, together, a technical system unless some energy (mechanical force) passes through the chalk causing it to interact with the chalkboard.

Technical System Subsystems for Technical Systems
Power train
Brake pedal
Hydraulic cylinders
Brake pad assembly
Brake pad assembly
Mounting plate
Brake pad
Particles A
Particles B
Chemical bond
Chemical bond
Molecules A
Molecules A
Subsystems for Technical Systems

The technical system “chalk, blackboard and applied force” can then become functional — chalkboard. (complete minimal Technical System) Chalk and board, as separate elements, are each independent technical systems. Chalk has a molecular structure. Interaction of different chemical elements within its structure produces a bond creating a material called “chalk.” Should the quality of the bond require improvement, then the technical system of the molecular structure must be analyzed. At the same time, chalk is a subsystems of the super system chalkboard. All subsystems are interconnected with each other within the bounds of the higher system. Changes in any one subsystem can produce changes in higher, supersystems. When solving a technical problem always consider interactions of the existing technical system with those systems above and below it. In addition, technical systems are like biological systems. They are not immortal. They emerge, ripen to maturity, and die — only to be replaced with new systems.