Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level



Mechanical Engineering


David C. Jensen

Committee Member

Darin Nutter

Second Committee Member

Uchechukwu Wejinya

Third Committee Member

Harry Pierson

Fourth Committee Member

Wenchao Zhou


Complex Systems, Design Theory and Methodology, Failure Analysis and Safety Analysis, Reliability Analysis, System Design and Simulation, System Modeling and Analysis


The complexity in most engineering systems is constantly growing due to ever-increasing technological advancements. This result in a corresponding need for methods that adequately account for the reliability of such systems based on failure information from components that make up these systems.

This dissertation presents an approach to validating qualitative function failure results from model abstraction details. The impact of the level of detail available to a system designer during conceptual stages of design is considered for failure space exploration in a complex system. Specifically, the study develops an efficient approach towards detailed function and behavior modeling required for complex system analyses. In addition, a comprehensive research and documentation of existing function failure analysis methodologies is also synthesized into identified structural groupings.

Using simulations, known governing equations are evaluated for components and system models to study responses to faults by accounting for detailed failure scenarios, component behaviors, fault propagation paths, and overall system performance. The components were simulated at nominal states and varying degrees of fault representing actual modes of operation. Information on product design and provisions on expected working conditions of components were used in the simulations to address normally overlooked areas during installation. The results of system model simulations were investigated using clustering analysis to develop an efficient grouping method and measure of confidence for the obtained results.

The intellectual merit of this work is the use of a simulation based approach in studying how generated failure scenarios reveal component fault interactions leading to a better understanding of fault propagation within design models. The information from using varying fidelity models for system analysis help in identifying models that are sufficient enough at the conceptual design stages to highlight potential faults. This will reduce resources such as cost, manpower and time spent during system design. A broader impact of the project is to help design engineers identifying critical components, quantifying risks associated with using particular components in their prototypes early in the design process and help improving fault tolerant system designs. This research looks to eventually establishing a baseline for validating and comparing theories of complex systems analysis.