Click here to open a Java window and run the GA_Demo...  

Evolutionary Computer-Automated Design (CAutoD) and Virtual Prototyping for Industry 4.0

Click left on the CAutoD animation - This opens a Java window to run the GA / EA Demo, an interactive courseware to show you step by step how a genetic algorithm works.  You can also watch global convergence in a batch mode, change the population size, crossover rates, mutation rates, selection mechanisms, and/or add a constraint. 

Since 1991, Yun Li has been teaching at University of Glasgow and researching into transforming the passive Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to the pro-active Computer-Automated Design (CAutoD) and machine invention He is Professor of Systems Engineering, specialised in Intelligent Systems (which offer data-driven prospects of computation akin to the human being).  Currently, he and his colleagues are working on cloud computing and big data oriented intelligent CAutoD for "Industry 4.0", with predictive data analytics to extract emerging trends in societal needs and wants and thus to enhance conceptual designs for smart manufacture. Cloud models with a CAutoD server can offer automation functions as services for seamless cyber-physical integration globally.  Application areas include electronic, electrical, mechanical, control, and biomedical engineering, operations management, financial and economic system modelling and optimisation.

Some of the CAutoD principles are discussed in papers
Downloadable below or from ResearchGate here):

  1. Design of sophisticated fuzzy logic controllers using genetic algorithms, First IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence, 1994

  2. Genetic algorithm automated approach to the design of sliding mode control systems, Int J Control, 1996, Li, Y. et al (University of Glasgow)

  3. GA automated design and synthesis of analog circuits with practical constraints, IEEE CEC Evolutionary Computation, 2001, Goh, C. (UoG Singapore) and Li, Y.

  4. CAutoCSD - Evolutionary search and optimisation enabled computer automated control system design, Int J Automation and Computing, 2004

Related evolutionary computing and control publications
(Downloadable below or from Enlighten here):

  1. Structural system identification using Genetic Programming and a block diagram tool, Electronics Letters, 1996

  2. Nonlinear model structure identification using Genetic Programming, IFAC J Control Engineering Practice, 1998

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  3. Evolutionary linearisation in the frequency domain, Electronics Letters, 1996, Tan, K.C. (National University of Singapore), et al

  4. Evolutionary system identification in the time domain, IMechE J of Systems & Control Engineering, 1997

  5. Evolutionary Computation Meets Machine Learning: A Survey, IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine, 2011

  6. Artificial Evolution of neural networks and its application to feedback control, Artificial Intelligence in Engineering, 1996

  7. Grey-box model identification via Evolutionary computing, IFAC J Control Engineering Practice, 2002

  8. Differential Evolution with an Evolution Path: A DEEP Evolutionary Algorithm, IEEE Trans Cybernetics, 2015


  9. Particle Swarm Optimization with an aging leader and challengers, IEEE Trans Evolutionary Computation, 2013

  10. Bi-velocity discrete Particle Swarm Optimization and application..., IEEE Trans Industrial Electronics, 2014

  11. Orthogonal Learning Particle Swarm Optimization, IEEE Trans Evolutionary Computation, 2010

  12. Adaptive Particle Swarm Optimization, IEEE Trans Cybernetics, 2009, Zhang, J. (Sun Yat-sen University), et al

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  13. Ant Colony Optimization for Wireless Sensor Networks..., IEEE Trans Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, 2011

  14. An efficient Ant Colony system based on receding horizon..., IEEE Trans Intelligent Transportation Syst, 2010

  15. Orthogonal methods based Ant Colony search for solving continuous optimization..., J Computer Science & Technology, 2008

  16. SamACO: variable sampling Ant Colony algorithm for continuous optimization..., IEEE Trans Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, 2010

  17. Protein folding in hydrophobic-polar lattice model: flexible Ant Colony optimization..., Protein and Peptide Letters, 2008


  18. PIDeasy: Patents, software and hardware for PID control: the current art, IEEE Control Systems Magazine, 2006

  19. PID control system analysis, design, and technology, the most popular paper in IEEE Trans Control Systems Tech every month since 2005

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  20. Book 1: Parallel Processing in a Control Systems Environment, E Rogers & Y Li, Prentice Hall Series on Systems and Control Engineering, 1993, 364 pp, ISBN 0-13-651530-4.

  21. Book 2: Real-World Applications of Evolutionary Computing, S Cagnoni, R Poli, & Y Li, et al, Springer-Verlag Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2000, 396 pp, Volume 1803/2000, Berlin, ISSN 0302-9743, ISBN 978-3-540-67353-8, DOI 10.1007/3-540-45561-2.

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Web of SciencePapers cited on SCI

     Yun Li's citations

More on the CAutoD principles

Click here to see what evolutionary design is like

CAutoD reverses a 'design' problem to a 'simulation' problem and then automates such 'digital prototyping' by intelligent search via biologically-inspired machine learning, hence accelerating and optimizing a human trial-and-error process in the computer prior to physical prototyping. The main tool for CAutoD here is evolutionary computation, including genetic algorithms and swarm intelligence. An intelligent system utilises such computational intelligence to analyse interactions between variables or phenomena, so as to identify causes, effects, drivers and dynamics for their modelling, design and control in a holistic manner. Biologically-inspired evolutionary computation is exceptionally powerful for gradient-free or global search for multi-objective designs, for optimisation of system structures (as well as their parameters), and for intelligent and automated virtual prototyping.  

To meet the ever growing demand in quality and competitiveness, a 'good design' of a system or product needs to meet multiple objectives or design criteria such as maximal performance, highest speeds, reliability, energy efficiency, shortest time-to-market, cost-effectiveness and manufacturability, etc. A design problem is concerned with finding the best parameters within a known or given range through parametric 'optimisation' or 'learning', and is also concerned with inventing a new structure beyond existing designs through structural creation or machine-invention.  If the objective cost function J[0 ) (or, inversely, the 'fitness function' f = 1/(1+J) (0 1] ) is differentiable under practical design constraints, the problem is solved analytically. Unfortunately, this scenario does not usually exist in practice and the problem is hence often unsolvable. 

Numerically, this is often known as an 'NP-hard problem' in computing science, but if the design structure and its parameters are pre-set, a candidate design can always be 'analysed' via computer simulations nowadays.  Hence, the design problem can be converted to a multidimensional (multivariate) and multi-modal search problem for a combinational design objective or multiple objectives.  At present, many designs and refinements are made through manual trial-and-error learning based on the results of a CAD simulation package. Usually, such a process needs to repeat many times until a 'satisfactory' or 'optimal' design emerges.

Such an adjustment process can be performed by biologically-inspired intelligent search, leading to optimal solutions within a polynomial time. For example, an evolutionary algorithm (EA) may be interfaced with the existing CAD package in a batch mode, forming CAutoD. A typical EA is the genetic algorithm, which encodes parameters (as well as the structure) of each candidate design in a numerical string, known as an artificial 'chromosome', and starts with multiple search points, known as the initial 'population'.  The EA varies multiple chromosomes in the population so as to search in parallel, the process of which is guided by automated a-posteriori learning.

This process of artificial evolution selects better performing candidates using a 'survival-of-the-fittest' guideline. To bread the next 'generation' of candidate designs or 'digital prototypes', some parameter values are exchanged between two candidates by an operation called 'crossover' and new values introduced by an operation called 'mutation'.  This way, the evolutionary technique makes use of past trial information in a similarly 'intelligent' manner to a human designer. A number of finally 'evolved' top-performing candidate prototypes will present multiple optimal designs. The EA based CAutoD can start from the designer's existing database and/or randomly generated candidates.

Which evolutionary algorithm might be the most appropriate to your application at hand:

The following classification illustrates the complexity of computational problems, where NP-complete are a class of computational problems that cannot be solved in deterministic polynomial (P) time but can be solved in nondeterministic polynomial (NP) time.  Given the modern computer simulation power, many virtual engineering problems can now be solved via digital prototyping, although in exponential time (i.e., they may be theoretically solvable but practically intractable).  The power of evolutionary computation lies in its ability to solve many exponential problems in NP time, i.e., to make exponential problems practically solvable.  Some problems such as winning the lottery, however, remain an exponential problem (i.e., is 'exponential-complete' and can only be solved by enumerations). 

NB. Swarm intelligence such as particle swarm optimisation and ant colony optimisation fits in the 'evolutionary programming' - 'evolution strategies' branch for continuous or numerical optimisation and fits in the 'genetic algorithm' branch for discrete or structural optimisation.

Much of the CAutoD material above is excerpted from: Li, Y. (1995) "Neural and Evolutionary Computing" Lecture Notes, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, U.K., with principles based on: Ng, K.C., and Li, Y. (1994) Design of sophisticated fuzzy logic controllers using genetic algorithms. In: IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence 1994, 26-29 Jun 1994, Orlando, FL, USA, pp.1708-1712. 

CAutoD Example 1 - Optimal PID (instant setting and tuning in PIDeasyTM):

For example, CAutoD can be applied to designing, setting and tuning proportional, integral and derivative controllers automatically and intelligently.  When KI and KD are fixed, increasing KP alone can decrease rise time, increase overshoot, slightly increase settling time, decrease the steady-state error, and decrease stability margins, as shown in the table below, but these three parameters should be tuned in 3D coordinates and not independently!

 Effects of

(on)  Rise Time


Settling time

Steady-state error





Small Increase




Small Decrease



Large Decrease ↓↓



Small Decrease



Minor Change



Destabilizing effect of the derivative term, measured in the frequency domain by Gain Margin and Phase Margin. Adding a derivative term increases both GM and PM, but raising the derivative gain further tends to reverse the GM and destabilize the closed-loop system. For example, if the derivative gain is increased to 20% of the proportional gain (TD = 0.2 s), the overall open-loop gain becomes greater than 2.2 dB for all w. At w = 30 rad/s, the phase decreases to -p  while the gain remains above 2.2 dB. Hence, by the Nyquist criterion, the closed-loop system is unstable. It is interesting to note that Matlab does not compute the frequency response as shown here, since Matlab handles the transport delay factor e‑jwL in state space through a Pade approximation.

To combat unwanted noise highlight arising from the derivative action, it can be realised through a simple nonlinear filter - the median filter:


To combat integrator anti-windup, the PI part of a PID controller can be realised in the series form for automatic reset:

The above are excerpted from Ang, K.H., Ch
ong, G.C.Y., and Li, Y. (2005) PID control system analysis and design. IEEE Control Systems, 26 (1). pp. 32-41.

CAutoD Example 2 - Invention of greener internal combustion engines (in China)

Another exciting application of CAutoD is the above, for a step improvement in fuel efficiency, power and emission, through microwave initiated and enhanced combustion:

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Click the above figure for a patent or click here for a paper on this topic:

CAutoD Example 3 -
CAutoD for more Eco-Friendly Ships (in Singapore)

Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Sembcorp Marine, the University of Glasgow and University of Glasgow Singapore (UGS) have recently signed an agreement to collaborate and develop new hull designs for large ocean-going vessels using multi-objective CAutoD techniques to make ships more environmentally-friendly. 

Under the three-year memorandum of understanding, A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Sembcorp Marine, the University of Glasgow and UGS will use computational modelling and visualisation technologies to design vessels with improved hydrodynamics for better fuel efficiency.  In addition, they will collaborate and innovate on features to reduce harmful exhaust emissions and discharges by enhancing the vessel's scrubber and ballast treatment services. Currently, maritime transport carries about 90% of all international trade and accounts for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The partners are also looking at the possibility of creating a joint laboratory to advance R&D to make ocean-going vessels more efficient in other ways.

High-performance computing and CAutoD for ship design in Singapore

PhD opportunities and scholarships (Click here and then "Supervision" for example projects)

Industry 4.0 / Industrie 4.0 / 工业4.0

PhD scholarship search:
Engineering application info:

Research visitors shorter than 6 months also welcome - contact me at: Yun.Li (at)

Page for Existing Project Students

"Computer-Automated Design", "Design of Simulations", "A-Posteriori Learning", "Systems Economics", "Systems Finance", "Systems Marketing" and "Model-free Predictive Control" are terminology that I have proposed and used to summarise my past, present and future work. You are welcome to use it freely, and acknowledgement is more than welcome.  - Yun Li (李耘