This paper presents a general design approach involving automatic, intelligent process simulation procedures. The aim is to derive a general set of design principles and methodologies that can be developed into computer-assisted procedures. This first part deals with numerical, quantitative calculations, i.e., with what commonly goes under the name of “Numerical Process Simulation.” It is argued that the existing design methods can result in computer codes or packages that perform exactly (and deterministically) the numerical operations an engineer would perform. It is also shown that modularity in these codes is dictated by the necessity of automatically implementing numerical procedures that depend on the structure of the process under examination, rather than by user’s convenience and ease of maintenance. An example of a modular, structure-oriented code (CAMEL) is given and discussed in detail, while numerical applications are discussed elsewhere [4]. The second part deals with the more complex qualitative approach to process design, i.e., with the possibility of implementing automatic “expert” procedures that perform the same conceptual tasks as human process engineers. It is shown that by means of Artificial Intelligence techniques it is possible to mimic (to an extent) the “thinking patterns” of a human expert, and to produce process schemes that are both acceptable and realistic. A general process synthesis package (COLOMBO) is described and some of its applications discussed. The main goal of the two parts of the paper is to show that the very complex activity of process design can be executed automatically, not only in principle, but in actual applications, and that both qualitative synthesis and quantitative calculations are possible with the present state of the art of our computational facilities.

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