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How Can I Convince Colleagues Working on Formulations to Use Mixture Design Rather than Factorials or Response Surface Methods as They Would Do for Process Studies?

posted by Greg on Aug. 12, 2019

We recently published the July-August edition of The DOE FAQ Alert. One of the items in that publication was the question below, and it's too interesting not to share here as well.

Original question from a Research Scientist:

"Empowered by the Stat-Ease class on mixture DOE and the use of Design-Expert, I have put these tools to good use for the past couple of years. However, I am having to more and more defend why a mixture design is more appropriate than factorials or response surface methods when experimenting on formulations. Do you have any resources, blogs posts, or real-world data that would better articulate why trying to use a full factorial or central composite design on mixture components is not the most effective option?"

Answer from Stat-Ease Consultant Martin Bezener:

“First, I assume you are talking about factorials or response surface method (RSM) designs involving the proportions of the components. It makes no sense to use a factorial or RSM if you are dealing with amounts, since doubling the amount of everything should not affect the response, but it will in a factorial or response-surface model.

"There are some major issues with factorial designs. For one thing, the upper bounds of all the components need to sum to less than 1. For example, let’s say you experimented on three components with the following ranges:

A. X1: 10 - 20%
B. X2: 5 - 6%
C. X3: 10 - 90%

then the full-factorial design would lay out a run at all-maximum levels, which makes no sense as that gives a total of 116% (20+6+90). Oftentimes people get away with this because there is a filler component (like water) that takes the formulation to a fixed total of 100%, but this doesn't always happen.

"Also, a factorial design will only consider the extreme combinations (lows/highs) of the mixture. So, you'll get tons of vertices but no points in the interior of the space. This is a waste of resources, since a factorial design doesn't allow fitting anything beyond an interaction model.

"An RSM design can be ‘crammed’ into mixture space to allow curvature fits, but this is generally a very poor design choice. Using ratios of components provides a work-around, but that has its own problems.

"Whenever you try to make the problem fit the design (rather than the other way around), you lose valuable information. A very nice illustration of this was provided in the by Mark Anderson in his article on the “Peril of Parts & the Failure of Fillers as Excuses to Dodge Mixture Design” in the May 2013 Stat-Teaser.”

An addendum from Mark Anderson, Principal of Stat-Ease and author of The DOE FAQ Alert:

"The 'problems' Martin refers to for using ratios (tedious math!) are detailed in RSM Simplified Chapter 11: 'Applying RSM to Mixtures'. You can purchase this book and the others in the Simplified series ('DOE' and 'Formulation') on our website."


Links for additional information:


Four Tips for Graduate Students' Research Projects

posted by Shari on May 22, 2019

Graduate students are frequently expected to use design of experiments (DOE) in their thesis project, often without much DOE background or support. This results in some classic mistakes.

  1. Designs that were popular in the 1970’s-1990’s (before computers were widely available) have been replaced with more sophisticated alternatives. A common mistake – using a Plackett-Burman (PB) design for either screening purposes, or to gain process understanding for a system that is highly likely to have interactions. PB designs are badly aliased resolution III, thus any interactions present in the system will cause many of the main effect estimates to be biased. This increases the internal noise of the design and can easily cause misleading and inaccurate results. Better designs for screening are regular two-level factorials at resolution IV or minimum-run (MR) designs. For details on PB, regular and MR designs, read DOE Simplified.
  2. Reducing the number of replicated points will likely result in losing important information. A common mistake – reducing the number of center points in a response surface design down to one. The replicated center points provide an estimate of pure error, which is necessary to calculate the lack of fit statistic. Perhaps even more importantly, they reduce the standard error of prediction in the middle of the design space. Eliminating the replication may mean that results in the middle of the design space (where the optimum is likely to be) have more prediction error than results at the edges of the design space!
  3. If you plan to use DOE software to analyze the results, then use the same software at the start to create the design. A common mistake – designing the experiment based on traditional engineering practices, rather than on statistical best practices. The software very likely has recommended defaults that will make a better design that what you can plan on your own.
  4. Plan your experimentation budget to include confirmation runs after the DOE has been run and analyzed. A common mistake – assuming that the DOE results will be perfectly correct! In the real world, a process is not improved unless the results can be proven. It is necessary to return to the process and test the optimum settings to verify the results.

The number one thing to remember is this: Using previous student’s theses as a basis for yours, means that you may be repeating their mistakes and propagating poor practices! Don’t be afraid to forge a new path and showcase your talent for using state-of-the-art statistical designs and best practices.