Artificial neural networks have been used for simulation, modeling, and control purposes in many engineering applications as an alternative to conventional expert systems. Although neural networks usually do not reach the level of performance exhibited by expert systems, they do enjoy a tremendous advantage of very low construction costs. This paper addresses the issue of identifying important input parameters in building a multilayer, backpropagation network for a typical class of engineering problems. These problems are characterized by having a large number of input variables of varying degrees of importance; and identifying the important variables is a common issue since elimination of the unimportant inputs leads to a simplification of the problem and often a more accurate modeling or solution. We compare three different methods for ranking input importance: sensitivity analysis, fuzzy curves, and change of MSE (mean square error); and analyze their effectiveness. Simulation results based on experiments with simple mathematical functions as well as a real engineering problem are reported. Based on the analysis and our experience in building neural networks, we also propose a general methodology for building backpropagation networks for typical engineering applications.
Expert Systems with Applications – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 1998
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