Publication date: 11/10/2021

The emphasis on studying main effects early on in the experimentation process is supported by the empirical principle of effect hierarchy. This principle maintains that lower order effects are more likely to be important than higher order effects. For this reason, screening designs focus on identifying active main effects. In cases where higher order interactions are of interest, screening designs assume that two-factor interactions are more important than three-factor interactions, and so on. See Effect Hierarchy and Wu and Hamada (2009).

The efficiency of screening designs also depends on the principle of effect sparsity. Effect sparsity asserts that most of the variation in the response is explained by a relatively small number of effects. See Effect Sparsity.

To appreciate the importance of effect sparsity, consider an example where you have seven two-level factors. Contrast a full factorial design to a screening design:

• A full factorial design consists of all combinations of the levels of the factors. The number of runs is the product of the numbers of levels for each factor. In this example, a full factorial design has 27 = 128 runs.

• In contrast, a screening design requires only a fraction of the runs in the full factorial design. The main effects of the seven factors can be studied in an eight-run screening design.

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