Suppose you have three modules $m_1,m_2$ and $m_3$, each with a capacity of $c_i$ and area $a_i$. You are also given $A$ and $C$. How can you find some of the solutions to choose an amount of each module so that the sum of areas is exactly $A$ and the sum of the capacities is exactly $C$? All variables including the amount of each module are positive integers.

I tried to formulate this as an optimization problem but I can't find a function to maximize or minimize. I also tried to think of it as a kind of Knapsack problem, but my programmed solution that adds and removes modules randomly for backtracking is not working.
Any suggestions on how I may proceed?

  • $\begingroup$ @JohnL. Its just backtracking and I chose to add and remove modules randomly. $\endgroup$
    – raibd
    Mar 8, 2023 at 18:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ May I suggest to use a more dscriptive title? The current one works for just about every post here. $\endgroup$
    – Kai
    Mar 9, 2023 at 5:00
  • $\begingroup$ Downvote for not upvoting and not accepting the answer. $\endgroup$
    – S. M.
    Dec 4, 2023 at 10:36

1 Answer 1


An approach that uses integer linear programming (ILP)

The given condition can be consider the requirement $AX+s=b$ of an ILP in standard form. However, as noted in the question, there is no function to maximize. Well, that is not big obstacle at all. We can specify any function to maximize. For example, we can maximize the amount of $m_1$. Or maximize the amount of $m_2$.

There are various algorithms that solve ILP. However, the problem of integer linear programming is NP-hard. It is not clear which algorithm might be efficient for the current problem.

Another approach with a linear algorithm

Let us use math a bit. What we need is the method of elimination of variables and the extended Euclidean algorithm that solves linear Diophantine equation of two variables. Throughout the explanation below, I will skip various easier cases so that we can focus on the main idea. All variables will be integers.

Let the amount of $m_i$ be $x_i\in\Bbb N_{>0}$. The requirements are $$ a_1x_1+a_2x_2+a_3x_3=A\\ c_1x_1+c_2x_2+c_3x_3=C$$

Consider $x_1$ a constant, we can solve $x_2, x_3$. $$rx_3=p_2x_1-q_2\\ rx_2=p_3x_1-q_3$$ where $p_3=c_1a_3-c_3a_1$, $\ q_3=Ca_3-Ac_3$, $\ p_2=-(c_1a_2-c_2a_1)$, $\ q_2=-(Ca_2-Ac_2)$, $\ r=a_2c_3-c_2a_3$.

I will skip the easy case when $r=0$. Assume $r\not=0$.

The original problem is equivalent to finding a positive integer $x_1$ such that both $p_2x_1-q_2$ and $p_3x_1-q_3$ are positive multiples of $r$. Thanks to the elimination of variables $x_2$ and $x_3$, we will deal with a single integral variable $x_1$ only.

Fact. Let $a, b, n$ are integers, $a\not=0$, $b\not=0$. We can use the extended Euclidean algorithm or here to find $d=\gcd(a,b)$ as well as an integral solution $(x,y)=(x_0,y_0)$ of the equation $$ax+by=d.$$

  • If $n$ is a multiple of $d$, all integral solutions to $ax+by=n$ are given by $$(x_0\frac nd+\frac bdk, y_0\frac nd-\frac adk),$$ where $k\in\Bbb Z$.
  • If $n$ is not a multiple of $d$, there is no integral solution to $ax+by=n$.

Consider the condition that $p_2x_1-q_2$ is a positive multiple of $r$. I will skip the easy case when $p_2=0$. This condition asks us to solve the Diophantine equation $p_2x_1+ry_1=q_2$ with positive $x_1$ and $y_1$. I will skip the easy case when $q_2$ is not a multiple of $\gcd(p_2, r)$. So all integral solution to $p_2x_1+ry_1=q_2$ are $(x_1, y_1)=(s_0+s_1k_1, s_2-s_3k_1)$, where $k_1\in\Bbb Z$ for some constant $s_0, s_1, s_2, s_3\in\Bbb Z$ that can be computed according to the fact above. The condition that $x_1$ and $y_1$ are positive will mean $k_1$ must be in some interval (possible empty or infinite). In summary, $x_1=s_0+s_1k_1$ for some integer constant $s_0, s_1$ where integer $k_1$ is in some known interval.

Similarly, with some easier cases skipped, the condition that $p_3x_1-q_3$ is a positive multiple of $r$ will mean $x_1=t_0+t_1k_2$ for some integer constant $t_0, t_1$ where integer $k_2$ is in some known interval.

Combining both conditions, we find the problem is reduced to finding integers $k_1, k_2$ in some know intervals respectively such that $s_0+s_1k_1=t_0+t_1k_2$. The last equation is again a linear equation of two variables $(k_1, k_2)$, which can be solved by the fact above.

If we implement the approach above properly, the algorithm will have $O(\log(\max(c_1, c_2, c_3, a_1, a_2, a_3, A, C)))$ time-complexity and $O(1)$ space-complexity.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand how you introduced $p_3, p_2, q_2$ and $r$. $\endgroup$
    – raibd
    Mar 12, 2023 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried solving $x_2$ and $x_3$? If not, please try. Since $x_1$ and $a_1,a_2,a_3$, $c_1,c_2,c_3$, $A,C$ are considered constants, you will be solving a system of two linear equations with two unknown variables. $\endgroup$
    – John L.
    Mar 12, 2023 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Ohh I see I was confused $\endgroup$
    – raibd
    Mar 12, 2023 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ I am, in fact, interested in where/how my answer appears misleading or confusing. Can you tell me what was confusing and how my answer could have been clearer to you? $\endgroup$
    – John L.
    Mar 12, 2023 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Don't worry, I think my confusion comes from the fact that I haven't worked with number theory in a while. Also, I don't get where $n$ comes from. $\endgroup$
    – raibd
    Mar 12, 2023 at 18:36

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