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Res Eng Des (1989) 1:121-137

Research in


1989Springer-VerlagNew York Inc.

A Review of Research in Mechanical Engineering Design.

Part II: Representations, Analysis, and Design for the Life Cycle
Susan Finger 1,* and J o h n R. Dixon 2
1Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; 2Department of Mechanical
Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA

Abstract. This is the second of a two-part paper summarizing and reviewing research in mechanical engineering
design theory and methodology. Part I included 1) descriptive models; 2) prescriptive models; and 3) computer-based models of design processes. Part II includes:
4) languages, representations, and environments for design; 5) analysis in support of design; and 6) design for
manufacture and the life cycle. For each area, we discuss
the current topics of research and the state of the art,
emphasizing recent significant advances. A final section
is included that summarizes the six major areas and lists
open research issues.

This two-part paper, the first in a series of reviews
to be published in Research in Engineering Design,
summarizes and reviews the state of research in
engineering design theory and methodology, concentrating on mechanical engineering design. Subsequent reviews will concentrate on other areas of
engineering design or on special sub-topics. The
goal of the series is to inform the community at
large of advances in the developments in engineering design research. We also hope that it will enable
researchers to place their work in context and thus
guide continuing work. The series of papers is also
intended to be an efficient starting place for those
who wish to become familiar with the engineering
design literature relevant to their interests.
There are, of necessity, limits to the nature and
scope of this review. First, the review is not intended to be a substitute for reading complete papers; it is intended only as a brief summary of, and
guide to, the literature. Although we have made
every reasonable effort to be complete, omissions
are inevitable. There can also be errors of commission caused by misinterpretation or lack of full understanding on our part of papers included in the
* Reprint requests: Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

review. We apologize to both readers and researchers for these errors.

The scope is limited in several ways. We intend
only to include research in engineering design, and
then only that portion of engineering design broadly
called "mechanical," which includes products, machines, structures, and the like. Research in geometric modeling, architectural design, manufacturing, expert systems, and optimization are included
only when the research is directly relevant to design
of mechanical systems. We have also not attempted
to cover the many new, commercial computeraided design (CAD) systems which have begun to
incorporate the research ideas discussed in this review.
The research discussed in this review paper has
been conducted primarily in the United States.
Work outside the U.S. has not been excluded, but is
not covered systematically. Finally, research on
mechanical design in very specific technical domains (e.g., mechanisms and heat exchangers) is
not covered unless it is clearly extendible to other
mechanical design domains.
This review is organized into six sections based
on our current view of the active design theory and
methodology research areas. These six areas are:

Descriptive models of design processes

Prescriptive models for design
Computer-based models of design processes
Languages, representations, and environments
for design
5. Analysis to support design decisions
6. Design for manufacturing and other life cycle issues such as reliability, serviceability, etc.

These six categories are certainly not mutually exclusive, and some research overlaps two or more
areas. In such cases, we have done our best to inform readers where research projects have been
placed. In Part I, the first three of the above six
topics were reviewed. In Part II, we review the last


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

three, beginning with languages, representations,

and environment for design.

Languages, Representations, and


In some areas of engineering design, such as circuit

design, formal representations exist for the artifacts
being designed which capture their important physical, functional, and logical attributes. A fundamental concern in mechanical engineering design research is that complete representations do not exist
for mechanical artifacts. Intensive effort over the
last fifteen years has resulted in the creation of
valid, robust computer-based models for the geometry of mechanical designs. However, except in limited domains such as kinematic linkage design, no
formal representation exists for the physical and
functional attributes of mechanical designs. This
section discusses research in mechanical engineering design that has begun to address this concern.
Another related topic is the environment within
which the designer works and within which the design evolves. Currently, many of the tools used to
create designs, whether computer- or paper-based,
are incompatible with one another, so a design may
be transformed from one representation to another
many times as it evolves. In addition, even if the
design tools all used a common representation, the
coordination and interaction of the tools with the
designer is still an open research issue.


Representation of Form

The representation of the geometric form of a mechanical design has received much attention,
largely through the emergence of computer-aided
design systems. We discuss two different, but converging approaches to the representation of form.
The first approach is geometric modeling, either
boundary representation (b-rep) or constructive
solid geometry (CSG) in which the objective is to
create a valid, computer-based representation of a
solid object. The other approach is shape grammars, and their extensions, in which the goal is to
create geometric rules (a grammar) by which a class
of objects can be generated or described.

5.1.1 Solid geometric models. Requicha and

Voelcker [112] cover the progression from the early
CAD systems, which merely duplicated the lines
that would have been drawn on a blueprint, through
wire-frame models, through to solid modetlers, in
which complete, valid solid objects are represented.
This progression is of interest to those in design

research, because the same need--that of increasing the expressiveness of the representation-drives much of the research in design representation. Voelcker [145] also discusses the limitations of
the current geometric models as design systems because their purpose is to represent the geometry of
a completed geometric object, rather than an evolving one. A discussion along similar lines can be
found in Nielsen [94].
One approach to creating geometric modeling
systems for design is to use variational geometry.
Gossard [50, 77, 81] combines CSG and boundary
models in an object graph so that changes in dimensions result in changes in geometry and topology.
Variational geometry is most useful for redesign
and tolerance analysis and synthesis.
Recently, non-manifold geometric modeling systems have been created by Weiler [146, 147] and by
Prinz et al. [56]. These non-manifold systems are
promising as the underlying geometric modellers for
design systems because one-dimensional, two-dimensional, and three-dimensional geometric entities can be represented in a uniform fashion. In addition, these models contain topological information
that enables high-level descriptions of features.
(See Section 5.3.)

5.1.2 Shape grammars. In 1975, Stiny [126] created shape grammars based on the formalisms of
computational linguistics [28]. Using a formal grammar, instances of a class of objects can be generated
based on a sequence of production rules. Architects
in particular have been interested in shape grammars, using them to generate a family of floor plans
or ornamentation. For example, Flemming [48] has
used a variant of shape grammars to generate facades and floor plans for new buildings so they
would blend into a historic district. Tutorials on
shape grammars can be found in both Earl [40] and
Stiny [127]. The textbook, An Introduction to Formal Language Theory [89], which unites formal
language theory with an introduction to computational linguistics, is a good starting point for design
researchers interested in formal languages.
Researchers from several different areas have
become interested in using the formalism of grammars to describe, generate, and parse designs. For
example, Woodbury [156] has created a structure
grammar that extends shape grammars to structures
in space, and he is now working on a three-dimensional grammar for solids [60]. Stiny [129] has written about possible extensions to his work that
would use grammars to generate design attributes
other than simply shape.
Fitzhorn [47] shows the formal relationships between language theory and solid modeling systems.

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

He proves that a two-dimensional grammar that is a

variant of a graph grammar can produce three-dimensional solids. He creates three grammars, one
of which generates the constructive solid geometry
representation, the second of which generates the
boundary representation, and the third of which
generates plane models.
Based on Fitzhorn's work, Pinilla [102] has created a grammar that can be used to parse the geometric features of a design. He uses a non-manifold
topological representation of a design which enables a general, but formal, representation of form
features. His work is discussed in greater detail in
Section 5.3.

5.2 Representation of Behavior

The formal representation of the function and behavior a of mechanical designs has been explored by,
among others, Pahl [95], Crossley [31, 32] and Lai
[76]. Each takes a distinctly different approach to
the problem. Crossley has developed a graphical
system for laying out the mechanical functions of a
design. In his system, functions such as "dump" or
"orient" are each assigned graphical icons. The
icons can then be arranged in a graph to represent
the overall function of the design. Crossley suggests
that each icon might have associated with it a list of
possible mechanisms that would provide the required function. Because the icons do not have any
deeper structure, the functionality of the design layout cannot be checked. In addition, he does not
address the problem of integrating functions in the
physical components. In contrast to Crossley's
graphical system, Lai has created a formal, English
language-based system called FDL for representing
the function and structure of mechanical designs. In
FDL, nouns and verbs are used to create sentences
that represent the function of a design, and design
rules operate directly on the nouns and verbs in the
sentence. Allowable verbs (for example "fasten")
do not have physical or mathematical representa-

Mechanical engineers tend to use the words function and

behavior interchangeably. Qualitative physicists make a distinction between these words; that is, the design's function is what it
is used for, while its behavior is what it does. For example, two
bolts may each have been designed to function as fasteners, be
made o f the same material, and have the same geometry, but if
one is cast and the other machined, they will have different
behaviors. A n o t h e r example is that a motor may be designed to
function as a p o w e r transformer, but it can also function as a
door stop because it has additional behaviors due to its mass.
Because function and behavior are used interchangeably in mechanical engineering, we will not distinguish between them. Unless otherwise noted, function is used in the sense of the behavior of the design.


tions and so their meaning is determined by the

rules that use them.
Ishida et al. [66] describe a system for detecting
unanticipated functions of machines, such as leakage or the impossibility of disassembly based on the
Takase's Feature Description language [136]. Their
goal is to create a computer simulation based on a
human designer's problem-solving activity.
Fenves and Baker [45] present a spatial and functional representation language for structural designs. They use operators that execute a grammar
(like the grammars described in Section 5.1.2) to
generate architectural layouts as well as structural
and functional configurations; however, they must
assume that the layout and structure are independent if they are generated sequentially.
Ulrich and Seering [140] use a formal representation of function based on bond graphs [98]. Using a
strategy of design and debug, they transform each
component in the graph that represents the design
requirements directly to functionally independent
physical components. Reconfiguration for function
sharing is performed "after the components have
been selected. Ulrich and Seering have extended
the approach above to the conceptual design of dynamic systems [139, 141]. A system has been developed that prepares a schematic description of a system of functional components to meet a given
behavioral specification. From the schematic, an
initial physical system is developed by substituting
devices for each function. Finally, iterative redesign (they call it debugging in this case) is used to
improve on the initial design. Bond graphs are employed to represent the design. In [113, 114], Rinderie also uses a representation for function based on
bond graphs; however, his focus is on how the function graph can be transformed and then mapped into
different physical systems. Of primary concern is
that physical components always exhibit behavior
in addition to the behavior for which they were selected. For example, in addition to providing power
reduction, a gear pair has a mass and a geometric
Joskowicz [70, 71] presents a method for designing kinematic mechanisms based on functional
specifications. Using configuration spaces, he has
created a method which enables explicit reasoning
about the relationship between the structure and the
function of the objects. While the domain is limited
to kinematic linkages, this system begins to address
one of the major open questions in design; that is,
the relationship between the desired functionality
for a design and it's final shape.
Green and Brown [51] present a qualitative
model for reasoning about the shape and fit during
the design process. They are concerned with how


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

surface features of a design are grouped, oriented,

and matched until the designer can attempt to confirm a fit. Bacon and Brown [11] present a top-down
approach to reasoning about the behavior of mechanical devices that uses analogy and knowledge
about the behavior of already understood devices.
Their goal is to model, using a computer, the process by which a human engineer would discover the
behavior of a device given some formal description
of its structure.

5.3 Feature-Based Representations

While there is no consensus on a precise definition
of a.feature, most researchers working in the area
agree that a feature is an abstraction of lower-level
design information. Abstractions of design information are becoming of greater importance as design
systems evolve. The research in feature-based design systems has been motivated by the realization
that geometric models represent the design in
greater detail than is useful for designers, process
planners, assembly planners, or for rule-based systems that emulate these activities. The concept of
features began with form features. Form features
are associated with the surface of parts, especially
machined parts and include holes, bosses, and ribs.
In recent work the concept has been made much
more comprehensive.
An early paper by Wesley et al. [148] discusses
the need for a higher-level language for describing
assemblies, tools, and assemblers. In another paper, Pratt [109] discusses the role of solid modeling
as the interface between design and manufacturing.
In his paper he presents feature-based process planning systems in which form features are the bridge
between the geometry created by the designer and
the process plan. Pratt and Wilson [110] give a detailed discussion of the requirements for a solid
modeling system to support form features. In a later
paper, Pratt [11 l] makes specific recommendations
for the attributes that a geometric modeller should
have to be feature-based.
Dixon [33] has defined a feature as "any geometric form or entity that is used in reasoning in one or
more design or manufacturing activities," and more
recently [38] as "an entity with both form and function." A similar definition emerged from a recent
workshop on Features in Design and Manufacturing
[128]. There, a feature was defined to be " a relationship among a set of elements of a design."
Thus, features are not limited to being geometric
entities nor are they limited only to design and manufacturing, although most of the research to date
has been on geometric features for design and manufacturing. Feature-based representation can be ob-

tained by feature extraction (see Section 5.3.2),

from an existing CSG or boundary representation,
or by designing with features from the outset.

5.3.1 Feature-based design systems. Dixon et

al. [38] have developed feature-based design systems in which the designer is provided with a set of
design-with features. These features arise from the
combination of activity and process, Ibr example
design (activity) of castings (process) gives rise to a
set of primitive features such as hollow box, slab,
corner, and boss or hole. The systems developed
are described in more detail in Section 7.5. A tentative taxonomy of design-with-features and a discussion of the origin of features is described in [33], and
an architecture for a design-with-features system
for components is also presented in [37].
Cutkosky and Tenenbaum [34,351 have created a
system called FIRST-CUT in which a product and
its production process are designed simultaneously.
This system is a feature-based system, and the part
is created by applying machining operations that
create manufacturing features, such as slot or hole,
in the part. The process is essentially one of "destructive solid geometry" since the part is created
by removing material.
5.3.2 Feature extraction. Most of the research
in feature extraction has been for process planning,
although some research has been done on features
for other types of analysis such as the work by Woo
[151] for finite element analysis. In either case, the
focus of the work described in this section is on
extracting manufacturing form-features from a previously defined geometric model. Once the features
have been extracted, the design can be analyzed for
manufacturability, and previously compiled plans
can be retrieved to create the required features. A
review of current feature-based process planning
systems can be found in [142]. Among these feature-based process planners are Henderson, [61,
62], Choi, [27], Kumar et al. [75], and Hayes [59],
The Quick Turnaround Cell (QTC) at Purdue [23]
connects a feature-based design system, an automatic process planner, and a manufacturing cell. In
this system, the features are manufacturing formfeatures, and the emphasis is on rapid prototyping
of parts, rather than on the design process itself.
Roy and Liu [116] present a feature-based representation that is a hybrid CSG/B-Rep data structure to
represent dimensioning and tolerancing. Again, the
model is constructed from form-features.
Sakurai and Gossard [117] present a procedure
for recognizing shape features in 3D solid models~
They use a feature graph that is a b-rep subgraph
and what they call facts which possess characteris-

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

tic combinations of topology and geometry. They

use graph matching to find features; however, their
feature graphs are not given by a grammar, but by
instance enumeration.
The feature recognition system described by
Pinilla [102] is currently being extended to enable
feature-based designs to be generated, represented,
and parsed. This extension is possible because the
underlying representation of a feature is based on
elements of a well-defined grammar; however, combinatorial explosion in the generation and search
presents a major obstacle to practical applications.
In all the feature extraction models, feature interaction is a difficult problem; that is, even if the system is capable of recognizing a hole and recognizing
a slot, it may not be capable of recognizing a hole in
a slot. Some of the work being done in graph-based
topological grammars may solve this problem in
theory, but practical solutions are not close at hand.

Product Models

In 1981, Eastman [41] pointed out that computers

were no longer just a vehicle for the analysis of
designs, but had become a medium for the representation of designs. He predicted that computers
would eventually replace traditional media such as
paper and pencil, and he discussed the superiority
of computers for geometric modeling, semantic integrity, and abstraction hierarchies. This paper was
among the first to discuss the idea of an integrated
product model, as opposed to a CAD database, for
mechanical designs.
Since the early eighties, researchers have
worked to create integrated models that combine
representations of geometry, semantic knowledge,
and engineering models in what have come to be
called engineering databases or product models.
Among those working in this area are Maryanski
[100], Shaw [120], Spooner [124], Su [131], and Suzuki et al. [135].
The Product Data Exchange Specification
(PDES/STEP) is a new international standard for
exchanging product information. PDES/STEP is a
major extension beyond IGES (Initial Graphic Exchange Specifications). Whereas the IGES standard
is concerned with exchange of information intended
for human interpretation (e.g., drawings and wireframe), the PDES/STEP standard is concerned with
exchange of a complete product model intended for
use by CAD/CAM systems (e.g., process planners,
NC path generators, and others). Because this standard is being coordinated with international standards groups and is likely to be adopted internationally by industry, the PDES/STEP development is of
interest to designers and design researchers. Plan-


ning is well along for the standards for mechanical

product models and printed wiring board data. A
first version, including some consideration of form
features, will be available in 1989 [99].


The problem of creating an environment within

which designers can work is not limited to computer-based systems. Much of the work on prescriptive models of the design process, discussed in
Part I, Section 3, is directed toward organizing the
information available to designers as well as controlling and coordinating the methods and tools
used by them. The environment becomes more important when the design system is computer-based.
Even if the design tools all use a common representation and data base, the coordination and interaction of the tools with each other and with the designer is still an open research issue.
Shah and Wilson [119] discuss the mismatch between current CAD tools and the needs of designers. They state that designers need multiple levels
of abstraction, generalizations of geometry, product
definition models, and better visualization tools. In
a similar paper, Logan [82] cites the same types of
mismatches and requirements for architectural
CAD systems.
Habraken [57] has created a design environment
based on the analogy that design is like a game.
Using this analogy, Habraken creates a constrained, but rich, universe in which design concepts can be explored. The idea of a game provides
a conceptual framework that can be used to study
how designers interact with the design problem,
with their environment, and with each other. In related work, Gross et al. [53-55] have created a Constraint Manager design environment that is based
on the model that design is search within a constraint space. The environment enables the designer
to navigate through the constraints on the design.
Arbab [4-7] is working towards an intelligent
CAD system in which a tool box of automated problem solving aids allow designers to conceive,
evolve, and document their designs. Arab has focused on the explicit representation and manipulation of geometric knowledge. Papers and abstracts
from researchers working in the area of CAD environments can be found in the proceedings from
meetings of IFIP Working Group 5.2, particularly
the series of workshops on Intelligent CAD [63-65].
Researchers from the field of artificial intelligence, interested in the field of design research,
have begun to explore system architectures for design. For example, Fox [46] and Millington [86]
addressed the issue of integrating design represen-


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

tations and design tools in a unified architecture.

The environments associated with distributed design problems are discussed in Part l, Section 4.4.



The representation of the geometry of mechanical

designs is highly developed and systems are widely
available, although there are still questions of which
system or combination of systems are appropriate
for different design tasks [94]. However, if the design task requires more than low-level geometry of
an object; that is, if it requires knowledge of how
features are connected, or how the design was intended to behave, or how it does behave, or how
material properties affect behavior, there are no
tools at hand to aid the designer.
Both Dixon's and Cutkosky's systems are true
design-with-features systems in that the designer
can compose and edit the design based on the feature representation. However, in both systems the
features are, for the most part, based on manufacturing processes. There are still open issues
whether designers can create designs using manufacturing features and whether designs composed
from manufacturing features can be used by other
models that address assembly, maintenance, and
other concerns.
The systems created by Fenves and Barker, Ulrich and Seering, and Rinderle each have a underlying formal grammar, whether implicit or explicit,
that enables the designer to represent the behavior
of the design. However, many aspects of the behavior of mechanical designs cannot be modeled except
in large analytical programs. In addition, the transition from desired behavior to design description can
be made in only a few domains such as mechanism
The preliminary design-with-features systems
enable designers to compose designs from higherlevel entities; however, there are still many open
issues. For example, it is unclear whether a general
framework based on features will enable designs to
be interpreted from many different points of view,
or whether features can be used in design systems
to capture the behavioral attributes of a design.

6 Analysis in Support of Design

Analysis is an important element of design; without
analysis to provide accurate evaluations of expected design performance, designs would be based
on, at best, guesses and heuristics. Traditionally,
the distinction between design and analysis has
been blurred, and analysis often subsumes design.
To be sure, trial designs must be evaluated, and

engineering analysis procedures provide one of the

most important means for evaluation. Analysis
yields quantitative information about the performance of a design that can guide design or redesign
decisions. However, it is now more widely recognized that analysis supports design, and not the reverse.
Much attention is currently being focused on the
realization that design and redesign decisions must
take into account issues of manufacturability and
life cycles concerns such as reliability, maintainability, disposability, and other so-called ,ilities." In
this paper, design for manufacturing and other life
cycle issues is reviewed in Section 7. Here in Section 6 we consider research more specifically related to the design-analysis interface where "analysis" means engineering analysis for predicting
results such as stresses, deflections, heat flow, motions, fatigue, efficiency, and the like. Interfaces
and access to optimization methods and finite element programs are included here, while analysis
methods for assembly are included in Section 7.


Interfaces to Optimization Methods

As noted in Part i, Section 4.1 the development of

an appropriate criterion function is often an impediment to the use of optimization methods for design.
This has led to research that attempts to provide
more designer-oriented interfaces to existing optimization procedures.
The research on design optimization interfaces at
Brigham Young University is embodied in a program named OPTDES.BYU [13-16, 42, 96]. The
program provides a powerful knowledge-based interface that assists designers in formulating optimization problems and interpreting the results. Another approach has been developed by Mistree et al.
[72, 87, 88, 90]. They have developed a decision support problem technique "that includes expert systems to assist students in formulating problems for their adaptive linear programming
methods." Many specific examples have been demonstrated.
Research applying symbolic computation to reduce the complexity of optimal design problems has
been done by Agogino et al. [1, 2]. In a program
called SYMON [29], monotonicity analysis is used
to reason qualitatively about the nature of constraints and their influence on design solutions.
Results in effect reduce the size of the search space.
Output from SYMON can be used as in put to another program, called SYMFUNE, that reasons
with the constraint equations to further confine the
Chieng and Hoeltzel [25, 26] have designed and

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

implemented a design and analysis tool for mechanical components and assemblies called OPTDEX
(Optimal Design Expert). Design cells are created
that support the design of various elements such as
bearings or speed reducers. The concept in this research is to provide an environment that integrates
AI, mechanical design knowledge, and optimization
Another interface for mechanical designers to
optimization is described by Ishii and Barkan [67].
They propose a rule-based sensitivity analysis
methodology that uses a table of production rule
relationships between design variables and performance parameters. The approach provides interactive advice about critical constraints during the
parametric iterative redesign process and about formulating problems for optimization.
Other work that provides assistance to designers
using optimization methods is found in Balachandran and Gero [12]. In this work, knowledge-based
systems are described to assist formulation and selection of optimization algorithms. Diaz [36] describes and illustrates an approach based on fuzzy
set theory that enables a richer, more flexible definition of the criterion function than traditional optimization methods. Additional references that provide
designer interfaces to optimization include [22, 85,
103, 115]. Haftka [58] gives a review of structural
shape optimization methods. Some possible dangers of structural optimization techniques are discussed by Thompson [137]. A good review of optimization methods for large-scale systems can be
found in [8].
Finally, methods for using optimization methods
in the presence of the complex concerns of design
such as cost and delivery time are discussed by Nakazawa [92] and by Mackenzie [84]. Nakazawa's
work is interesting because he uses as his objective
function the minimization of information required in
manufacturing [132].

6.2 Interfaces to Finite Element Analysis

Designers need convenient and timely access to appropriate analytical procedures. For those procedures that are too complex, sophisticated, or new
for designers to perform themselves, convenient or
even automated interfaces are required. In many
companies, this has been provided by creating a
group of analysis specialists, often called the Engineering Department. The interface in this case is a
human one, and we do not know of research that
has studied designer-analyst interaction. There are,
however, efforts to develop computer-based interfaces to the more complex analysis computer pro-


grams. Success with these efforts can lead to new,

practical tools for designers that will make access to
reliable analytical results easier and hence more
readily usable for early design decisions.
Shephard [121] reviews the state of automatic
generation of finite element meshes in 1983. More
recently, Kela [73] describes an experimental system to generate 2-D meshes from CAD data bases
and to redesign the mesh automatically until a satisfactory analysis is obtainable. Both these papers review the other literature related to automated finite
element mesh generation.

6.3 Analysis at Early Design Stages

Most engineering analysis procedures require a
complete description of the design to be analyzed.
This makes them applicable only during the parametric design phase. How, then, do we evaluate
designs at the earlier stages of design?
Wood and Antonsson [152-155] make use of
fuzzy set theory to aid preliminary design decisions
with analysis tools developed for computations on
imprecise parameters. Examples applying the approach to beam design and brake design are presented in [153]. Rinderle's work [113], see Part I,
Section 4.3, incorporates analysis integrally into the
configuration design process. Gelsey [49] describes
two programs related to automatic analysis of
mechanisms that recognize and simulate kinematic
parts automatically from a CAD data base.
Other papers have addressed the issue of preliminary design analysis. Libardi [80] describes the requirements for a system to support analysis of incomplete and abstract designers and analysis in
different functional domains. Cline [30] discusses a
system under construction that will support analysis of in-progress designs by providing designers
with a number of convenient options for creating
and using analytical models. Dym [39] describe an
environment, currently being implemented, that assists structural designers in choosing analysis procedures at various stages of the design process.
The development and maintenance of a symbolic
representation of the design is critical to this approach. Shephard [122] presents a discussion of the
issues involved in analysis for design at early stages
of the process. Jones [69] has developed a small
system that selects and applies analytical models,
such as cantilever beams, and thin plates, automatically. The system uses a feature-based representation of the design and considers the accuracy and
purpose of the analysis in making a selection. However, this work is just a beginning to the research
required in this area.


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

6.4 Summary
Once a design has been carried to the detailed design stage, analysis procedures are available to predict or simulate the performance of the design along
many different dimensions. Better interfaces to
these procedures are necessary to make them more
accessible to designers and to enable them to be
used properly. However, a much greater need exists for better analytical tools in the early stages of
design when critical decisions are made based on
qualitative information. Tools and methods are
needed to enable designers to explore alternatives
fully and efficiently. Designs must be evaluated and
analyzed at every stage from conceptual to detailed
design. At the moment, little is known about how to
do this, although the work noted above is an encouraging beginning.

7 Design for Manufacturing and the Life-Cycle

Until recently, designers have been perceived to be
concerned primarily with function and fit. Other issues were of lesser concern. In particular, the design implications of manufacturing, that is, ease of
manufacture, process planning, and inspectability
as well as other life-cycle issues such as serviceability, disposability, were Considered only after important design decisions and commitments were made.
This practice has led to many less than optimal designs when the entire life of a product--from conception to disposal--is considered. Awareness of
the economic cost associated with this practice has
now led to growing interest into what is variously
called "design for manufacture," "concurrent design," "simtdtaneous engineering," or "design-forX , " where X can stand for any or all of the life cycle
issues that are relevant to the total life cycle value
of an artifact.


Concurrent Design

Traditionally, the decisions that are made between

the time a new product is conceived until the time it
is shipped have been sequenced and compartmentalized. One reason for this is simply that so much
knowledge is required to design for all life-cycle
issues that no one person or small group can know
everything required. The traditional design sequence has now hardened into institutional structures, accompanied by all the organizational and
human inertia that this implies. Thus, research into
designing for the life cycle has the potential for producing major changes in the practice of engineering

design. It is possible to view research in life-cycle

design from two, not totally independent, perspectives: 1) studies related to knowledge, and 2) studies
related to process. The first perspective focuses on
acquiring, organizing, and utilizing knowledge of
life-cycle issues that relate to early design decisions 2. The second perspective focuses on organizing and controlling the design processes to enable
early, concurrent consideration of life-cycle issues.
Finger et al. [46] describe a system called Design
Fusion which is based on three underlying concepts: integrating life-cycle concerns through the
use of views from multiple perspectives, where
each perspective represents a different life-cycle
concern such as manufacture, distribution, maintenance, etc.; representing the design space at different levels of abstraction and granularity through the
use of features, where features are the attributes
that characterize a design from the viewpoint of any
perspective; and using constraints to guide the design.
A comprehensive view of concurrent design is
presented by Whitney et al. in "The Strategic Approach to Product Design" [149]. The authors propose a method of organizing the design process that
focuses on assembly as the integrating activity,
which can serve to bring all the various life cycle
issues into communication and interaction. Examples of cases are also presented in which the
manufacturing "process is the design" or in which
manufacturing process decisions precede many
functional design decisions.
One concept for concurrent design is to design
products (or parts) and their manufacturing processes simultaneously. Pioneering work in this approach is reported by Cutkosky and Tenenbaum
[34, 35]. In the first of these papers, a system called
First-Cut is described that enables designers to
work in manufacturing modes in which manufacturing operations are specified as a means to design the
desired part. In the second paper, the role of features in concurrent design is explored, with the conclusion that "the combination of features and a process representation is the right foundation upon
which to build a complete end-to-end design tool for
addressing [functional, geometric, and manufacturing] constraints". Though the First-Cut implementation of these ideas is limited to machining, the
authors are also beginning to apply the concepts to
injection molding.

z K n o w l e d g e of h o w to modify an almost complete, detailed

design for s o m e life-cycle issue is not necessarily the s a m e as the
knowledge n e e d e d at the conceptual or configuration level.

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

One method of implementing life-cycle design

that combines these two perspectives is organizational change. All the various specialists, instead of
acting separately and sequentially, are from the outset brought together to perform the design. This
plan brings the knowledge possessed by all the life
cycle experts to the same place at the time design
decisions are being made. Research in organizational change and behavior is beyond the scope of
engineering design research, but several reports and
discussions have appeared in the engineering literature [20, 93]. Another smaller, less formal example
of concurrent design is reported in [118].
It should be noted that bringing together experts
on life-cycle issues does not insure that knowledge
about making design decisions and compromises
will also be available. We must distinguish between
the specialist's knowledge of a life cycle issue and
knowledge about creating and modifying early design concepts so that the life-cycle concerns are resolved. Whitney et al. [149] argue that, by relating
all decisions to assembly concerns, including the
function of the assembly, the needed focus will
emerge. However, it is not certain that a team of
specialists will have, for example, the knowledge to
set machined, molded, or cast tolerances to optimize a part considering function, reliability, serviceability, manufacturability, etc. Explicit knowledge of the relationships of life-cycle issues to early
design decisions is needed to perform life-cycle design. Again, this relates directly to the question of
the evaluation and analysis of designs at the configuration and conceptual stages.

7.2 Design for Manufacturing

Boothroyd and Dewhurst [17-19] have performed
pioneering research on the accumulation and organization of knowledge of handling and assembly directly related to design. This work is based on the
hypothesis that a small number of abstract features
of the components in an assembly can be used to
predict, with useful accuracy, the time required for
assembly. Both manual and automatic assembly are
considered. The features include specified aspects
of part size and symmetry. The predictions of handling and assembly times can be used to point to
needed design changes from the viewpoint of assembly.
In other design for assembly research, Poli and
his colleagues [105-107] have developed a spreadsheet approach to rating designs on the basis of
their ease of automatic assembly. The results point
to part and product features that tend to increase
assembly costs.


The systems described above require that the designers compute and enter manually the required
data on size, symmetry, and other features. Myers
[91] describes an algorithm which, when an assembly is designed in a geometric solid modeller, automatically computes the manual handling times of
the various components using Boothroyd's theory
and data. In this work, the features needed are extracted from the solid modeller boundary representations. This automation of manual handling analysis related to design has not yet been extended to
automatic handling or to insertion times.
In other design for manufacturing work, Poll
[74, 104] has compiled and organized knowledge
on design for forging. As with Boothroyd's work in
assembly, analyses of forging relative cost and difficulty are based on identification of selected design
features, and the results point to potential design
problems or improvements from the viewpoint of
the forging process. Work by these researchers is in
progress on design for injection molding [108].
Heuristic information is available from firms and
industry associations related to design for manufacturability. For example, for casting there is [21], for
extrusion [3], tbr forging [104], and for injection
molding [108]. However, this type of knowledge is
not yet embedded in CAD and solid modeling systems in a way that makes it available to designers
using these systems.
In work that is similar in spirit to Suh's axiomatic
approach to design, Ayers [I0] discusses manufacturing as the concentration of information in matter.
While he does not discuss design per se, Ayers sees
the optimal design and manufacturing process as
the one that maximizes the economic value by minimizing the information required to describe and
produce a product. An overview in design for manufacture is given by Stoll in [130].

7.3 Tolerances
Although tolerances are critical to both functional
performance and manufacturing cost, tolerances
have received very little theoretical treatment.
There are three areas for research: 1) the relationships between tolerances and cost, 2) the relationships between tolerances and functional performance, and 3) the representation of tolerances in
computer-based design systems.
Published data on the relationships between tolerances and costs are almost non-existent. Chase
[24] has fit cost-tolerance curves to data published
by Jamieson [68]. Work is in progress to analyze
and publish more data that can perhaps provide the


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

basis for theory or, at the least, some quantitative

A few researchers [78, 101, 123, 125, 134, 150]
have studied how to synthesize tolerances in order
to minimize manufacturing cost based on various
assumed models for the tolerance cost relationship.
These approaches employ optimization methods to
minimize an assumed cost function.
Research into the effects of tolerances on functional performance is even more limited. Evans [43,
44] describes a possible theoretical approach to the
problem, but the theory is not developed.
The assignment of tolerances can be viewed as
one of assigning values to attributes; that is, as the
parametric design problem. As such, it is necessary
to be able to analyze the effects of tolerance stackup in complex assemblies. There are several methods for doing this analysis as described by Greenwood [52] and also by Turner [138].

7.4 Design for Other Life Cycle Issues

Design for manufacturing (as well as for function, of
course) is the most active design-for-X research
field; research results for other X ' s are scarce. Suri
[133] has proposed and is working on Design for
Analysis, that is, designing products and manufacturing systems so that they can be easily analyzed.
His argument is that analysis is another process,
just like manufacturing or assembly, that a design
must undergo. Therefore, just as one designs for
manufacture or designs for assembly, one should
design for analysis.
A detailed architecture for a "unified life-cycle
engineering" (ULCE) environment is presented by
Brei et al. [20]. This report also recommends research and development on the following life-cycle
issues: (a) human interactions in design, (b) theory,
methodology, and tools for design, (c) data-base
management for design, (d) user interfaces, and (e)
automatic management of detail design changes.
Research on design for other life-cycle concerns,
such as design for reliability, testability, maintainability, is much further advanced in fields such as
electronics and software design than it is in mechanical design. Ayers [9] in an interesting position paper, discusses the relationships among complexity,
reliability, and manufacturing. His thesis is that the
manufacturing of mechanical products must evolve
toward creating integrated, multi-purpose monoliths, similar to integrated computer chips, if mechanical products are to reach the same levels of
reliability and reproducibility. Fiering and Villamarin [144] have studied designs that have failed in
surprising ways to uncover the factors that lead to

unreliable designs. Koen et al. [97] have investigated techniques such as fault tree analysis to develop tools to aid designers in designing large complex systems.


CAD Advisors

CAD systems with embedded knowledge to provide

designers with early on-line advice about manufacturing and life-cycle issues have been proposed and
experimented with. All such advisory systems require a representation of the in-progress design in
terms of features, whether obtained by feature extraction or by designing with features. Henderson
[62] describes a feature extraction system for machined parts that provides intbrmation relevant to
process planning.
Experimental designing with features systems
have been developed at the University of Massachusetts by Dixon et al. In [143], rotationally symmetrical parts are designed from features like disks,
cones, and cylinders; the system provides automatic print-review level manufacturabitity advice.
In [79], extruded parts are designed from wall and
intersection features; the system provides an automatic interface to finite element beam analysis. In
[83], cast parts are designed from macro-features
like box, L-bracket, U-channel, and slab; the system provides advice about manufacturing limits,
hot spots, and filling problems. Dixon [38] has proposed a general architecture for design-with features systems to provide manufacturing and life-cycle advice and redesign suggestions to designers
during the design process. Many of the systems discussed in Section 7.1, such as the one by Finger et
at., use similar architectures to integrate featurebased design and manufacturing advisors.
Turner and Anderson [138] have developed a feature-based design system for machined parts that
couples fixturing, process planning, NC code generation. The system is used to produce parts quickly
with very little operator intervention. An important
aspect of this work is the inclusion of tolerance information with the feature representation.

7.6 Summary
To date, design-for-X has meant primarily design
for manufacturing. Research in design for manufacturing is extensive, especially for assembly and machining. Research effort in knowledge acquisition
and organization is still needed, as well as in practical ways to get the information to designers in a
useful and timely fashion. In contrast, a fundamental understanding of tolerances is still lacking, al-

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

though research interest in this area is growing. One

common thread in all of the work in life-cycle design is the need for better underlying representations of mechanical designs. A clear dependence
exists between the research on features-based representations and the research on life-cycle design.

8 Summary
A research review should not only point to what has
been done, but also to what remains undone. We
summarize here by listing the accomplishments and
the outstanding research issues, as we see them,
organized by the six topic areas of Parts I and II in
the review.
Descriptive M o d e l s
State o f the Art

1. Understanding of how mechanical designers

create designs has increased through the body
of data collected from protocol studies. The
results of these studies will enable new design
tools that to support designers. (Section 2.1).
2. Preliminary hypotheses on the strategies used
by designers have been generated, and from
these, cognitive models of some of the skills
used by designers have been created. (Section
3. Understanding of how teams of designers work
and interact has increased. Research in computer-supported cooperative work and on distributed problem solving complement the work
in this area. (Sections 2.3 and 4.4).
Outstanding R e s e a r c h Issues

1. Hypotheses concerning the strategies used in

design must be tested, validated, and integrated into design systems.
2. Cognitive models of design strategies must
continue to be developed to increase our understanding of how designers design and as a
basis for tools in conceptual designs.
3. Most product designs are created by teams of
designers, and yet we know little about how
design teams work or how to decompose a design problem to be solved by a team.
Prescriptive Models f o r Design
State o f the Art

1. Prescriptive models of the design process are

used widely in teaching design and have been


successful in helping designers to organize the

stages of preliminary design. (Section 3.1).
2. Morphological analysis has been successfully
used for many years in configuration design.
(Section 3.2).
3. The prescriptive models of both Taguchi and
Suh are being applied in practice and have resulted in less expensive and more robust designs. (Section 3.3).
Outstanding R e s e a r c h Issues

1. The prescriptive models of the design process

make intuitive sense to many designers, but
more research is needed to validate the methods and to integrate them with computer-based
2. The mapping between the requirements of a
design and the attributes of the artifact is not
understood. Because the goal of designing is to
create artifacts that meet the functional requirements, more fundamental research is
needed on relating the attributes of designs to
functional requirements, that is, on prescribing
the artifact.

C o m p u t e r - B a s e d Models o f the Design Process

State o f the A r t

1. Successful models for parametric design have

been demonstrated. Progress has been made in
understanding the crucial role for knowledge
about dependencies between design variables
and performance parameters. (Section 4.1).
2. Successful initial models for configuration design have been demonstrated pointing out the
key role of features at this level. (Section 4.2).
3. The foundation has been laid for tools to support computer-aided design of mechanical assemblies. (Section 4.2.1).
4. Preliminary successes have been reported in
some domains in designing from functional requirements. (Section 4.3).
Outstanding R e s e a r c h Issues

1. The models and methods for parametric design

are highly domain dependent. Research on a
unifying parametric design paradigm, which
must include both numeric and non-numeric
methods, is needed.
2. Research is needed to enable evaluation and
redesign of configurations without the need for
instantiation at the parametric level.
3. The utility of strategies for distributed problem
solving in design must be explored.


Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design

4. The role of physical principles in relating form

and function is not yet fully understood.

Languages, Representations, and Environments

State o f the Art

1. Geometric modeling is well advanced; robust

constructive solid geometry and boundary-representation models are widely available. (Section 5.1.1).
2. New, geometric modeling paradigms based on
non-manifold topologies, more suitable for designing, have been developed. (Section 5.1.1).
3. Formal representations of behavior for classes
of mechanical designs have been created. (Section 5.2).
4. Research in feature-based representations has
advanced rapidly in the last few years, and several feature-based design systems have been
developed. (Section 5.3L
5. Integrated product models have progressed to
the point where standards can be written for
exchanging product data as opposed to graphical representations of engineering drawings.
(Section 5.4).
Outstanding Research Issues

1. A major research area common to all design

problems is the representation of mechanical
designs. The research issues include: representation of incomplete designs; representation of
the evolution of a design, including design
changes and version and configuration control;
representation of non-geometric attributes of
designs such as behavior and design intent;
linkages and dependencies between representations of different attributes of designs; and
integration of features, or high level abstractions, into the design representation. The role
of formal grammars and languages in design
representation must be explored further.
2. Much research remains before feature-based
design systems can be used in practice.
3. An important area that has received little attention to date is the creation of design environments that integrate available tools into a consistent system to support the designer.

Analysis in Support o f Design

State of the Art

1. Interfaces to optimization procedures have

been created to make these powerful methods

useful and tractable in design systems. (Section 6.1).

2. Research in automatic finite element analysis
has reached a stage where it is now practical to
create interfaces between these powerful analytic tools and design systems. In addition,
studies are beginning to shed light on analysis
for early design stages. (Sections 6.2 and 6.3).
Outstanding Research Issues

1. A major research issue is the analysis and evaluation of designs at the early and intermediate
stages of design. Research is needed on the
generation and evaluation of alternatively concepts, embodiments, and configurations to
complement the observed tendency of designers to pursue a single-concept design.
2. Another open research question is how to provide designers with the ability to design and
analyze, not only at different levels of abstraction, but also from various functional viewpoints, for example from a kinematic, structural, or thermal viewpoint.
3. Research is needed to create CAD systems
that support conceptual design stages by enabling designers to design, modify, and analyze
at multiple levels of abstraction and in multiple
4. More work is required to complete and disseminate automated interfaces for parametric design and optimization as well as for detail design and finite element analyses.
Design for Manufacturing and the Life-Cycle
State o f the Art

1. Concurrent design is under investigation on a

number of fronts. Research is progressing on
enabling multiple players to view, criticize,
and modify a design, on enabling concurrent
product and process design through the paradigm of process planning, and on enabling concurrent design through organizational change.
(Section 7.1).
2. Much of the knowledge required to support design for manufacturability has been organized
and is being disseminated. Design for assembly
is especially mature. (Section 7.2).
3. Experimental manufacturability advisory systems on feature representations, have been integrated into CAD systems. (Section 7.5).
Outstanding Research Issues

I. No theory or methodology exists to decompose a design into manageable design problems

Finger & Dixon: Research in Mechanical Engineering Design






and then to recompose and assemble the resuiting designs into a product.
The organization and communication protocols necessary for concurrent design are not
Continued acquisition and organization of
manufacturing knowledge in forms useful to
designers is needed.
Fundamental and applied work on tolerances,
especially relating cost to performance, is essential.
More design-for-X studies are needed if concurrent design for life-cycle performance is to
become a reality.
CAD advisory system must be able to deal with
more complex geometry and with combinations of features.

The mechanical engineering design research

community has made major advances over the last
few years. Preparing this review was a much longer
and harder task than we had anticipated. The research community in mechanical engineering design
has made significant progress not only in advancing
our understanding of design, but also in clarifying
the research methods necessary to study design.
The progress being made toward a better understanding of design, and hence toward better design
tools, is remarkable.

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