Anda di halaman 1dari 18

Computer tools for integrated

conceptual design
John E E Sharpe, Engineering Design Centre, Engineering Department,
Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YR, U K

This paper outlines the conceptual design process with reference to the
integrated computer-aided design tool known as Schemebuilder, and the
related work of the Lancaster University Engineering Design Centre. The
aim of the Lancaster EDC is to provide highly integrated support for the
rapid creation and evaluation of a wide range of outline design schemes.
Particular attention is paid to the design of mechatronic systems and
Keywords: engineering design, conceptual design, decision making,

~ith increasing pressure coming from global competition and

the desire for greater innovation, engineering designers are
expected to deliver designs of greater variety and quality. The
increase in multidisciplinary product development has not only removed
traditional constraints to design but has given the designer a much wider
freedom of choice as to the best solution to a particular design problem.
This brief paper outlines the conceptual design process with reference to
the integrated computer-aided design tool known as Schemebuilder, and
the work of the Lancaster EDC, and demonstrates how the designer is
supported in the many design decisions that must be made ~.

1 Bracewell, R H, Chaplin, R V,
Langdon, P M, Li M, Oh V,
Sharpe J E E and Yan, X T
'Integrated computer support for
interdisciplinary systems design',
technical report, EDC 1994101,
Lancaster University, 1994

The process of designing a product from first principles requires many

millions of decisions and the comparison of many hundreds of alternative
design solutions. Initial studies that have been made with a number of
different industrial companies have shown that for a major capital item
such as a locomotive, power plant, advanced machine tool or motor
vehicle, there are some 8 to 10 levels of decision making with each level of
the design giving rise to some 15 alternative function structures, embodiments or details which give rise to some 2500 million decisions of a purely
qualitative nature which must be matched by a similar number of
quantitative decisions or calculations.

0142-694X/95 $10.00 Design Studies 16 (1995) 471488 0142-694X(95)00021-6

(~) 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in Great Britain All rights reserved


Thus there is an overwhelming need to provide support decision throughout the design process, particularly during the early phases of the
conceptual design when the major decisions affecting the commitment of
resources are made. It is widely agreed that the first 5% of the design
process commits 80% of the overall costs to market the product 2.
Any design requires the integration of a number of different disciplines.
Mechatronic systems and many modern manufacturing systems present
many choices across multidisciplinary boundaries, with a commensurate
expansion in alternatives and the need to provide active support to those
unfamiliar with the alternative technologies. In a modern machine a
function may be embodied mechanically, hydraulically, pneumatically, as
an electronically controlled servomechanism or as an embedded software
function with the appropriate interfaces 34. The designer must be supported to consider all of these and make appropriate decisions. The
Schemebuilder integrated suite of computer-aided tools researched at the
Lancaster Engineer Design Centre, does .just this.

] Lancaster Engineering Design Centre

The Engineering Design Centre at Lancaster University was established
in 1990, under its first Director, Professor Michael French, with a rolling
grant from the Science and Engineering Research Council and substantial
support from the university, as one of five national centres of excellence in
engineering design. In 1992 Professor John Sharpe became director on the
retirement of Professor French, and in 1994 was awarded a further
1 000 000 grant from the newly formed Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council to continue its work for a further four years.
The centre, built on the established reputation of the school of engineering, computing and mathematical sciences for interdisciplinary work
especially in the area of design, seeks to establish engineering design as an
important intellectual discipline as well as a useful art. The centre
2Carrubl~, F P 'Designing
people-pleasing products, keynote address' in 9th International
Conference on Engineenng Design, ICED '93 Heurista, Zurich
3 Bradley, D A, Dawson, D,
Burd, N C and Loader, A J
Mechatronics: electronics in products and processes Chapman
and Hall, London (1991)
4 Sharpe, J E E 'Mechatronics the design challenge. An overview of the issues raised during
the optimal design of mechatrenic systems and products', Joint
Hungarian-British Mechatronics
Conference, Budapest, 1994


concentrates on the conceptual design of interdisciplinary systems, with a

special interest in mechatronics, and as such is one of only six groups
world-wide known to be active in this area of research. The centre is also
concerned to establish principles of good design and demonstrate how
they should be applied.

1.1 Objectives of the Lancaster Centre

In setting out the initial programme in 1990, there was an awareness that
the later stages of the design process, through detailing and on to
manufacture (including CAD-CAM), were well addressed by others and
that there was a substantial body of literature setting out retrospective

Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

analyses of design concepts and procedures. Much less attention has been
given in industry and academe to the early stages of the design process in
terms of addressing the potential for computer-based design support tools
at the conceptual stage. The aim of the centre is, therefore, to provide
highly integrated support for the rapid creation and evaluation of a wide
range of outline schemes incorporating a range of technologies and to
enable the comparison of technological alternatives to take place before
large commitments are made and irrevocable decisions taken on the basis
of partial or biased information.
The broad objectives of the Lancaster E D C can therefore be summarized

To contribute significantly to the development of engineering design

as an intellectual discipline as well as a 'useful art'
To improve standards of engineering design in the UK, primarily in
the chosen field of mechatronics, but also in other areas of engineering, by researching and providing an integrated set of computer-aided
design tools which allows the synthesis and investigation of a range of
alternative solutions at an early stage of the design process
To provide direct links into advanced and comprehensive system
simulation which allows on-line assessment of product performance,
parameter optimization, machine matching and control system design
To facilitate a reduction in manufacturing costs and lead times by
means of improved understanding of their relationship to the design
process, the use of integrated design tools and 3D solid modelling and
spatial optimization of assemblies by means of 'functional axes'
To provide advanced facilities allowing access to a wide range of
relevant system and component design advice and information, including costs, and appropriate data for multiple criteria decisions on
alternative design schemes

The means adopted for achieving these aims is a set of linked research
projects under the general title of Schemebuilder, embracing knowledge
systems for conceptual design, the qualitative development of schemes
from first principles, generic function and component databases, configuration layout of schemes, function maps and multiple criteria decisionmaking and simulation and optimization, which together will deliver
powerful practical aids to the designer as shown in Figure 1.

Relating to the exploitation of the work, the further following aims have
been established

Integrated conceptual design


e~pei~ou~i u~!so(][


.". ~,



~ ~,


~,i ~'=


,=~ "








~ 5 "~ ~ .~

(t) m

> m ~ ~ ,0 LU i - 03 ~

=, = v,~



= ~






~,-" I_ . ' ~

~1 ~ !'-"!~
I a,~








Ie" { / )


I " e

, ae.





I-= H


Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

To develop the current interest, commmitment and involvement of

industrial organizations and software houses in the development and
use of the integrated suite of system design software
To consider the best methods for the exploitation of the conceptual
design tools under development in industry and for education

2 Overall relation of the work of the EDC to other

The primary focus of the work of the EDC is the conceptual and
embodiment design of mechatronic and other multidisciplinary systems
from first principles through to physical prototype, including mechanical,
electrical and electronic systems and embedded software. The work
relates to the whole process of 'scheming' a design solution 5.
It must be emphasized that the philosophy of our work is not that of the
classical expert systems approach, but rather one embracing a more
co-operative relationship between man and machine, as underlined by the
work of Fischer 6. Within this context, the work of the EDC reflects much
of the current thinking on the use of AI in design.
The research embraces in a unique way, many aspects of systems analysis,
the application of artificial intelligence and design methodology, particularly that related to conceptual design. The EDC is involved in and
contributes to these fields.
The work of the EDC parallels other research elsewhere as follows.


5 French, M J Conceptual design for engineers, Design Council, London (1985)

6 Fischer, G 'Communication
requirement for co-operative
problemsolving systems' Journal
of Information Systems Vo115 No
1 (1990) 21-36

Integrated conceptual design

Systems research

Mechatronics as expressed by J Buur (Technical University Denmark), Kajitani and Salminen and Verho
Bond graph analysis created by Paynter at MIT in the early 1960s and
developed for use specifically in design by Sharpe in 1978 at QMW,
University of London; Finger and Rinderle at Carnegie Mellon;
Welch and Dixon at University of Massachusetts and Breedveld et aL
at University of Twente
Physical system simulation as presented in the work of Delgado
(Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela) Breedveld (University of
Twente) Thoma (University of Waterloo) and Karnopp, Rosenberg
and Margolis (University of Stanford, California at Davis and Michigan, respectively).
Structured analysis, including Ross, Ward and Mellor and Yourdon
and the work at VTT Finland
Mixed mode simulation such as the work of Dauphin-Tanguy (Uni-


versity of Lille), Mann et al. (University of Leuven) and Top et al.

(University of Twente)


Design methodologies relating to conceptual design

Theory of technical systems, as established by Hubka and Eder,

working in Zurich and developed by others including Malmqvist at
Chalmers University, Goteborg
Function structures, of Pahl and Beitz, Krumhauer and Roth from the
technical universities of Berlin and Darmstadt, respectively
Theory of domains and function means trees conceived by Tjalve, and
applied by Andreasen and Buur from the Institute for Engineering
Design, Lyngby, Denmark
Aspects of optimization and multicriteria decision making, such as the
use of the genetic algorithm by Parmee (University of Plymouth), the
work of Sen, on multiple criteria decision making (University of
Newcastle UK) and the optimal design work of Sharpe (QMW,
University of London, UK)

3 Artificial intelligence in design

The work of Gero (University of Sydney), Yoshikawa et al. (University of Tokyo), Top et al. (University of Twente) and Kusiak (University of Iowa)

7 Sharpe, J E E and Oh, V (eds)

Computer aided conceptual design, Proceedings of the 1994
International Workshop on Engineering Design, Lancaster, UK,
8 Sharpe, J E E and Oh, V (eds)
'AI system supportfor conceptual
design' Proceedings of the 1994
International Workshop on En*
gineering Design, Springer Verlag, 1995


The work of the Lancaster Engineering Design Centre represents a

distinctive combination of the topics listed above making it one of the five
major centres in Europe researching the overall conceptual design of
mechatronic schemes, the others being the University of Twente (Holland), University of Leuven (Belgium), Technical University of Denmark
and VTT Finland. In the US most of the conceptual design work relates to
specific areas rather than the broad cross-disciplinary subject of mechatronics. However, the work at M1T, and the Universities of Carnegie
Mellon, Michigan, California and Stanford seeks to embrace the subject.
In Japan there is surprisingly little work relating to the understanding of
design methodology, let alone the overall conceptual design of mechatronic systems. However, the work of Yoshikawa and Tomiyama at the
University of Tokyo is an exception. Many of the key players in this area
of research have contributed to the Lancaster International Workshops 7s.

Research team

The School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences is well

known for its work in various aspects of design and is fortunate in having a
considerable amount of expertise in research related to the design process
and the computer implementation of design tools. The Director of the

Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

9 French, M J, Bradley, D A
and Dawson. D Case for support: establishment of engineering design centre', application to
SERC, by Lancaster, UK, 1989
10 Bracewen, R H, Chaplin, R
V. Langdon, P M, Li M, Oh, V K,
Sharpe. J E E and Yan, X T
'Integrated platform for AI support of COmplex design (part I):
rapid development of schemes
from first principles' International
Workshop on Engineering Design, Lancaster, UK, 1995
1 1 Bracewell, R H, Chaplin, R
V, Langdon, P M, Li M, Oh, V K,
Sharpe. J E E and Yan, X T
'Integrated platform for AI support of complex design (part II):
supporting the embodiment process' International Workshop on
Engineering Design, Lancaster,
UK, 1995
12 Oh, V K 'Conflict management in interdisciplinary design'
International Workshop on Engineering Design Lancaster, UK,
13 Yah, X T and Sharpe, J E E
'Reasoning and truth maintenance of causal structures in interdisciplinary product modelling
and simulation' International
Workshop on Engineering Design Lancaster, UK, 1995
14 French, M J and Wldden. M
B 'Function-costing: a promising
aid to early cost estimation'
ASME Conference on Design for
1993. Vol 52, pp 85-90
1 5 Oh, V K, Chap.n, R V, Yan,
X T and Sharpe, J E E 'A generic
framework for the complete description of components in the
design and simulation of meehatronic products', HungarianBritish Mechatrenics Conference,
Budapest, 1994
16 Brncewell, H R, Chaplin, R
'Schemebuilder and Layout computer based tools to aid in the
design of Meehatronic systems',
IMech Conference on Mechatron i c s - The Integration of Engineering Design, Dundee, UK,
1992, pp 1-7
17 Shame, J E E and
Bracewell, R H 'Application of
bond graph methodology to concurrent conceptual design of interdisciplinary systems'. IEEE/
SMC Conference, Le Touquet,
France, 1993

E D C and Professor of Engineering Design John Sharpe, Professor David

Hutchison, Head of Computer Science, Dr David Bradley, Director of
MSc in Mechatronics and Mr David Dawson, Director of Industrial
Liaison Engineering Department, are the principal investigators for the
proposed programme of research. Mr Dawson also acts as the chairman of
the project management committee.
The E D C has a staff of seven research assistants and a secretary with
technical and computing support from within the School of Engineering,
Computer and Mathematical Sciences. There are seven research students
and academic support from seven members of academic staff in addition
to the principal investigators.

Research achievements

The programme of research for the period 1990-1994, as outlined in the

original proposal to establish the EDC 9, has been successfully implemented. In most cases the achievement has exceeded the original goals
and expectations, with some 70 refereed papers resulting from the work:
seven in 1991; 16 in 1992; 22 in 1993 and 25 in 1994 with a further 25
already committed for 1995. A detailed technical outline of the present
position is contained in the information papers presented at the 1995
Lancaster International Workshop 1w13.
Generic tools for conceptual and embodiment design have been researched and implemented using high-level knowledge engineering environment to the point where, Schemebuilder and Layout together provide an
interactive package for the development of outline schemes for mechatronic systems, offering advice to the designer as to requirements, environment, costs 14 and the spatial relationships of components ~5. Using this
package it has been possible to address a number of design problems 16. As
an example of the total integration of the design tools it has been possible
to design from 'first principles' an intravenous infuser, which was developed through to a physical prototype entirely within the computer,
with the linked simulation confirming the chosen design to be capable of
giving the requisite performance 17.
The integrated suite of programs forms the basis of a powerful 'rapid
prototyping' tool. A version capable of generating and evaluating designs
for simple products is currently being prepared on a portable workstation
for assessment in industry in mid-1995.


Schemebuilder and Layout

Schemebuiider enables the designer to quickly and systematically develop

Integrated conceptual design


a number of alternative schemes portrayed in a function means tree that

will meet the functional requirement of the desired mechatronic or other
multidisciplinary product and similarly build up on the 'building site' the
requisite block diagram of the embodiment and its associated bond graph.
From this, the designer is able to simulate the design and progress it into a
fully engineered product using the linked 3D Solid Modeller and associated CAD, CAM and CAE procedures.
The integrated software also provides advice on selection of components
and checks for compatibility. It can alert the designer to certain types of
error or difficulty. Component data is held either as specific to a particular
individual component or in parametric form for a family of components
and when combined with an appropriate simulation package enables the
performance of systems assembled in Schemebuilder to be determined
and optimized.
The Layout software displays simplified models of parametrically sized
components selected in Schemebuilder which the designer can move in six
degrees-of-freedom to find a satisfactory arrangement. It can also be used
to check on clearances and to find dimensions from which the casing and
structural chassis can be designedlS,
The integrated set of design tools is written in KEE with application notes
and advice incorporated using the MetaCard hyptertext package. Layout
is presently linked to AutoCad and Pro Engineer, is coded in Lisp and
AutoLisp and operates wholly from within KEE.
Progress on Schemebuilder and Layout has been in line with that
suggested in the original 1989 proposal, which envisaged having a usable
prototype system available for field trials in the spring of 1994. The
capability of the system now existing is much greater than that originally
conceived. The level of integration is also greater due to the use of the
high level AI functions in KEE to implement the researched methodologies.

4.2 Function-costing
18 Tjalve,

E A short course in

Butterworth, London (1979)

1 9 Sharpe, J E E 'Bond graph
synthesis of robots and telechirs',
3rd ClSM IFFTOMM Conference
in Robotics & Manipulators,

Udine, Italy, 1978, pp 168-176


Function-costing is a technique whereby costs of designs can be estimated

with a useful degree of precision at the conceptual stage, by attributing
costs to the quantified functions involved H. It can be used to provide early
rough estimates of the cost of a scheme, to compare alternative means for
parts of a scheme, or to indicate in finished designs or in partially
completed ones where costs may be too high and there may be scope for
reductions. Function-costing may indicate areas where there is no product

Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

on the market offering the sort of value that should be possible, and so
identify a niche for a new product. Function costing may be seen as a
rationalization of widely followed practices such as value engineering,
which it advances to an early stage of design 2.
Function-costing has so far been applied to pressure vessels, various forms
of linear actuators, bearings, electric motors and A/D converters. The
results have been excellent, with much more precision being achieved
than was expected, or is needed, to make the technique of practical value,
with normal standard deviations in predicted costs of single components
of less than 0.1521 . Cost is only one attribute that relates to function, mass
and size, and the limits on the functional variables or efficiency of
operation are others. Attention has recently turned to the importance of
these relationships or mappings to the designer, in the pursuance of
alternative schemes.
Progress is in line with the proposed time scale in terms of the modelling
of cost functions, which was originally envisaged as occupying a 36 month
period from its initiation in 1991. The research into function mapping is in
addition to this.


Creativity and principles

The study of design principles and their application to creativity is integral

to the work of the EDC. Generally, certain well-known design principles
have been very fruitful in particular fields. However, even when known,
principles are often difficult to apply and require a wide knowledge of the
design repertoire before they can be profited from. Having collected a
large number of principles and examples, together with notes on their
application, a creativity browser has been researched both for use in the
advice facility of Schemebuiler and independently. Initially this work was
confined to the construction of an ordered collection of principles, with
examples of their application. A guide to choosing the form of pivots by
questioning the designer and making suggestions according to the responses received, has been constructed. It has proved to be extremely
complex because of the very different nature of the forms of pivot
bearings and hinges 21.
9 0 Pahl, G and Beltz, W Engineering design Design Council,
London (1984)
21 French, M J and Wldden, M
B 'Function-costing: a promising
aid to early cost estimation',
ASME Conference on Design for
1993, Vo152, pp 85-90

During function-means development, some five different types of principles have been identified and applied. These are: the initial or working
principles, that form the basis of a design; the principles that guide the
development of the function-means tree; the principles of embodiment;
the principles of detail design that relate to specific embodiments in

Integrated conceptual design


specific energy or information domains: and finally principles of control

and optimization 22.

4.4 Summary
The present implementation of the set of design tools and aids researched
and implemented during the first period of the EDC as shown in Figure 2,
is potentially of great value to designers, particularly those in the field of
mechatronics. Figure 3 shows a montage of the computer-aided design
process for an exemplary drug infuser.
It is a very valuable tool in educating professional engineers and students
in design. It is anticipated that an educational version of Schemebuilder
will be used in Lancaster and Cambridge for computer-aided design make
and test activities in 1995/b.
In summary

Schemebuilder enables an experienced designer to generate a large

number of alternative schemes in a short time, complete with rough
costs, weights, overall dimensions, etc. and has the capability of
directing the less experienced designer to produce schemes without
the need to refer frequently to seniors, whilst learning rapidly in the
process. The function and component database at the heart of the
software may be readily updated with new components which accelerates the introduction of new elements and techniques
Function costing provides very early cost estimates and helps choose
between alternative combinations of means, by enabling the designer
to compare functional attributes and constraints. It is expected that
the work on function costing will put value engineering on a sounder
footing, which is very desirable in concurrent engineering
The work on creativity and principles has demonstrated the importance of design principles, especially working principles which are seen
as an essential part of the systematic development of alternative
designs and their embodiment.

5 Proposed programme of research

22 Sharpe, J E E 'The optimisation of machine tool parameters
by direct measurement' ASEM
Destgn Engineering Conference,
St Louis, MO, 1979, Vol 79+DET102, pp 8


The newly funded programme of research from October 1994 will build on
the success of the EDC over the past four years in researching and
implementing a number of integrated design methodologies for the
conceptual design of mechatronic systems. The programme relates closely
to the objectives of the EDC as expressed above. The programme is
divided into six closely related projects covering different aspects of

Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995


L m m ~ m n m ~ .







i~ ~'.~ ~:~i!~



a . ~ . . i = = n . = ~

, ~ . = ~ , . ~ = . m q .


Integrated conceptual design

...... _9.]



Statement of Need


I)esiRn a light we|l~ht pol'table inhzaer cap:Ibis"

ofprovldiugaconflnuouscon~tantflol~ of
drug Ino ~ patient's a f t e r ' fi~r up ~)~,g h~)ur~.
I It must provide sn indication of correct functioning,
, The flow y~lte |$ to be pl*e-$ef:~sb]e be~c~'eeu
0 and 2.~. m] per do~.


lfigure 3 Screendump



computer-aided onc(7)t /?~r melabolvte m/i~,set

Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

Schemebuilder and function costing. The objectives may be summarized

as follows.

5.1 Knowledge systems for conceptual design

1) To implement knowledge management and presentation techniques
for the conceptual design process and to evaluate these techniques
using empirical methods
2) To investigate the knowledge requirements of engineering conceptual
3) To capture the designers' rationale and intent in conceptual design
and establish the task structures used by engineers performing such

5, 2 Qualitative development of schemes from first principles

23 Bum, J and AndreaNn, M

M 'Design models in mechatronic

product development', Design

Studies Vo110, No 3 (1989) 155162

1) Design and test a suitable classification structure for a central knowledge base of functions, means, working principles and embodiments,
used to
Aid the transformation of textual expressions of need into a
well-defined design context and one or more alternative required
function structures
Support the designer's informed choice of stored working principles and functional embodiments
Provide the basis for a semi-automated functional reasoning
capability, in the form of the decomposition rules
In addition to bond graph inspired areas of functionality, the
classification will also cover information processing, with means
residing on both sides of the 'mechatronic interface' between
energetic and essentially non energetic domains 19
2) Research and demonstrate functions-means development rules for
mixed energetic and information systems, including spatial transformation functions
3) Research methods for relaxing the strict hierarchical requirement of
the existing function-means tree, whilst retaining its capability for
automatic generation of all distinct complete schemes. In particular,
we must cater for the possibility of
'Function sharing' - a single means performing more than one
function 23
Repeated references to the first occurrence of a function which
appears at several places in the tree, so its decomposition and
embodiment need only be performed once.
4) Research the necessary requirements to demonstrate controlled multi-

Integrated conceptual design


user access to scheme generation, development and evaluation facilities, thus facilitating team design and concurrent engineering

5 . 3 Genericfunction and component databasesfor conceptual design of schemes

1) Analyse and determine the demands required of current database
approaches and their merits in providing enhanced support for
mixed-domain (mechatronic) conceptual design
2) Research into appropriate data structures and modelling schemes for
handling a mixture of energetic and informational functions that are
embodied within generic components
3) Implement electronic databases on generic components to contain
specific and parametric information, and their selection mechanisms
4) Relate the results to the data modelling approaches undertaken by the
STEP community

5 . 4 Configuration layout of schemes

1) To provide a system for the rapid construction of simplified 3D solid
models representing the layout of components, parts and generalized
structures such as casings and chassis for defined schemes
2) Research into methods for the synthesis of chassis structures to
contain and support the assembly of the main functional components
3) To study methods for providing mixed-mode layout of mechanical and
electronic components, including transmission systems, cabling, ducting and piping systems
4) To research the representation of functional axes and spatial knowledge of generic components and kinematic systems, to further
enhance the function-means development mechanisms and augment
the bond graph models to embrace knowledge of 3D space
5) To develop novel methods to link changes made in the functional
domain to features and functions in the parametric 3D solid modeller
- to make functional changes 'drive' the geometric model
6) Through the exemplar projects, study and refine methods by which
industrial design considerations can be incorporated at the concept
embodiment stage

5 . 5 Function mapping and multiple-criteria decisionmaking

i) Characterize mechanical/electronic systems, constraints and design
criteria in functional terms
2) Develop representation of the design knowledge, including mixed
qualitative and quantitative information in a way suitable for conceptual design


Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

3) Relate cost data to functions and establish a mechanism for value

4) Develop on-line supporting tools for the evaluation of design information and implement multiple-criteria decision-making techniques for

5 . 6 Simulation and optimization of mechatronic product

1) Develop a generic modelling and simulation method for computeraided mechatronic product design
2) Study simulation techniques for components in energetic domains 3
and apply them in continuous, constant parameter, time variant
systems, stochastic time variant systems, and the covariables matching
process using equations, to propagate externally imposed constraints
3) Study modelling and simulation techniques for components in information domains and mixed mode systems
4) Research into object-oriented modelling and simulation methods
relevant to the wider scope of mechatronic simulation
5) Research and implement procedures for the optimization of system
design parameters, the evaluation of robustness, sensitivity and failure
modes of a designed system

5 . 7 Application of generic tools to the design of mechatronic systems

1) To develop a portfolio of examples of industrial applications using the
Schemebuilder knowledge-based conceptual design tool
2) Liaison between the EDC and industry, to ensure a strong correlation
between the requirements of industry and the activities of the EDC
3) Testing the conceptual design tool in both continuous and discontinuous mechatronic systems using industrial problems to provide a
means of assessment of the methods and principles involved

5 . 8 Overview
In addition, the director will continue his related programme of research
involving research students in the areas of working principles, bond
graphs and comparative design methodologies.
The relationship of each project may be seen in Figure 2 which shows the
overall structure of the integrated procedure for conceptual design. Each
of the projects is indicated with reference to a key. Each area is clearly
defined despite being highly interactive with each other.
The collaborative research with industry is concentrated into the project

Integrated conceptual design


on the 'application of generic tools to the design of mechatronic systems'

which forms a weft on the warp of the research projects and has, as a
prime objective, the formation of a portfolio of exemplar designs produced using the Schemebuilder tools. This work has begun with three
secondments from British Aerospace, Warton, Pilkington Optronics and
Unilever Research, who have brought with them problems relating to the
design of the actuation system for a drone aircraft, systems for remotely
positioned electro-optical components and upgrading of existing machine
designs. It is anticipated that two to three major exemplary projects will
be completed per year each building on those proceding in terms of
complexity and difficulty. Experience gained will be fed back into the
appropriate research project.

6 Industrial support and collaboration

The formation of strong industrial links is a major aim of the EDC. In the
lead up to the commencement of the programme, an advisory committee
was formed, with representation from a wide spectrum of companies. This
continues to provide a valuable guide to the focus of our research.
Members of the committee continue to influence the direction of the work
and to take part in the evaluation of its results.
As the work has matured, contacts have been widened and opportunities
taken to give presentations and demonstrations of the work of the centre
to senior managers and designers from different industries, including:
British Aerospace, Holset, Festo Didactic, Renishaw, Reliance, Moog,
U K A E A , GEC-Avery, Rover, Lucas Automotive, PA Technology,
Pilkington Optronics, Cambridge Consultants, Unilever Research, Volvo
Bus and Westland Helicopters, Portescap and Sulzer International.
There is already practical collaboration with British Aerospace (Warton)
who have seconded an engineer to spend half time for two years working
in the EDC on a number of conceptual design problems. The first, which
began in January 1994, is the design of alternative schemes for the
operation of the tail fin for a drone aircraft. This is to be followed by a
more complicated system for the same aircraft. A secondment has been
agreed with Pilkington Optronics to work on schemes for the electronic
control of electro-optical instrument systems.
Discussions have been held with representatives of Unilever in the UK
and Holland from which a programme of collaborative work on the design
of mechatronic systems within high speed packaging machinery has been
agreed. This work will be carried out in a collaboration with the
Universities of Twente and Stuttgart. Collaboration with Portescap SA


Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995

has allowed a comparative study to be made between the 'in-house'

mechatronic system (servos and amplifiers) design software and the use of
The director has been invited to the international meeting of experts
arranged annually by Sulzer International Limited to present the work of
the centre, and has addressed a similar meeting of Unilever Research in
Rotterdam. This is expected to lead to the establishment later in 1994 of a
significant collaboration with one or more Sulzer companies. In collaboration with Westland Helicopters, a proposal for CASE studentship to study
the conceptual design of Active Vibration Control Systems has been
submitted with a view to starting work in October 1994.
Demonstrations have been given and discussions on collaboration have
been held with National Physical Laboratory and Royal Greenwich
Observatory with a view to establishing a collaborative programme
relating to the design of scientific apparatus and systems through the
Metrology Award Scheme and other collaborative programmes. A live
software demonstration was also given at an SERC workshop on
computer-aided design held at the Rutherford Laboratories.

Academic links and collaborative research

The E D C continues to have contact with, and receive visitors from, a

number of European, Scandinavian, North and South American, Australian and Chinese institutions, in addition to the visits from those involved
in similar design research in the UK.
The centre has been invited to join in a proposal for a network covering
mechatronics and engineering design under the Human Capital and
Mobility programme of the European Community, and is looking at the
possibility of involvement in a project to develop a modular distance
learning course in engineering design and mechatronics under the auspices of COMETT.
It is in regular contact with many of the international centres for
mechatronic and conceptual design research including

Integrated conceptual design

The Institute for Engineering Design and the Institute for Product
Development at the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby
The Norwegian Institute of Technology, Trondheim
VT]" in Finland, at Tampere and Oulu
Universities of Twente and Delft, in the Netherlands
University of Leuven, Belgium


ETH Zurich
Chambers University, Gothenburg and Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
MIT, and the Universities of Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Michigan
and California, in the USA
Academia Sinica Institute for Systems, Beijing *and University of
Wuhan in China
Simon Bolivar University in Venezuela +
National Autonomous University of Mexico ~

The Lancaster International Workshops organized by the EDC have been

held in the spring of 1994 and in 1995 and have attracted substantial
invited contributions from over 30 major research groups from the UK,
Europe, Scandinavia, USA, Far East and Japan 7.

8 Finally
The centre has shown the importance of the use of computer-aided
conceptual design. It has proved itself to be capable of undertaking
advanced research in the field of design and mechatronics and established
a world-wide reputation in both industry and academia. The centre looks
forward to continuing this work, as outlined here and in its five-year plan,
with the support of the EPSRC and an increasing contribution from
*Application made to the Royal Society under RSoc/CAST agreement for
academic exchange
~The British Council is providing support for academic exchange and the
sending of research students to the EDC


Design Studies Vol 16 No 4 October 1995