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A Functional Basis for Engineering Design: Reconciling and Evolving Previous Efforts



Kristen L. Wood, RJ B. Stone, DRJ Mcadams, J Hirtz, Simon Szykman


In engineering design, all products and artifacts have some intended reason behind their existence: the product or artifact function. Functional modeling provides an abstract, yet direct, method for understanding and representing an overall product or artifact function. Functional modeling also strategically guides design activities such as problem decomposition, physical modeling, product architecting, concept generation, and team organization. A formal function representation is needed to support functional modeling, and a standardized set of function-related terminology leads to repeatable and meaningful results from such a representation. We refer to this representation as a functional basis; in this paper, we seek to reconcile and integrate two independent research efforts into a significantly evolved functional basis. These efforts include research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and two U.S. universities, and their industrial partners. The overall approach for integrating the functional representations and the final results are presented. This approach also provides a mechanism for evaluating if future revisions are needed to the functional basis and, if so, how to proceed. The integration process is discussed relative to differences, similarities, insights into the representations, and product validation. Based on the results, a more versatile and comprehensive design vocabulary emerges. This vocabulary will greatly enhance and expand the frontiers of research in design repositories, product architecture, design synthesis, and general product modeling.


artifact function, design vocabulary, functional basis, physical modeling


Wood, K. , Stone, R. , Mcadams, D. , Hirtz, J. and Szykman, S. (2002), A Functional Basis for Engineering Design: Reconciling and Evolving Previous Efforts, None, [online], (Accessed July 18, 2024)


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Created January 31, 2002, Updated October 12, 2021