Constraint-Aided Product Design

G. Mullineux, B. Hicks, T. Medland


The importance of supporting the early stages of design is widely accepted. In particular, the development of supportive tools and methods for modelling and analysis of evolving design solutions present a difficult challenge. One reason for this is the need to model both the product design and the design knowledge from which the design is created. There are a number of limitations with many existing techniques and an alternative approach that deals with the design constraints themselves is presented. Dealing directly with the constraints affords a more generalised approach that represents the process by which a product is designed. This enables modelling and reasoning about a product from an often abstract and evolving set of requirements. The constraint methodology is an iterative process where the design requirements are elaborated, the constraint rules altered, design ideas generated and tested as functional structures. The incorporation of direct search techniques to solve the constrained problem enables different solutions to be explored and allows the determination of ‘best compromises’ for related constraints. A constraint modelling environment is discussed and two example cases are used to demonstrate the potential of a constraint-aided approach for supporting important issues such as the design of product variants and product families. 


constraint modelling; design knowledge; synthesis; product design; product families

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ISSN 1210-2709 (Print)
ISSN 1805-2363 (Online)
Published by the Czech Technical University in Prague