Software evaluation of an automated concept generator design tool
Few computational tools exist to assist designers during the conceptual phase of design where design success is often heavily weighted on personal experience and innate ability. Many well-known methods (e.g. brainstorming, intrinsic and extrinsic searches, and morphological analysis) are designed to stimulate a designer's creativity, but ultimately still rely heavily on individual bias and experience. As a first step toward enabling novice designers to readily reuse design knowledge during a function-based design process, an automated mathematically-based concept generation method was created to generate new solutions from existing product knowledge housed in a web-based repository. The algorithm was developed into software using Java code. The software, currently in the initial stages of development, accepts a chain of sub-functions describing the product's desired functionality. The software then uses matrices describing component functionality and component compatibility to build and rank chains of feasible concept variants based on historical data. A designer can then explore and evaluate the returned concepts for further development as design solutions. In an effort to help evaluate the current software and establish research goals for further development, four undergraduate engineering researchers from the University of Missouri-Rolla and University of Texas at Austin executed a qualitative study of the software's effectiveness at producing useful design solutions. The students engaged in several activities designed to test the capabilities of this early version of the software. The students reported on the results of their analyses and described the benefits and disadvantages of the software as they viewed it at this stage of development. Their experiences were used to help identify avenues for further development of the design tool. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2006.
author list (cited authors)
Bryant, C., Pieper, E., Walther, B., Kurtoglu, T., Stone, R., McAdams, D., & Campbell, M.