Exploring the Use of Functional Models as a Foundation for Biomimetic Conceptual Design Conference Paper uri icon


  • The natural world provides numerous cases for analogy and inspiration. From simple cases such as hook and latch attachments to articulated-wing flying vehicles, nature provides many sources for ideas. Though biological systems provide a wealth of elegant and ingenious approaches to problem solving, there are challenges that prevent designers from leveraging the full insight of the biological world into the designed world. This paper describes how those challenges can be overcome through functional analogy. Through the creation of a function-based repository, designers can find biomimetic solutions by searching the function for which a solution is needed. A biomimetic function-based repository enables learning, practicing and researching designers to fully leverage the elegance and insight of the natural world. In this paper, we present the initial efforts of functional modeling natural systems and then transferring the principles of the natural system to an engineered system. Four case studies are presented in this paper. These case studies include a biological solution to a problem found in nature and engineered solutions corresponding to the high level functionality of the biological solution, i.e., a flys winged flight and a flapping wing aircraft. The case studies show that unique, creative engineered solutions can be generated through functional analogy with nature.

name of conference

  • ASME 2007 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

published proceedings

  • Volume 3: 19th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology; 1st International Conference on Micro- and Nanosystems; and 9th International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Tire Technologies, Parts A and B

author list (cited authors)

  • Tinsley, A., Midha, P. A., Nagel, R. L., McAdams, D. A., Stone, R. B., & Shu, L. H.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Tinsley, Andrea||Midha, Prem A||Nagel, Robert L||McAdams, Daniel A||Stone, Robert B||Shu, LH

publication date

  • January 2007