Design technologies have occurred in many different application areas. Although their history and variety is most well established in mechanical applications, they start making significant inroads into other areas as well (e.g. rational or structured drug design and molecular modelling in pharmaceuticals, simulation and testing of circuitry in electronics). In this section, we reflect on the benefits and the pitfalls in introducing this new design environment.


In the engineering literature, the information and evidence on the potential impact and the use of new design technologies are tremendous (e.g. Ertas and Jones, 1996; Jayaram, 1995; McMahon and Browne, 1993; Van der Schueren and Kruth, 1996). In this brief summary, I intend to highlight some of their major features and characteristics, without entering into all the technical details of the tools and techniques involved.

First of all, the advent and the presence of analytical techniques that allow for 3D visual representations and simulations of product concepts linked to such calculations as kinematic modelling, dynamic modelling, stress modelling and thermal modelling have a direct impact on the product design phase of the innovation process. One of the basic mathematical techniques supporting this evolution has been Finite Element Analysis. It has become the primary tool in stress analysis and structural dynamics, and the ability to adapt it for use with CAD has contributed greatly to the proliferation of CAD systems in industry. Because of its parametric character, Finite Element Analysis can be used in analysing designs involving varying geometric shapes as well as non-homogeneous materials. It also provides considerable flexibility in the setting of loading and support conditions. It is also used in the solution of heat transfer problems and the analysis of fluid flow and electrical and magnetic fields.

Although 2D draftings continue to be the most widely used CAD application, many manufacturing firms have chosen to shift to solid 3D modelling. Solid modelling provides a complete geometric and mathematical description of part geometry, which is important if the model is to be used for design analysis, simulation, generation of mass properties, or for developing NC (numerically controlled) data to machine the part. Second, a variety of physical techniques allow for the rapid development of 3D physical prototypes and tools. For instance, just to name a few, stereolithography, selective laser sintering, laminated object modelling and manufacturing, holographic interference solidification, photochemical machining, selective area laser deposition, selective metal powder sintering, fused deposition modelling, multiphase jet solidification, ballistic particle manufacturing, direct shell production casting, etc. Rapid prototyping (and tooling) techniques thus produce physical models from CAD data either by material layer deposition or (also increasingly today) by material layer removal.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

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