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Function modeling combined with physics-based reasoning for assessing design options and supporting innovative ideation

  • Hossein Mokhtarian (a1) (a2), Eric Coatanéa (a1) and Henri Paris (a2)


Functional modeling is an analytical approach to design problems that is widely taught in certain academic communities but not often used by practitioners. This approach can be applied in multiple ways to formalize the understanding of the systems, to support the synthesis of the design in the development of a new product, or to support the analysis and improvement of existing systems incrementally. The type of usage depends on the objectives that are targeted. The objectives can be categorized into two key groups: discovering a totally new solution, or improving an existing one. This article proposes to use the functional modeling approach to achieve three goals: to support the representation of physics-based reasoning, to use this physics-based reasoning to assess design options, and finally to support innovative ideation. The exemplification of the function-based approach is presented via a case study of a glue gun proposed for this Special Issue. A reverse engineering approach is applied, and the authors seek an incremental improvement of the solution. As the physics-based reasoning model presented in this article is heavily dependent on the quality of the functional model, the authors propose a general approach to limit the interpretability of the functional representations by mapping the functional vocabulary with elementary structural blocks derived from bond graph theory. The physics-based reasoning approach is supported by a mathematical framework that is summarized in the article. The physics-based reasoning model is used for discovering the limitations of solutions in the form of internal contradictions and guiding the design ideation effort.

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Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Hossein Mokhtarian, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems, Korkeakoulunkatu 6, P.O. Box 589, FI-33101 Tampere, Finland. E-mail:


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