Skip to main content Accessibility help

A study on the grammatical construction of function structures



Function structures are used during conceptual engineering design to transform the customer requirements into specific functional tasks. Although they are usually constructed from a well-understood black-box description of an artifact, there is no clear approach or formal set of rules that guide the creation of function structures. To remedy the unclear formation of such structures and to provide the potential for automated reasoning of such structures, a graph grammar is developed and implemented. The grammar can be used by a designer to explore various solutions to a conceptual design problem. Furthermore, the grammar aids in disseminating engineering functional information and in teaching the function structure concept to untrained engineers. Thirty products are examined as a basis for developing the grammar rules, and the rules are implemented in an interactive user environment. Experiments with student engineers and with the automated creation of function structures validate the effectiveness of the grammar rules.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Matthew I. Campbell, Automated Design Lab, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C2200, Austin, TX 78712-0292, USA. E-mail:


Hide All


Cagan, J. (2001). Engineering shape grammars. In Formal Engineering Design Synthesis (Antonsson, E.K. & Cagan, J., Eds.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cagdas, G. (1996). A shape grammar: The language of traditional Turkish houses. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 23(4), 443464.
Chandrasekaran, B., Goel, A. K., & Iwasaki, Y. (1993). Functional representation as design rationale. Computer 26, 4856.
Chase, S.C. (1998). User interaction models for grammar based design systems. International Journal of Design Computing 1, Paper 2. Available online at
Chen, L., Jayaram, M., & Xi, J.F. (2002). A new functional representation scheme for conceptual modeling of mechatronic systems. Proc. ASME 2002 Design Engineering Technical Conf., Paper No. DETC2002/DTM-34012, Montreal, Canada.
Collins, J., Hagan, B., & Bratt, H. (1976). The failure-experience matrix—a useful design tool. Journal of Engineering for Industry 98, 10741079.
Fu, Z., De Pennington, A., & Saia, A. (1993). A graph grammar approach to feature representation and transformation. International Journal of Computer Integrated Manufacturing 6(102), 137151.
Gero, J.S. & Kannengiesser, U. (2003). The situated function–behaviour–structure framework. Design Studies 25(4), 373391.
Gietka, P., Verma, M., & Wood, W. (2002). Functional modeling, reverse engineering, and design reuse. Proc. ASME 2002 Design Engineering Technical Conf., Paper No. DETC2002/DTM-34019, Montreal, Canada.
Hirtz, J., Stone, R., McAdams, D., Szykman, S., & Wood, K. (2001). Evolving a functional basis for engineering design. Proc. ASME 2001 Design Theory and Methodology Conf., Paper No. DETC2001/DTM-21688, Pittsburgh, PA.
Hubka, V., Andreasen, M., & Eder, W. (1988). Practical Studies in Systematic Design. London: Butterworths.
IEEE Computer Society. (1998). IEEE Standard for Application and Management of the Systems Engineering Process, pp. 12201998. New York: IEEE.
Kirschman, C. & Fadel, G. (1998). Classifying functions for mechanical design. Journal of Mechanical Design 120, 475482.
Klahr, D., Langley, P., & Neches, R., Eds. (1987). Production System Models of Learning and Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Koning, H. & Eizenberg, J. (1981). The language of the prairie: Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 8, 295323.
Kurfman, M., Rajan, J., Stone, R., & Wood, K. (2001). Functional modeling experimental studies. Proc. ASME 2001 Design Engineering Technical Conf., Paper No. DETC2001/DTM21709, Pittsburgh, PA.
Li, X., Schmidt, L., He, W., Li, L., & Qian, Y. (2001). Transformation of an EGT grammar: new grammar, new designs. Proc. ASME 2001 Design Engineering Technical Conf., Paper No. DETC2001/DTM-21716, Pittsburgh, PA.
Longenecker, S.N. & Fitzhorn, P.A. (1991). A shape grammar for non-manifold modeling. Research in Engineering Design 2(3), 159170.
Otto, K. & Wood, K. (2001). Product Design: Techniques in Reverse Engineering and New Product Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice–Hall.
Pahl, G. & Beitz, W. (1984). Engineering Design: A Systematic Approach. London: Design Council.
Pinilla, J.M., Finger, S., & Prinz, F.B. (1989). Shape feature description using an augmented topology graph grammar. Proc. NSF Engineering Design Research Conf., pp. 285300, Amherst, MA, June 11–14.
Progelhof, R.C. (1993). Polymer engineering principles: Properties and tests for design. In Polymer Science (Gowariker, V.R., Viswanathan, N.V. & Sreedhar, J., Eds.). New York: Wiley.
Schmidt, L.C. (1995). An implementation using grammars of an abstraction-based model of mechanical design for design optimization and design space characterization. PhD Thesis. Carnegie Mellon University.
Stiny, G. (1980). Introduction to shape and shape grammars. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 7, 343351.
Stone, R. & Wood, K. (2000). Development of a functional basis for design. Journal Mechanical Design 122, 359370.
Szykman, S., Bochenek, C., Racz, J.W., Senfaute, J., & Sriram, R.D. (2000). Design repositories: Next-generation engineering design databases. IEEE Intelligent Systems 15(3), 4855.
Ulrich, K.T. & Eppinger, S. (1995). Product Design and Development. New York: McGraw–Hill.
Wang, K. & Yan, J. (2002). An analytical approach to functional design. Proc. ASME 2002 Design Engineering Technical Conf., Paper No. DETC2002/DTM-34084, Montreal, Canada.


A study on the grammatical construction of function structures



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed