Engineering design is a complex activity which involves knowledge application and creativity to generate and explore the space of possible designs. Since engineering knowledge is heterogeneous in terms of the kinds of problems it encompasses and the methods used to solve them, an hybrid computational model for design, in particular for mechanical design, is proposed in this paper.

The proposed model called the Design Frame (DF) is based on the iterative application of a generalized solution strategy. A given design problem is recursively decomposed into smaller subproblems until the subproblems can be directly solved. Repeated application of decomposition produces a natural design hierarchy. A Rule-based Controller (RBC) can call one or more decision modules and a subproblem DF during the iterative process. The RBC along with the decision modules gives the model the capability to handle both qualitative and quantitative knowledge and data. The DF’s for all subproblems have the same structure as the top-level and apply the same solution strategy. Domain dependent knowledge can be added by the user to the existing modules or new modules can be supplied by the user.

A brief discussion on a prototype implementation of the DF model has been included.

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