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Design for adaptability



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Manufacturing globalization and sustainable development compel production enterprises to continuously seek improvements in their products’ performance, customization, environmental friendliness, cost, and delivery time. The challenges of this competition cannot be completely addressed through improving production processes because some issues can only be solved through more innovative ‘design’. This thesis investigates a new design paradigm called Design for Adaptability or Adaptable Design (AD) to address some of these challenges. The purpose of AD is to extend the utility of designs and products. An adaptable ‘design’ allows manufacturers to quickly develop new and upgraded models or customized products through adapting existing designs with proven quality and costs. An adaptable ‘product’ can be utilized under varying service requirements thus prevents premature product replacement. Design adaptability and product adaptability provide economical and environmental benefits of AD. To make a product adaptable, its adaptability must be built-in during the design stage. Methods of design for ‘predetermined’ adaptations are categorized as Specific AD; these methods design products for versatility, upgrading, variety, and customization. Several of these methods such as modular/platform design and design for upgrading have been studied for mechanical design. In the absence of predetermined adaptations, AD aims to increase the general adaptability of products. General AD involves fundamental research in design theory and methodology in order to develop practical design methods and guidelines. This thesis introduces several original concepts and proposes the “subordination of a system to a rational functional structure” as an approach for increasing general adaptability. Such a system would consist of a hierarchical assembly of autonomous functional modules, emulating the adaptable architecture of a ‘rational functional structure’. Methods and guidelines are proposed for making the design of mechanical systems closer to this ideal architecture. Accordingly, the thesis proposes a methodology for AD in which specific AD is performed first to take advantage of available ‘forecast’ information, and then general AD is performed in order to increase adaptability to ‘unforeseen’ changes. Also, a measure has been defined for the assessment of adaptability. The application of this methodology has been demonstrated through several conceptual design examples.



product design, design theory and methodology, modular design, information content, function, product architecture design, adaptable design, frame-and-function, platform design



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


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