Technical Report

Preliminary results of an experimental study of the mechanical design process

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  • This paper presents the initial results from an empirical study of me­chanical design engineers. In this study, six engineers were video-taped solving real mechanical design problems. Preliminary analysis of this protocol data has yielded several important findings, including (a) me­chanical designers progress from systematic to opportunistic behavior as the design evolves, and (b) drawings and sketches are not merely tools for recording the final design, but instead they play a critical role in or­ganizing the design process itself. The paper describes these and other findings and compares them to similar published data on software de­ signers and to current theories of design methodology. The process of selecting the problems, taking the data, and reducing it is fully described. This paper is the first concerning this data and covers primarily the early stages of the design process and observations on the overall strategy of the subjects.
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