This paper presents a summary of research into the development and implementation of a domain independent, computer-based model for the conceptual design of complex mechanical systems (Ouellette, 1992). The creation of such a design model includes the integration of four major concepts: (1) The use of a graphical display for visualizing the conceptual design attributes; (2) The proper representation of the complex data and diverse knowledge required to design the system; (3) The integration of quality design methods into the conceptual design; and (4) The modeling of the conceptual design process as a mapping between functions and forms.
Using the design of an automobile as a case study, a design environment was created which consisted of a distributed problem solving paradigm and a parametric graphical display. The requirements of the design problem with respect to data representation and design processing were evaluated and a process model was specified. The resulting vehicle design system consists of a tight integration between a blackboard system and a parametric design system. The completed system allows a designer to view graphical representations of the candidate conceptual designs that the blackboard system generates.