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Design is a sequential process consisting of many design operations. Examples of the operations might be (1) exploring the alternative concepts that could satisfy the specified need, (2) formulating a mathematical model of the best system concept, (3) specifying specific parts to construct a subsystem, and (4) selecting a material from which to manufacture a part. Each operation requires information, some of it general technical and business information that is expected of the trained professional and some of it very specific information that is needed to produce a successful outcome. Examples of the latter kind of information might be (1) a manufacturer’s catalog on miniature bearings, (2) handbook data on the properties of polymer composites, or (3) personal experience gained from a trip to observe a new manufacturing process. Acquisition of information is a vital and often very difficult step in the design process, but fortunately it is a step that usually becomes easier with time.
The information from the first design is fed back as input, together with new information that has been developed as a result of questions raised at the evaluation step. We call this iteration. The simple model shown in Fig. 1 illustrates a number of important aspects of the design process. First, even the most complex system can be broken down into a sequence of design objectives. Each objective requires evaluation, and it is common for this to involve repeated trials or iterations. The need to go back and try again should not be considered a personal failure or weakness. Design is an intellectual process, and all new creations of the mind are the result of trial and error. Of course, the more knowledge we have and can apply to the problem the faster we can arrive at an acceptable solution. This iterative aspect of design may take some getting used to. You will have to acquire a high tolerance for failure and the tenacity and determination to persevere and work the problem out one way or the other. The iterative nature of design provides an opportunity to improve the design on the basis of a preceding outcome.
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