The importance of the conceptual design stage within the process of engineering design of a new product is well known. This stage is considered the most important in terms of its effect on the success of the final product. A better understanding of the conceptual design stage, achieved through research, will lead to products with better quality and value and shorter time to market.
The objective of the current research was to develop a new prescriptive model for the conceptual engineering design stage, based on the theoretical foundation of C-K Theory and the empirically-derived conceptual design method called Parameter Analysis (PA). The proposed model is intended to combine the benefits of C-K Theory and PA, as well as overcome the lack of a strong theoretical foundation in PA and the insufficient prescriptive power of C-K Theory. The development process of the new model was similar to product development. It started with conceptualization in order to define a set of key factors and principles, i.e., the conceptual foundation or the “ideology” of the new prescriptive model. Next, those principles were integrated into a structured systematic procedure to form the new model, called ICE (Idea-Configuration-Evaluation). In the last stage, the new model was tested and evaluated in a design experiment by examining the performance of external participants when applying it. Two categories of success criteria have been planned: applicability of the process and effectiveness of both the process and its outcome. Depending on these two categories, a set of metrics were developed.
The study’s conclusions are that the new model, whose correctness and effectiveness are strongly based on the widely-accepted C-K Theory, presents a clear and concise step-by-step procedure, is conducive to teaching and practicing design, and captures the dynamics and rationale of the conceptual design process. Thus, the ICE model has the potential to facilitate creativity and innovation, as well as high-quality and viable conceptual design, with respect to the design requirements and other aspects.
The significance of the current research is in its contribution to the theory and practice of engineering design, eventually leading to improved design processes and better designed products.