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Journal of Mechanical Design

The ASME Journal of Mechanical Design (JMD) serves the broad design community as a venue for scholarly, archival research in all aspects of the design activity.
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  • Guest Editorial: Design for Additive Manufacturing: Past, Present, and Future Directions

    Author: David Rosen
    J. Mech. Des. 136(9), 090301 (September, 2014) (2 pages)
    Paper No: MD-14-1348; doi: 10.1115/1.4028073

    The additive manufacturing (AM) field—or 3D printing or rapid prototyping—is an exciting arena of innovations. AM has received a lot of popular press attention in recent years largely, I believe, since the technology has improved tremendously and has become very simple and inexpensive which, in turn, makes the technology accessible by many people. In this brief editorial, I will explain some of the unique capabilities of AM and highlight some of the research opportunities that they afford.

    Due to its additive nature, AM possesses several unique capabilities that enable products to have significantly improved performance, to perform multiple functions, to be customized, and to be manufactured at lower overall costs. These unique capabilities include:

    • virtually any shape can be fabricated
    • features can be fabricated at several hierarchical scales
    • material can be deposited and/or processed differently at different points or layers to enable multimaterial devices
    • working mechanisms, including with embedded actuators and sensors, can be fabricated directly in some AM machines

    Based on these unique capabilities, an overall design for AM (DFAM) objective can be stated and several core DFAM concepts can be articulated. Whereas conventional design-for-manufacturing focuses on understanding the effects of manufacturing constraints, the objective of DFAM should be to:

    • Maximize product performance through the synthesis of shapes, sizes, hierarchical structures, and material compositions, subject to the capabilities of AM technologies.

    From the unique capabilities and DFAM objective, I offer some example guidelines to designers:

    • Utilize complex geometries to achieve design goals to integrate more features into a single part, consolidate several parts into one, or achieve a distribution of effective mechanical properties; doing so is often possible without time or cost penalties compared with conventional manufacturing and assembly processes.
    • Utilize customized geometries and parts by direct production from 3D data when such customization adds significant value to the customer.
    • Exploit and explore multifunctional part designs with complex material compositions and mechanical property distributions.
    • Ignore constraints imposed by conventional manufacturing processes, but be aware that each AM process will have its own capabilities and limitations.

    AM should be of interest to designers for a very simple reason. AM processes can put material wherever the designer wants it; all the designer has to do is figure out where material is needed. This opens up a tremendously wide range of design spaces to be explored. Several research opportunities for engineering design will be identified.

    In terms of design methods and tools to support DFAM, the challenge is that new design spaces need to be formulated and explored, requiring significant creativity and innovation to first develop new design concepts and then pursue them into practice. Some researchers have formulated a general design method that takes into account product functionality and manufacturing constraints for AM. However, most researchers and technologists have pursued a specific niche in the creative space and developed specific methods and tools for that niche. In this area, a tremendous opportunity exists for combining industrial design practices with engineering design methods for improved concept generation and exploration. Perhaps bio-inspired design methods also have a role to play here. The often complex and multiscale structures that are inspired by biological systems can be fabricated more easily using AM than conventional manufacturing processes.

    The topic of topology optimization has received a lot of research attention, but not as much emphasis has been placed on AM fabrication as is warranted. For a typical structural design problem, part volume or compliance is minimized, subject to constraints on, for example, volume, compliance, stress, strain energy, and possibly additional considerations. Commercial software systems, such as Abaqus andOptiStruct, provide a fairly general topology optimization capability for problems where the structural and system behavior can be simulated by finite element and/or multibody dynamics analyses. Some initial work on automated structure synthesis for AM has investigated different optimization algorithms and, although preliminary, impressive results have been achieved. Many research issues remain, including ensuring connectivity of regions in the resulting structures, improving the computational efficiency by introducing the concept of a topological sensitivity, incorporating concepts of risk or reliability, and exploring alternative solution approaches such as level sets and evolutionary structural optimization.

    Cellular materials include foams, honeycombs, and lattice structures, and are representative of approaches that take advantage of AM’s geometric complexity capability. From a mechanical engineering viewpoint, a key advantage offered by cellular materials is high strength accompanied by a relatively low mass. These materials can provide good energy absorption characteristics and good thermal and acoustic insulation properties as well. In the past 15 yr, the area of lattice materials has received considerable attention due to their inherent advantages over foams in providing light, stiff, and strong materials. Some commercial software systems support lattice structure design, e.g., from NetFabb, Within Technologies, and Materialise. Research issues include Cad representations for thousands (or millions) of geometric entities, design methods capable of configuring all of these geometric entities, synthesis methods for designing them, and even finite element analysis methods capable of analyzing cellular structures, taking into consideration their as-manufactured form and property variations.

    AM can enable innovative designs of complex 2D and 3D mechanisms. In contrast to multipart mechanisms, compliant mechanisms cause relative movement between the input and the output through designed bending patterns. The simplest types of compliant mechanisms simply replace pin joints with thin plates that act as compliant hinges. More sophisticated compliant mechanisms consist of beams with different widths, and possibly varying thicknesses. An interesting variation of a compliant mechanism is a deployable structure, such as a bridge or an aircraft wing design that could be fabricated using AM and deployed, for example, via air inflation. More generally, new design methods are needed for highly integrated, multimaterial, multitechnology (think embedded sensors, actuators, power sources, etc.) devices that are fully functional after AM fabrication.

    Since most AM technologies require little process planning expertise, they enable a “design anywhere, build anywhere” model of product development. This, in turn, opens up many research issues in collaborative design, customer codesign, crowd-sourcing methods, and cloud-based design and manufacturing, as well as information technology infrastructures to support “design anywhere, build anywhere” approaches. New business models are emerging. One needs only to observe the virtual “store front” approach of sites like and to imagine how individuals with creative ideas could offer novel products, while preconfigured complex supply chains support manufacturing and logistics. Could home improvement stores evolve from stocking thousands of manufactured parts to become AM fabrication centers with stocks of raw materials?

    Finally, it is important to highlight the exciting opportunities enabled by AM to effect change in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Maker spaces are proliferating throughout many engineering departments and in middle and high schools across the U.S. and much of the world. At the university level, maker spaces serve as modern day “machine shops” for students to fabricate parts for capstone and other design courses. But they also serve as interesting venues to engage students in rich “hands on/minds on” engineering activities that virtually any course could use to advantage. Student clubs are forming around these spaces to engage students socially and culturally. In middle and high schools, these maker spaces serve modern day technical education purposes, but also support extracurricular activities, such as FIRST Robotics clubs. Furthermore, math, science, and even history teachers are discovering how to utilize 3D printing in their subjects to enhance student engagement. AM affords tremendous opportunities for novel engineering education and informal learning research.

    In summary, AM has uniqueness that is enabling changes in engineering practice and are opening new research directions, particularly in engineering design. In this editorial, I tried to identify some promising research issues, as well as opportunities in the education area. For further reading, I suggest the reports on two recent workshops, the NSF/ONR sponsored Roadmap for AM workshop ( and the forthcoming report from the NSF sponsored AM Education & Training workshop that was held in April 2014 (organized by Tim Simpson (Penn State) and Chris Williams (Virginia Tech)). Additionally, the America Makes organization has an AM roadmapping activity and is a good source for technology and workshop development activities.

    David Rosen
    Professor and Associate Chair for Administration,
    The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering,
    Georgia Institute of Technology,
    Atlanta, GA 30332-0405

  • The Impact of Example Modality and Physical Interactions on Design Creativity

    Authors: Christine A. Toh; Scarlett R. Miller 
    J. Mech. Des. (2014); 136(9):091004-091004-8
    doi: 10.1115/1.4027639

    Interacting with example products is an essential and widely practiced method in engineering design, yet little information exists on how the representation (pictorial or physical) or interaction a designer has with an example impacts design creativity. This paper reports the results of a controlled study with first year engineering design students developed to investigate the impact of a designer’s interaction with either a 2D pictorial image or a 3D product and the resulting functional focus and creativity of the ideas developed. The results of this study reveal that physical examples have the ability to reduce design novelty and variety. Based on our results, we recommend that designers delay the use of physical examples during the early stages of conceptual design in order to retain a higher level of design creativity. In other words, designers should perform an initial round of brainstorming using pictorial examples before interacting with physical examples of existing products in an effort to broaden the solution space explored. Second, our results show that product dissection encourages more form-based novelty but less functional focus compared to visual inspection. Since designers interact with physical examples frequently, it is crucial that we identify the underlying factors that influence physical interactions impact on design creativity. Finally, our results show that great care should be taken in selecting example designs in the early stages of conceptual design since these interactions can greatly impact design outcomes.

    For the abstract and full article see ASME's Digital Collection.

  • AmBot: A Bio-Inspired Amphibious Robot for Monitoring the Swan-Canning Estuary System

    Authors: Lei Cui, Paul Cheong; Ridge Adamson, Thomas Johnson
    J. Mech. Des. (2014); doi:10.1115/1.4028094

    The Swan-Canning River, which features relatively shallow and slow-moving water with sandy soils, is the most important estuary system in Perth, Western Australia. Currently, the Department of Water Western Australia sends personnel to manually survey and collect water and sand samples at thirty-two routine sampling sites along the Swan-Canning River weekly. The excessively large monitoring areas make the sample collection a costly practice, and the safety of personnel is potentially put at risk during the seasonal collection of mosquito-larvae samples and the occasional collection of toxic-waste samples. At the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Curtin University, we developed the AmBot, an amphibious robot, to automate this operation. The major challenge in developing the AmBot lies in that the limited physical size of the robot allows only one type of propulsion system to be used both on land and on water. On the contrary, large amphibious robots that use wheels or track systems when on land can switch to propellers when on water. We took inspiration from centipedes and morphed the multi-leg actuation into tracks by simplifying each leg-mechanism into a track piece consisting of a base and a polystyrene-foam block. This design makes the tracks essentially both floats and paddles that are also capable of withstanding the weight of the vehicle. When on water, the tracks provide propulsion force and buoyancy so that the waterline is well controlled; when on land, the tracks effectively spread the contact force across multi-blocks, leading to effective actuation and low pressure on the sandy terrain, hence protecting the beach eco-system. The AmBot uses an Android-based remote-control system via the Internet, where the accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and camera on the Android device provide integrated navigation and monitoring sensing. 

    For the abstract and full article, visit ASME's Digital Collection.

  • Call for Papers: User Needs and Preferences in Engineering Design

    Special Issue 2015

    Addressing user needs and preferences is critically important in developing innovative and successful engineered products and systems. The task is inherently challenging due to the heterogeneity of user needs and the difficulty of modeling human behavior. In addition, it remains a challenge to integrate user preferences with designer preferences in the process of engineering design. The past decade has seen a significant growth in user-focused design research that introduces principles from different domains, such as market research, economics, cognitive science, and social science. However, there is still a lack of integration of these methods, either qualitative or quantitative, for directly supporting engineering design decisions. It is therefore imperative to develop interdisciplinary design approaches to address “interface” issues among different domains and engineering design, considering market demand, usage context, social behavior, environmental impact assessments, etc. Consequently, the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design calls for submissions for a special issue on addressing User Needs and Preferences in Engineering Design. Topics can include, but are not limited to the following:

    • User preference modeling and elicitation in engineering design
    • Consumer choice and product demand modeling
    • Design decision models and approaches based on user needs and preferences
    • Crowdsourcing and social computing for user-focused engineering design
    • Capturing user needs and preferences from web-based user generated contents
    • Incorporating social influence and human perceptions in product design
    • Uncertainty handling in addressing user needs and preferences
    • Studies of human behavior (cognition, visual, etc.) for design
    • Design for human variability and customer heterogeneity
    • User-centered design innovation, customization, and personalization
    • Design for emotion and user experience
    • Design for usage contexts
    • Design for market systems

    While application areas are not limited to a specific domain of interest, we encourage submissions that address user needs and preferences in designing complex, emerging engineering systems with life-cycle and sustainability considerations. Papers from interdisciplinary research teams are strongly encouraged. Although the inclusion of a complete design case study is not mandatory, the design context under which the methods can be used needs to be clearly stated in all submissions—relevance to engineering design will be explicitly considered as a criterion in the review process.

    Submission Instructions

    Please submit your paper to ASME at and note on the cover page that your paper is intended for the special issue on “User Needs and Preferences in Engineering Design”. Please also email the Editor, Dr. Shapour Azarm at, to alert him that your paper is intended for the special issue. Please note that a limit of 12 journal pages without ASME page fees will be observed. Early submission before the deadline is strongly encouraged.

    Publication Target Dates

    Authors submit papers by: September 15, 2014
    Initial review completed by: November 15, 2014
    Publication of special issue by: July 2015

    Early submissions are strongly encouraged. Papers submitted by September 15, 2014 will be reviewed in time for inclusion in the special issue. Papers received after that date may still be considered for the special issue, if time and space permits.

    Guest Editors

    Wei Chen
    Northwestern University

    Carolyn Conner Seepersad
    University of Texas at Austin

    Bernard Yannou
    Ecole Centrale Paris