This project targets companies facing the need to reduce the weight of their products with minimal impact on cost and without negative effects on performance.

Achieving a substantial weight reduction requires the development of new innovative concepts. In the concept phase of a product development process, the degree of freedom is typically very high, whereas – on the other hand – the knowledge on the product to be built is rather limited. This makes the evaluation of new concepts challenging, even more so when new designs, materials and/or joining technologies are involved (due to the lack of knowledge and experience, which are often the basis for concept generation and evaluation).

Besides, compared to traditional structures the properties (attributes) of lightweight structures are more strongly interconnected so that multiple and sometimes conflicting attributes need to be considered. One of the main technological barriers is that these multiple attributes are often difficult to describe and to evaluate objectively in a concept phase, where the level of uncertainty is very high, even in terms of geometry. At the moment, supporting methods and tools to screen, filter and rank different concepts based on an objective evaluation of multiple attributes are missing. Because of this complexity and the lack of knowledge/experience and of supporting methods/tools, companies often resort to  traditional, “heavy” and better known solutions in terms of design, material and joining technique, thus blocking the development of innovative solutions with disruptive weight reduction.

An additional technological barrier for the development of breakthrough lightweight solutions is the lack of supporting tools, not only for concept evaluation but also for generating alternative concepts for mechanical structures. This complicates the full exploration of the available design space and, as such, the identification of innovative solutions with significant weight reduction potential, because designers tend to create concepts that are similar to previous solutions. Most of the available tools and models are specifically tailored to mechatronic system designing, focusing mainly on concept generation, whereas concept scoring (evaluation) is still being performed manually, based on (subjective) knowledge and past experience. To be able to fully explore the available design space and come up with alternative lightweight solutions, supporting tools for generating concept variants tailored to mechanical systems are needed.

Project goals

The general project goal is supporting the efficient design and development of components and systems with significant weight reduction achievements by developing and validating a model-based design platform.  As such, the project can be subdivided in two tracks:

  • Development and validation of concept models and corresponding attribute models for the objective evaluation of functional (weight, strength/stiffness, fatigue and NVH) and non-functional (cost, manufacturability and robustness) attributes; integration of concept and attribute models in an evaluation workflow, enabling the fast filtering and, subsequently, relative ranking of concepts.
  • Application and development of methods and supporting tools to formalise a concept and create a design repository, followed by the automatic generation of concept variants.

The developed methodologies will be applied and validated on specific use cases provided by the industrial partners.

Economic value

The implementation of the design platform will enable companies to efficiently generate and evaluate concepts that will help them to make better decisions in the early concept phase of their development processes and to bring innovative products to the market.  Thanks to the increased efficiency of their development processes, companies will require less trial and error to develop solid concepts.  This will reduce the cost and time of their development processes and, as such, give them the competitive advantage of pioneers.

Contact us

If you are interested in this project, please don't hesitate to contact the project leader Philip Eyckens.