Design methods applied at the concept development stage of a design process help the derivation of alternative design solutions so that, based on product requirements and design specifications, selected design options can be evaluated. How this is achieved is important because design decisions contribute largely to the cost and manufacturability of products. The main scenario of the European machine tool (MT) industry is a small- or medium-sized enterprise designing and producing small series of dedicated MTs competing on a global market and working in close collaboration with suppliers and machine end users.
In this scenario, MT manufacturers need close collaboration with their component suppliers and end users to develop effective design solutions. The article identifies some aspects of 'collaborative design methods' that have been applied successfully in the aerospace and automotive industries and recommends a 'knowledge-centred' approach with the potential to captur e, transfer and share knowledge at the different life phases of the MT, but currently applied mainly at theconceptual design stage. The proposed methodology relies on a flexible knowledge-based 'co-design environment'. Themethodology will enhance knowledge capitalisation, allow early virtual assessment of design decisions and reduce re-design cycles.