GRADUATE SEMINAR - An Introduction to Axiomatic Design as a Scientific Discipline, by Professor Christopher Brown, PhD, PE, FASME, Surface Metrology Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, WPI

Education - Colloquium - WPI Only

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
2:00 PM-3:00 PM

Higgins Laboratories
HL 116


The underlying premise of Nam Suhs axiomatic design is that there is a best design solution for a set of functional requirements (FRs). The selection of the best solution is based on two axioms: first, maximize the independence of the functional elements, and second, minimize the information content. These are two axioms that can be applied to all design problems to find the best solutions.
These design axioms were first postulated by Nam Suh when he was an ME professor at MIT in the late 70s. Nam went on to, among other things, head the engineering directorate at NSF, get an honorary doctorate at WPI, chair ME at MIT, and most recently retire as president of KAIST.
The axioms often can be applied qualitatively to good advantage. A structure is used to apply the axioms rigorously to large design problems. The essence of the structure is a top-down hierarchal decomposition of FRs and the design parameters (DPs) that fulfill them.
Scientific disciplines have a few self-consistent axioms, or laws, that can be applied to a wide range of problems. The axioms transform design from an experiential to a scientific discipline. This makes axiomatic design easier to learn and apply than other design methods. It also makes it easier to evaluate designs and to advise or manage design projects.


Brown earned his PhD at the University of Vermont in 1983. His dissertation was on chip formation in machining. He then spent four years in the Materials Department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studying machined surfaces. For two years he was a senior research engineer working on product and process development at Atlas Copco's European research center. Since the fall of 1989 Chris has been on the faculty at WPI. Chris has published over a hundred articles on machining, grinding, axiomatic design, sports engineering, and surface metrology. He has patents on a fractal method for characterizing surface roughness and on an apparatus for friction testing. He also develops software for surface texture analysis. He teaches grad courses on axiomatic design of manufacturing processes and on surface metrology and an undergraduate course on the technology of alpine skiing. He advises senior design projects in mechanical engineering that use axiomatic design. He also consults and teaches courses for industry on axiomatic design and surface metrology. Chris co-chaired the first two International Conferences on Surface Metrology (2009 and 10) and the first two Seminars on Surface Metrology for the Americas (2011 and 12) all at WPI. He is currently chair of ASME B46, Committee for Classification and Designation of Surfaces; and he is Director of WPI's Surface Metrology Laboratory and of WPIs Haas Technical Education Center for CNC machining.

Suggested Audiences: College

Phone: 508-831-5236

Last Modified: April 8, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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