Guest Editorial

Time for Design Innovation OPEN ACCESS

[+] Author and Article Information
Diann Brei, Mary Frecker, Alex Slocum

J. Mech. Des 131(3), 030301 (Mar 09, 2009) (2 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3103487 History: Published March 09, 2009

I had mentioned in my April 2008 editorial that design innovation papers are both important for JMD and challenging to author and to review. We have been fortunate that we now have a special team of associate editors comprising Diann Brei, Mary Frecker, and Alex Slocum, who have committed to attending specially to papers on design innovation and devices. I asked them to write a guest editorial sharing with us all their thoughts on how we approach design innovation at JMD. I am very pleased to offer their ideas below along with my thanks for their service and wisdom.

Panos Y. Papalambros


Time for Design Innovation

If there ever was a time for design innovation, it is now. With economies across the globe struggling, we need fresh technologies that extend and create new markets. Only through innovation do we create new opportunities for enterprise and employment. Since the industrial revolution there have been unimaginable technological breakthroughs that have reshaped our lives. Mechanical design has contributed to most, if not all, of these breakthroughs; from agriculture to manufacturing, medicine to communications. Yet, people unfamiliar with mechanical design often describe the field as a relic of the industrial revolution with little impact on the future. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Mechanical design is leading the way into the future. Advances in the once mature areas of energy and sustainability will lead to significant opportunities as the world focuses on going green. Emerging interdisciplinary areas such as nanoscale, biologically inspired technologies, and smart materials and structures hold the promise to propel us to new horizons. In addition, there is still plenty of room at the top with new machine design topologies made possible by good old-fashioned clever thinking and big-iron designs catalyzed by new materials, manufacturing, and controls technologies. The key issue is sharing information and making synergistic connections to effectively capitalize on technological advancements. This is where JMD plays an important role—the dissemination of key advances in mechanical design innovation.

JMD has always posted an interest in “design innovation” papers, but very few papers are received in this area. Design Innovation (DI) briefs were initiated by Bahram Ravani during his term as Technical Editor of JMD. There has been continuing discussion within the community with revised guidelines developed by Sridhar Kota in 2005 for such briefs. However, the journal still receives very few DI papers. In his April 2008 editorial on Design Innovation, Technical Editor Panos Papalambros cited many reasons for this, from humble authors to difficulty in generating repeatable results grounded on solid analysis. One of the clear challenges is that the authors and reviewers do not always have a clear idea of what these papers are and how they should be reviewed. The community as a whole is not used to documenting this type of work in archival journals. Design innovation papers do have a slightly different purpose and scope; thus, the review and acceptance criteria must be different—not easier, just different. In addition, several of the advancements today are occurring outside the traditional scope of JMD, which requires solicitation and review beyond what has been the typical realm of the journal.

To aid in solicitation and review of design innovation, this editorial aims to clarify and update the guidelines for Design Innovation papers. For JMD, a design innovation paper represents scholarly innovation in design that has technological implications. It should not be a one-of-a-kind or “gee-whiz” design that is of use only to its author. It should have broad appeal to the journal readership. DI papers have archival value when they are meaningful in design practice. As Papalambros pointed out in his earlier editorial, “Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice.”

Design is a creative process which makes it difficult to write the recipe for a DI paper. In most instances a DI paper will have some of the following aspects:
  • description of the motivation or societal need with an insightful assessment of the current state of the art and setting the foundation for the paper's contribution;
  • description of the design approach (functions, architecture, operation), innovations and associated risks, and the practical implications;
  • design models (analytical, empirical, experimental, etc.) with primary design parameters to aid others in the design, prediction and evaluation of the artifact;
  • integration challenges and solutions, especially in large multidisciplinary projects.
  • parametric or sensitivity studies for core functions that define design trends, adaptability and scalability to other applications, and tradeoffs with risks and possible countermeasures;
  • feasibility demonstration (hardware, experimental, simulation, etc.) and critique of the results;
  • example case studies of application by a manufacturer or end user.
It is not necessary for the paper to contain all the elements listed, nor detailed theoretical or experimental development. The journal also welcomes papers that are outside of this profile if they represent a significant advancement. An example is a large multidisciplinary project where the integration of the subsystems by itself is complex and difficult to describe. The continuing shift to these large multidisciplinary projects has created unique design issues, not at the component level, but at the system level. Papers that describe the challenges and approaches to design innovation at this scale are of archival value. While limited analysis and development may make it harder to review and assess, it does not necessarily diminish the implication or archival value of the work as long as the work represents outstanding mechanical design with technological and practical implications. This is one of the subtle differences within DI papers.

Advances in mechanical design, especially with the integration of other fields (material, biological, electrical, etc.), must be properly communicated and archived. JMD, because of its broad design nature, has the unique opportunity to be the home for papers in innovation. It is our goal to be inclusive and reach across boundaries—discipline, sector (academia, government or industry), size (component or large system), or technical approach (basic research, applied development, experimental, etc.). It is critical for the future growth of our field and our society to document and share these innovative advancements. We encourage you to contribute your design innovation papers.

Diann Brei

Mary Frecker

Alex Slocum

Guest Editors

Diann Brei

Mary Frecker

Alex Slocum

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Topics: Design , Innovation
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