Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby mirk » February 24th, 2013, 7:02 pm

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I'm working on my senior ME thesis right now, and managed to convince my supervisor to let me take more of an ID process approach to the project. I finished my research phase and am working on developing functional concepts right now but have hit a wall around 20.
I've seen a good number for "design" concepts stated on the board as somewhere between 80 and 100, but does this apply to functional concepts as well? Is it worth pushing through this wall, or do the extra constraints imposed by physics pull the number of possibilities down enough that I may have already hit the point of diminishing returns?
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Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby iab » February 25th, 2013, 9:44 am


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To answer your question, I don't know.

Your 20 could be plenty. Or , your 20 could just be variations of the same 1 idea. Being functional or aesthetic concepts is irrelevant.

First, ideas are cheap. You have come up with 20. Are you certain that these are the only 20? What if you showed the 20 to others and they gave you input. I'm betting you may come up with more ideas after hearing their input. Have you benchmarked related ideas in other industries?

My point is inspiration for ideas comes from everywhere. Be sure you have exhausted your resources before stopping the ideation process. There is no set correct number.

Also, in reality, the ideation process really never concludes, it just becomes less prominent as the development process continues towards the finish. Then there is the gen 2 version that starts it up again.

Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby yo » February 25th, 2013, 4:22 pm

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It is a little bit of a "how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?" question ;-)

The ultimate answer is as many as it takes for you to reach the right solution.

Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby nxakt » February 25th, 2013, 5:39 pm

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Not sure where the 80-100 number comes from. 20 would be a good place to start from, feedback from peers or the client is what moves me past that number.

Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby Lmo » February 25th, 2013, 6:42 pm

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Define the term "functional concept" please.

Are you referring to an actual model?
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Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby mirk » February 25th, 2013, 6:50 pm

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Found where the number came from! viewtopic.php?f=5&t=27098

Specifically:

JellyBelly wrote:you should full fill 80 ideas & 20 concepts etc


The 20 concepts are all complete. They sometimes do just change one component or the way the components fit together, but often the change of one component had a ripple through effect where everything else had to be adjusted appropriately.


iab wrote:First, ideas are cheap. You have come up with 20. Are you certain that these are the only 20? What if you showed the 20 to others and they gave you input. I'm betting you may come up with more ideas after hearing their input. Have you benchmarked related ideas in other industries?

nxakt wrote:Not sure where the 80-100 number comes from. 20 would be a good place to start from, feedback from peers or the client is what moves me past that number.

Unfortunately, ME's in general don't like concepts and I had to fight to be able to do them. I was originally asked for one functional concept and six refinement concepts outlining how everything will fit together. I'll see if I can start up a project topic on the board, just have to clear it with the school first.


iab wrote:Be sure you have exhausted your resources before stopping the ideation process. There is no set correct number.

yo wrote:The ultimate answer is as many as it takes for you to reach the right solution.

How do you guys know when you've exhausted your resources and reached the right solution?


Lmo wrote:Define the term "functional concept" please.

The basic function of the device is fairly simple. My concepts (so far) cover things like self cleaning, environmental considerations, different power sources, etc. All sketches at the moment.
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Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby Lmo » February 25th, 2013, 8:54 pm

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I just couldn't stand control freak lecturers who wanted you to follow their patterns of things needed to be done etc, or a school curriculum that is designed in such a fashion where fine details such as "how and how a schedule should look like", " how and how you should full fill 80 ideas & 20 concepts etc " at THE FINAL PROJECT stage. I mean we're creative people right ? We sort of like to do things differently, anyhow we should be thinking out of the box of solving matters not a restricted normal way of doing projects. Doesn't mean you squeeze your brain cells just to full fill the 80 ideas can contribute to a better ideas right ? (It really depends though) :!:


Michael I think you are taking this a bit too literally.

You were only "required" to provide one functional concept; you produced twenty. Time to get down to the nitty-gritty, select three that interest you the most (since there isn't a client), flesh out the details, break it down to a singe concept and move toward completing the task. As in COMPLETE; documentation, calcs if needed, no loose ends, or "I was going to(s) ..." This is your senior thesis, it had better show your understanding and command of your craft. Keep in mind the old adage; The last 10% of the project take 90% on the time. If you're not done when the buzzer goes off ... you failed.
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Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby iab » February 26th, 2013, 9:34 am


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mirk wrote:How do you guys know when you've exhausted your resources and reached the right solution?


In the real world, when the budget runs out.

In theory, you don't.

Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby yo » February 26th, 2013, 12:31 pm

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Its true. You never reach the perfect solution because there is no such thing. At some point you have to make a judgment call to advance a few concepts and move to the next step.

Someone recently told me the story of a young jazz musician who had the opportunity to meet Miles Davis. A few drinks in he says "Miles, can I ask you a question? When I'm soloing, I can never seem to stop. One note leads to the next. There are always infinite possibilities of where to go, and my solos just end up rambling on forever. How do you stop a solo?"

Miles replied "I take the horn out of my mouth."

Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby Mr-914 » February 26th, 2013, 3:52 pm

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Re: Appropriate number of functional concepts?

Postby mirk » March 4th, 2013, 1:45 pm

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Hey guys, apologies for abandoning my own thread briefly (it's midterm season).

I guess I took the numbers from the other thread a bit too literally, the number had just stuck in my head for some reason.
I have some more materials research to do, and looking into codes and standards, so I won't close the concept stage until I absolutely have to move on. I'm planning on starting production CAD around mid April so we can move into prototype production and testing by May, so I still have some time.

Thanks everyone for your help. Haven't gotten approval yet to make it public, but hopefully I'll be able to show some process soon.
Michael Coyle

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