To define the contours of the method of bionic design process developed and that is reported in this book chapter, two possible starting guidelines were considered: guidance in the direction from the bionic solution to the design problem and guidance in the direction from the design problem to the bionic solution. Thus, two method branches (A and B) were developed respecting each of the two alternative orientations considered for the bionic design process. The common steps in both directions of analysis (C1, C2 and C3) consist in the same activities, contain the same description and as such are applicable for the two orientations. The resulting proposition can be observed in summarized form in Tables 1 and 2, a design process starting from the design problem and oriented towards the solution (A) and a design process with orientation from the bionic solution to the design problem (B), respectively.
In the following sections the activities that are necessary for implementing the steps of both branches of the methodology developed are described.
2.1. Description of the methodology developed for the direction from the design problem to the bionic solution (A)
If the guidance for the project in question follows the direction from the identification of a design problem (a new problem or an existing one), the first task will be to draft a design brief and then defining the problem and carrying out a development process following the steps described in the following sections.
2.1.1. Step A1 – Design brief and problem definition
At this stage the problem or the human need must be specified by conducting a briefing, which should identify the function (or functions) that the project will perform as well as the actual problem and the reasons for its existence. It is also important at this stage to define the target market, i.e. who is involved with the problem and the solution, as well as the definition of where the problem is and, or, where the solution is to be applied.
For the definition of the function or functions that are intended to be carried out by the design, an auxiliary method indicated by Helms et al. (2009) is the functional decomposition of the problem or need, starting with the more complex and general function, which is subsequently decomposed into sub-functions. According to the authors, for each of these sub-functions optimization criteria can thus be defined, which are useful in further evaluation of new solutions, by measuring performance and satisfaction with the optimization criteria.
The existence of a list of requirements and restrictions, subjecting the product, is equally important in this step. Environmental and ecological variables must be included in the list and considered in routine development, production, use and final disposal of the product (Kindlein et al., 2003). Thus, these should be included in the requirements of the problem, aiming to reducing the environmental impact caused by the extraction and processing of the raw material to be used, as well as by the product production, use and the end of useful life, where issues of recycling and biodegradation must be met.
Having a clear definition of the problem, it is necessary to comprehend it in terms of Nature, i.e., translating the roles and functions of the project into sub-functions performed by natural phenomena. This step is defined as the reformulation of the problem.
2.1.2. Step A2 – Reformulation of the problem
According to Helms et al. (2009), in order to find solutions analogous to biology, designers must redefine and reshape the problems and functions in general and widely applicable biological terms, questioning, for example, "how does Nature and biological solutions do (or not do) this? ". As an example, for a function defined in the first stage as "to not suffer falls," recasting this in biological terms could mean "which features in Nature and biological solutions enable resisting, preventing and reducing lack of stability?”
The third step of the method, considering the direction of analyzing the problem towards the solution concerns the search and selection of relevant biological solutions for the design problem.
2.1.3. Step A3 – Selection of solutions
Selecting the solution models that address the nature, and, or the challenges posed, can be done through literature search or fieldwork, involving some knowledge about the habitat of samples to collect (Junior et al., 2002). It can also be done using open discussions with biologists and specialists in this field.
Some of the existing techniques, identified by Helms et al. (2009), to be taken into account in the search are the modification of the restrictions of the problem, often defined strictly and accurately, therefore reducing the search area, thereby enabling a successful search. Thus, for a problem defined as "not to suffer falls," change the restrictions into a larger search space: "stability and resistance to impact." According to those authors, in order to avoid complexity of the systems and their inherent organic nature, often demands solutions that are accessible and simple but at the same time can solve various problems at the same time. Those authors also stress the importance of this step to avoid problems of similar association and weak analogies, leading to a decline in diversity and originality of potential future design concepts based on the solution chosen. These techniques can help to meet multiple requirements that the project will respond to.
After identification of the natural system that satisfies the aims, achieves the goals or solves the problem under study, one should perform an analysis of the biological solution.
2.1.4. Step A4 – Analysis of the solution
Designers must now identify and break down the structures, components, processes and functions of the biological solution, related to the problem to solve. The issues addressed in this phase, allowing a better understanding of the functional, structural, morphological and organizational levels, can be tackled by reflecting about "what is the function?” (Junior et al., 2002). This understanding of various aspects of biological characteristics of the solution can help meet multiple requirements, including effectiveness at formal, structural, functional and organizational levels.
The functional decomposition performed in the step of defining the problem may be useful in order to relate each function or sub-function and requirement of the problem with the functions and features of the biological solution (Helms et al., 2009). Thus, the understanding of the solution will be easier. Therefore, the solution that is most relevant and feasible for the particular challenges of the project can be identified and extracted in the form of a neutral solution, which requires a maximum reduction of the structural and environmental constraints of Nature (Helms et al., 2009).
After extraction of the principles of the biological solution and according to the feasibility of implementation and the needs of the project, designers can develop ideas and concepts based on natural models, following the guidelines and principles obtained in the analysis steps of the biological solution (A4) and of the problem definition (A1). The following step is concerned with creative application of the principles and concepts generated.
2.1.5. Step C1 – Generation of concepts
For generation of ideas, designers must consider the factors that influence the effectiveness of the natural form in the solution, the factors that influence the effectiveness of the function, the effectiveness of organization or the effectiveness of communication (in accordance with the objectives of the project in question), trying to incorporate them as similarly and as faithfully as possible in the design process.
As a result of this stage, sketches and 3D models (either obtained by computer modelling and, or physical models) of the concepts developed are expected. In these concepts, besides details considering all technical and functional principles identified, analogous to the biological model, environmental aspects such as life-cycle analysis, raw material, energy and waste generated (both in the manufacturing and the life of the product), the manufacturing procedures, recyclability, reuse and biodegradation after the life of the product, and aspects of packaging and transportation thereof (Kindlein et al. 2003) should also be understood.
Moreover, in this respect Nature is assumed as the protagonist and source of inspiration, whether by requiring attention to ecological aspects of the project or by focusing on the availability of natural recyclable, reusable, renewable and biodegradable materials, which should also be considered at this stage.
As a result of the process of generating concepts one may obtain a set of alternative concepts, which perhaps are not all equally suitable as a proposed solution. In these cases it is desirable to perform an intermediate stage of evaluation of the multiple concepts, according to a structured approach, such as that proposed by Ulrich and Eppinger (2004).
After selection by formal assessment of the designed concepts it is essential to validate these against the requirements and goals set for the solution.
2.1.6. Step C2 – Validation
The validation step of this method is the process where the final concepts face the needs and requirements of the problem and where the gains brought about by bionics are assessed against a conventional solution of the project.
Accordingly, and based on the results, the information and the models obtained in the previous step enable the designer to link the specific requirements and objectives of the project with five goals to achieve (or as many as applicable) set out in this work and provided as guidelines for the corresponding validation process, shown in Table 3.
|Goals to achieve||Validation process for specific purposes|
|Innovation of paradigm for performance features||- Conceptual analytical and illustrative images to prove the change.|
- The paradigm shift evidences vary depending on the type of paradigm in question (examples):
- The organizational level - change from a model of centralized decision-making within the organization to a cooperative, distributed process, performed by multiple elements decision-making.
- The technical level - the principle of operation, drive technology, the source of energy, among others.
|Optimization of shape||- A comparative approach compared to a conventional product. Examples:|
- Reduction of material and weight - analysis from solid modelling.
- Stability – Analysis of static centre of mass (vector mechanics).
- Resistance to the maximum capacity - finite element method and test of prototypes.
- Storage of objects - quantification of capacity or maximum capacity.
|Satisfaction of multiple requirements||- Check objectively and as much as possible, the level that has been reached for each property implicit in each requirement.|
- Check if the resolution of conflicts between non-compatible properties was carried out on both sides achieving a compromise between the requirements in question.
|Effectiveness of organization||- Comparison between two or more systems with the same function (including the proposed system), but with different methods of organization.|
- Take measured levels during effective operation (real or simulated) of systems (including the proposed system) such as execution time, energy expended, material resources, expenditures, or funds generated.
|Effective communication||- Validation according to the level of communication in question:|
- Passive Communication (triggered by observation) - effectiveness may lie in the overlap between the meaning intended to be incorporated into the product or system by the designer and the signification readings of users or observers (empirical verification).
- Active communication (process between a sender and receiver synchronously) - effectiveness evaluated from the overlap of verified posts from the transmitter to the receiver and their outcome in the receiver, which should be in accordance with what was intended by the transmitter (empirical verification)
Aspects of validation of targets to be achieved in design processes making use of the bionic approach, with indication of specific applicable procedures.
According to the results of the validation process, there might be a need for further testing, making modifications or refinements to the models, and reassessment of the principles of the biological solution and the requirements of the problem through iterations between the steps of the method, in order to attain validation. In case of complete satisfaction, validating the results, one or more concepts can then move on to the detailing and finishing phase of the bionic design project.
2.1.7. Step C3 – Detail and finish
In the last phase of the project the considerations required for the type and purpose of project that is developing that would enable the company to place the product on the market are met. Analyses of technical, financial, environmental and market aspects are also useful for the success of a product. Technical drawings and detailed descriptions of all components of the project, descriptions of the materials used, descriptions of the process of manufacture, assembly, packaging, or instructions for use are typically conducted. It is also necessary in many cases to perform the construction of a scale prototype for display and presenting the product more realistically and assessing its feasibility. In the presentation and communication of the product, eco-marketing actions should also be considered in order to effectively convey the sustainable benefits to potential customers and consumers of the product (Camocho, 2010). The existence of monitoring activities at the end of the product development process, such as sustainability reports, checklists (eco-design checklists) that consider experiences and evaluate the product, identifying new needs, are equally relevant (Camocho, 2010).
2.2. Description of the methodology developed following the orientation from the solution to the problem (B)
Following the reverse path, the direction for the project in question from the observation of Nature and useful collection of possible solutions for future applications in projects, the first step is to identify the biological solution, progressing along the following steps shown and described below.
2.2.1. Step B1 – Identification of the bionic solution
At this stage, after the observation of natural phenomena has taken place, through aid from literature review or field research, potential solutions should be found with remarkable properties or characteristics, to be transferred for application to human problems. Subsequently, the greatest number of information concerning the identified solution is obtained to carry out the analysis of the solution.
2.2.2. Step B2 – Analysis of the solution
At this point of the design process, a number of factors is determined that enable perceiving the shape, structure, organization and functional principles of the solution. Thus, one must recognize the components or systems involved in the phenomenon under analysis, and identify the organization and morphological structure, assimilate the mechanisms, principles and levels of organization, understand how the environment influences these mechanisms, among other relevant aspects for the knowledge and analysis of the solution (Colombo, 2007).
The basic questions that must be tackled at this stage are the "why" and "how Nature works" and "what is the purpose of its form and structure" (Colombo, 2007). From this analysis, in schematic / functional notation mode, the designer can extract the principle or principles that motivate the fundamental solution.
2.2.3. Step B3 – Reformulation of the solution
The stage that follows relates to the reformulation of the solution, which aims to facilitate the search for human needs, in which the biological functions of the solution may be useful. For this purpose, with the functional principles extracted from the previous step, the designer must now deduct general and specific principles, in detail, and consider possible links between the biological and the mechanical behaviour.
After reformulation of the functional principles of the natural solution in terms of technical principles and functions, follows the search for a problem.
2.2.4. Step B4 – Search for a problem
While the search in the biological domain is restricted to a finite space of existing solutions developed by Nature, the search for a design problem can include not only some existing need but also an entirely new problem (Helms et al., 2009). The designer must thus, taking into account the data obtained during the reformulation of the solution, look for real problems that are unsolved or still have gaps, collect examples of existing solutions with the possibility of more effective and sustainable solution or identify emerging needs with yet no solutions, but that may be met with bionic considerations already identified, resulting in entirely new products. Once one has identified a potential problem related to the functional principles of biological phenomena, the next step will be drafting the design brief and its association principles.
2.2.5. Step B5 – Design brief and association principles
For a clear association between the systems and components of the biological solution and the functional aspects of the problem to be solved with bionic inspiration, this stage includes the development, identification and outline of the general and specific principles for the operation of the product. It is also essential to bring forward at this stage a list of requirements and restrictions for the product to develop, where the environmental and ecological variables are also to be included.
The fundamental objective of this step is to draw a parallel between the principles and requirements of the problem with the fundamental properties of the solution extracted from the analysis.
After understanding the analogies between the potential problem and the existing solution from the natural world, and with the aid of schematic notations, functional principles extracted from the solution and analysis of the principles and specific requirements of the problem, follows the step of developing ideas and concepts. This step is applicable in both orientations of the method.
2.2.6. Step C1 – Generation of concepts
The generation of concepts step, is common to the approach oriented from the problem to the solution and was described in section 2.15. The next phase of the method deals with the evaluation or validation of the concepts generated and is also applicable for the two orientations of the method.
2.2.7. Step C2 – Validation
According to the results of the validation process, there will be a need for further testing, modifications or refinements of the models, and reassessment of the principles of biological solution of the problem and the requirements for a new validation (see description for this step in section 2.1.6). Total satisfaction and validation of results, will enable to proceed with detailing and finishing the project.
2.2.8. Step C3 – Detail and finish
This step is common to both orientations of the developed method of analysis (see description in section 2.1.7).
It is a well-established fact that Nature is constantly learning, adapting and evolving. In a method for developing products, in particular, a bionic design process, it is beneficial to consider this teaching, making progressive drafts in successive stages of observation, problem definition, solutions analysis and validation. Thus it is important to note that even with the arrival of a drafted concept to the final stage of the method, there will always be the need to continue to improve the design and optimize the product.
2.3. Adequacy of the proposed method to support the satisfaction of the five goals focused
The genesis of the proposed method comes from a collection of methods retrieved from literature which seeks to reap the benefits of the several methods reviewed in the new combined method (and still looking as far as possible to overcome some of the shortcomings pointed out). Thus, based on subjective evaluation (and its justification) of the applicability of each of the five methods for focusing on the objectives (Versos and Coelho, 2011-a, 2011-b, 2010; Coelho and Versos, 2011, 2010), we present an analysis of the same objectives towards applicability of the proposed method.
2.3.1. Optimization of shape
Based on previous analysis (Coelho and Versos, 2011) it appears that only the method of spiral design (Biomimicry Institute, 2007) was deemed applicable to pursue this goal, with the justification for this classification attributed to the fact that it is an iterative method, explicitly, which favours systematic optimization. Since the characteristic of interaction is present in the proposed method in its two directions of analysis, it is deemed applicable to support achieving this goal.
2.3.2. Satisfaction of multiple requirements
In previous analyses, Coelho and Versos (2011) considered the Bio-inspired design method (Helms et al., 2009) as the only one of the reviewed methods applicable to support this objective (note that this is a problem-oriented approach). In the proposed method, this is considered in steps B3 (orientation from the solution to the problem) and A4 (direction from the problem to the solution), as this results from extracting from the constraints of the biological solution to make the most expeditious implementation of the principle of solution in another domain. However, these requirements are not explicitly considered after the transfer of the biological solution to the new field; considering this point, there are some shortcomings. The techniques for finding solutions, also presented in the Bio-inspired design method (Helms et al., 2009) for the selection of solutions through its various features solving several issues at the same time, also contribute to meeting this goal. In the orientation of analysis from the problem to the solution, the method developed, was considered contributing to the achievement of the satisfaction of multiple requirements in the project to be developed. The fulfilment of this goal can also be met through the consideration of environmental and ecological variables in the project, highlighted in two directions of analysis.
2.3.3. Innovation of paradigm for performance features
In previous analysis by Coelho and Versos (2011), all analyzed methods were considered applicable to provide support to achieve the objective of innovation of the paradigm for performance features. This is considered a key motivation for the proposal of each and every one of the methods previously scrutinized. It is achieved by the appearance across all the methods discussed of the processing of a biological solution so as to provide a solution to a problem inherent in a design concept. Since the proposed method considers this transformation (as in the passage from A1 to A4 and from B1 to B5) it is obvious that it satisfies this objective.
2.3.4. Effectiveness of organization
This goal was considered as fully supported through the use of the Aalborg method (oriented from the solution to the problem). The Aalborg method of analysis has achieved the category ‘applicable’ to achieving the goal of effectiveness of organization in view of the first stage of this method of analysis that, among other areas, focuses on the organization, structure and morphology of levels in the natural system. Given that these aspects are contemplated in both directions of analysis of the proposed method (A4 and B2), the classification of applicable is considered for this parameter for the case of the proposed bi-directional bionic design method.
2.3.5. Effective communication
Effective communication was considered a goal for which there is no support from existing methods (Coelho and Versos, 2011). Although one might consider, particularly in future work, giving support to achieve this objective, we chose not to follow this path in this work. However, in the validation itinerary, considerations are integrated into the proposed method that are aimed at supporting the possibility of evaluating the effectiveness of communication achieved by using conventional methods to stimulate creativity. Thus, the developed method is considered applicable, albeit with gaps to be filled in the future, to support the goal of effective communication. However, for most situations, the method is applicable to support the achievement of the goal, but it cannot be achieved if it is not explicitly considered in the briefing that gives rise to the design project.
As a summary, Table 4 compares the applicability of the method developed in its two orientations of analysis, given the five key goals considered.
|Goals / Direction of analysis||Optimization of shape||Satisfaction of multiple requirements||Innovation of paradigm for performance features||Effectiveness of organization||Effective communication|
|Orientation from the problem to the solution (A)||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable|
|Orientation from the solution to the problem (B)||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable||Applicable with shortcomings|
Comparative analysis of the applicability of the bionic design method developed in its two orientations of analysis, given the five goals selected and considered representative of those applicable to design problems.
The development of a new methodology sought to meet the issues identified during previous study of existing methods. Steps are proposed so that the design method proposed is intended to address shortcomings in existing methods in the course of the analysis in view of their applicability to support the process to achieve five goals considered representative of the objectives pursued by those who follow a bionic approach to design. As such, we developed a descriptive method that, in addition to considering the two directions of analysis to support the validation and fulfilment of the objectives set, provides support for an iterative approach in conducting the project. It is thus meant to assist in the optimization of the results achieved with the use of a bionic approach. The method uses an approach which combines contributions of previously existing methods, which were valued by the analysis, and support of the goals listed (Versos and Coelho, 2011-a, 2011-b, 2010; Coelho and Versos, 2011, 2010). As can be seen by the comparison presented in Table 4 on the applicability of the support given to achieve the goals chosen by the proposed method (referred to in its two directions of orientation), the method supports the applicability for all combinations of goal and orientation. In addition, the proposed method achieved an increase in applicability in relation to previous methods in order to optimize and to satisfy many requirements in the orientation from the solution to the problem and for effectiveness of organization in the direction of the design process from the problem to the solution. We also considered other activities not anticipated in the methods reviewed in order to more fully support the objectives of optimizing the shape and satisfying multiple requirements. The purpose of communication effectiveness is still suffering from a lack of support for its complete satisfaction. Thus it is recommended that projects where this objective is sought, make use of other approaches described in the design literature to systematically encourage their satisfaction (e.g. Figueiredo and Coelho, 2010).
However, the proposed method while not supporting to the same degree the validation of the five objectives focused, supports validation efforts explicitly which is very distinctive of previous methods. Thus, even if not directly supporting the process leading to the satisfaction of all stated purposes, the use of this method, providing validation mechanisms, helps designers realize the level of satisfaction of each objective achieved in each iteration of the project. This assessment will assist the recognition of the need for measures to correct the detected deviations in light of the design brief objectives.