In mechanical engineering design, the conceptual design phase involves the determination of the structural means for realizing the functions of a product. Function integration is a means for achieving an efficient design, where the same means contributes to the realization of multiple functions. This paper contributes to a phenomenological understanding of function integration and aims at refining design theories treating this subject. The work rests upon and contributes to German design theory and the design theories of the WDK School.
For explaining function integration, the concept of wirk element is introduced. A wirk element is defined as a functionally active form element that is part of an organ and contributes to the realization of a function. Furthermore, based upon the allocation and activation of wirk elements, a definition of function integration is given, and six kinds of integration are classified. Finally, opportunistic design is explained by the wirk element concept and the implication of function integration on product modeling in configuration systems is treated.
Throughout the paper, several examples are given to illustrate the explanatory power of the proposed modeling concept.