This paper describes the authors’ experiences in implementing a prototype to explore the technical and research challenges in developing a mechanical design system based on the sketching metaphor. This includes basic approaches, methodology, framework, and research issues. Since the objective of the developing the prototype was to identify the issues, a simple, yet representative design domain of conceptual design of planar mechanisms was chosen. The prototype has the functionality to support users creating skeleton sketches of planar mechanisms on a tablet PC. The freehand sketches are then interpreted to derive the structure of the mechanism consisting of linkages and joints. The paper describes the approach for deriving components from skeleton diagrams and outlines the research challenges in way of creating design tools based on the sketching metaphor.

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