The demands on today’s products have become increasingly complex as customers expect enhanced performance across a variety of diverse and changing system operating conditions. Reconfigurable systems are capable of undergoing changes in order to meet new objectives, function effectively in varying operating environments, and deliver value in dynamic market conditions. Research in the design of such responsive and changeable systems, however, currently faces impediments in effective and clear discourse due to ambiguity in terminology. Definitions of the terms flexibility and reconfigurability, two related concepts in reconfigurable system design, are explored based on their original lexical meanings and current understanding in design literature. Design techniques that incorporate flexibility both in the design (form) and performance (function) space are presented. Based upon this literature survey, a classification scheme for flexibility is proposed, and its application to reconfigurable system design is explored. This paper also presents recent methodologies for reconfigurable system design and poses important research questions that remain to be investigated.

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