To support the development and analysis of engineering designs at the embodiment stage, designers work iteratively with representations of those designs as they consider the function and form of their constituent parts. Detailed descriptions of “what a machine does” usually include flows of forces and active principles within the technical system, and their localization within parts and across the interfaces between them. This means that a representation should assist a designer in considering form and function at the same time and at different levels of abstraction. This paper describes a design modelling approach that enables designers to break down a system architecture into its subsystems and parts, while assigning functions and flows to parts and the interfaces between them. In turn, this may reveal further requirements to fulfil functions in order to complete the design. The approach is implemented in a software tool which provides a uniform, computable language allowing the user to describe functions and flows as they are iteratively discovered, created and embodied. A database of parts allows the user to search for existing design solutions. The approach is illustrated through an example: modelling the complex mechanisms within a humanoid robot.

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