This paper presents a systematic method for the objective evaluation of different product designs that perform the same function. Functional representation is used as a tool for competitive benchmarking of physical systems irrespective of physical implementation of subfunctions. In a top-down design framework, a domain independent functional configuration serves as a skeletal design, and independent subfunctions are mapped to physical components, taking all the prescribed constraints into consideration. On the other hand, in a “bottom-up” evaluation process, the functional representation could serve as a common semantic model for comparing various physical systems, that are composed of components from multiple domains. It is a “bottom-up” process in the sense that we begin with an existing design and proceed to abstract some measure of its performance. There are several differences between top-down design and the bottom-up evaluation process. The concept of “connectors” is introduced as an attempt to resolve some of these differences. Connectors are used to represent the interaction between adjacent components and to explicitly account for function sharing in design. A simple example is also presented to illustrate the process of systematic evaluation of alternate designs.

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