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Problem Identification. © Project Lead The Way, Inc. Problem Identification. First step in the Design Process is with ... An Identification of a Problem… An Observed Need... A New Idea for a... Product System. Problem Identification. Questions to Answer … Who ? - would need it

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Problem Identification

  • © Project Lead The Way, Inc.

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Problem Identification

First step in the Design Process is with ...

  • An Identification of a Problem…

  • An Observed Need...

  • A New Idea for a...

    • Product

    • System

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Problem Identification

Questions to Answer…

  • Who ? - would need it

  • What ? - is needed

  • When ? - is it needed

  • Where ? - is it needed

  • Why ? - is it needed

  • How Many ? - are needed

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Problem Identification


  • Problem Statement/Definition:

  • These faucet handles look nice, but they are not functional when your hands are wet and soapy.

  • Redesign these handles so that when a persons hands are wet and soapy, they can easily be gripped.

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Problem Identification

Market Research

  • Marketing department asked to try and find out how much of a demand there is for the proposed new product.

  • Accomplished through the use of surveys.

  • Prepare graphs and charts to visually present the results of the surveys.

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Problem Solving

Design Brief

  • A clear and concise description of the problem.

  • Identification of the needs to solve the problem.

  • List any design constraints (limits), such as function, appearance, time, legal issues, cost, etc.

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Problem Solving

Identification & Classification of Design Specification & Constraints

Specifications & Constraints include the following areas:

  • Aesthetics

  • Time

  • Information

  • Capital

  • Tools & Machines

  • Energy

  • Materials

  • People

  • Ethics

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints

  • Aesthetics

  • Express what is known about taste and appeal in a certain market.

  • What “look” will speak to the consumer?


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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints

  • Time Constraints

  • Will there be enough time to develop and implement the solution?

  • Examples

  • If the product is delayed for six months, what other products that fill this need will be on the market?

  • What new materials or processes will be available that could make this design obsolete?

  • Is the aesthetic appeal rapidly changing in this area so that the product will look dated before it is ever released?

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • Once the problem has been defined, the design team generates ideas for solving it.

  • Have you ever thought of a great idea for a new product only to find out later someone else is already making it?

  • When you are designing a device or system, the first thing to check is what designs may already be in use.

  • The history of a product or concept helps to define the known limitations.

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • A thorough literature search for similar products and background information is a good starting place.

  • It can keep you from “reinventing the wheel” and provide inspiration that improves the quality of the ideas you generate.

  • It is always a good idea to research and collect data about the subject of your design.

  • Some places to look for history and existing information are:

  • Patent Searches

  • World Wide Web

  • Consumer Surveys

  • Competition Reviews

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • PATENT SEARCHES and the WORLD WIDE WEB are a huge source of existing information.

  • The U.S. patent file contains around 5 million patents and is the world’s largest storehouse of technological information.

  • Searching on the Internet for information related to your design is a great starting point for more research.

  • Patents can be accessed on the Internet.

Search the U.S. Patent Office at:

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • Another great place to get information is from the consumer.

  • CONSUMER SURVEYS are conducted frequently.

  • Marketing surveys and consumer questionnaires provide important feedback. Think about all those product registration cards you have filled out.

  • Why does the manufacturer need all of that information ?

  • Who buys their products

  • How to price products

  • Features that consumers desire

  • Problems they could solve or improvements that could be made

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • Is there going to be enough money to fund the product?

  • Generally, the greater quantity produced, the lower the overall unit cost of the product.

  • Many things affect the cost of a product, such as…

  • Materials

  • Manufacturing Methods

  • Equipment costs

  • Labor costs

  • Availability of Raw Materials

  • Reliability of Supply

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints

Tool & Machines

  • Are there sufficient tooling and machinery to produce the product?

  • If a large amount of equipment has to be purchased to produce the part, it might not be worth it.

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints

  • Energy

  • If the product requires energy, what type will be used ?

  • Electricity: AC or DC

    • Battery or Cord

  • Other: Gravity

  • Wind

  • Fossil Fuels: Oil

    • Gasoline

    • Natural Gas

    • Propane

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


A large number of factors will determine the material used for the manufacture of the product.

Strength Elasticity Ductility Fatigue

Hardness Brittleness Damping Toughness

Elasticity Wearing Corrosion Toxicity

Machinability Forgeability Formability Castability

Weldability Appearance Temperature Range

Bearing Characteristics

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • In many cases the function of the part will determine the specific material used for manufacture.

  • In other cases, there is more discretion in the choice of material.

  • In some cases, the availability of some materials can influence its selection, as well as, its properties.

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • The make-up of a companies workforce can also play a part in the decision making process in the manufacture of a product or part.

  • A major problem that is common in many industries is the lack of an educated and trainable workforce.

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • Leonardo da Vinci writes in his autobiographical notes that he discovered how to build a submarine which has a special application for naval warfare. This underwater boat would allow the user to sneak into a busy harbor without being seen and drill holes in the bottom of ships. History records, however, that during his lifetime he withheld disclosure of this invention because he believed that it would be an abomination to mankind.

  • Victor Paschikis

  • Conference on Engineering Ethics, American Society of

  • Civil Engineers, New York, 1975

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Problem Identification – Specifications & Constraints


  • Ethics is the study of standards of right and wrong dealing with morals, conduct, duty, fairness, and judgment.

  • A set of ethical values for the engineer might include the following:

    • - Obeying the law

    • - Keeping promises, contracts, and employment agreements

    • - Respecting the rights of others

    • - Being fair

    • - Preventing harm to others

    • - Helping others in need

    • - Helping others in the application of these values