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Managing the Concept Design Process

This list should not be regarded as a complete agenda for a concept design discussion - it is merely meant to guide it, to move this often dauntingly free-form process off its starting point. Nor is it necessary to limit the process to one tentative sketch. Indeed, every member of the design team might come up with his or her own suggestions, which may then be walked through these steps (and beyond) one by one. It is also useful to view this process as one akin to natural evolution, where parts of one design could be swapped with the equivalent part of another (crossover) and each design might branch off into multiple sub-trees.

It is tempting to tackle all of the above armed with little more than pen and paper, but useful computational tools are available that can facilitate the process. On one hand, aircraft geometry sketches may be made in lightweight CAD software, or, perhaps even more effectively for aircraft design application, using a bespoke geometry tool, like OpenVSP[1] (the result of a collaboration between CalPoly and NASA). From the point of view of mapping and recording the thought processes that lead to the selection of the final concept, design rationale capture software tools may be used, which provide a searchable, clear, graphical picture of the decision tree. This can, of course, be continued into the preliminary design phase.

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