The Concurrent Engineering (CE) approach is becoming an essential part of product development methodology in industry. This team approach encourages design engineers to interact with all other organizational functions and adopt a total product-life viewpoint. In some cases "rapid prototyping techniques" can help to accelerate the "design maturation process". Recommendations for teaching and research of engineering design which encourage a concurrent engineering approach are presented in this paper based on an NSF funded research project. Concurrent Engineering requires a high level of teamwork and simultaneous involvement of all company functional disciplines very early in the product-concept-design process. This ensures that all necessary modifications are made when it is easy to do so and development teams are empowered with more autonomy.
It is known that many late-design-changes could be avoided if the development team makes effective use of prototypes to detect problems of "form-fit-function", which could not be caught without the "physical part", versus just CAD views of the part. One of the setbacks to prototyping in the past has been the time taken to come up with a prototype. This time-limitation is alleviated with the emergence of "Rapid Prototyping (RP) Processes" whereby it is now possible to produce a "three-dimensional-hardcopy" of the physical part from a CAD solid model of the product design. All of the Rapid Prototyping processes "grow" a three-dimensional part by stacking thin layer cross-sections of the part-geometry using coordinate data obtained from the CAD solid model. This paper presents the way in which RP can facilitate Concurrent Engineering and arable compression of time-to-market. A design case study which utilized Rapid Prototyping in a Concurrent Engineering context is included for illustration.