Exploring the Use of Functional Models in Biomimetic Conceptual Design


The biological world provides numerous cases for analogy and inspiration. From simple cases such as hook and latch attachments to articulated-wing flying vehicles, nature provides many sources for ideas. Though biological systems provide a wealth of elegant and ingenious approaches to problem solving, there are challenges that prevent designers from leveraging the full insight of the biological world into the designed world. This paper describes how those challenges can be overcome through functional analogy. Through the creation of a function-based repository, designers can find biomimetic solutions by searching the function for which a solution is needed. A biomimetic function-based repository enables learning, practicing, and researching designers to fully leverage the elegance and insight of the biological world. In this paper, we present the initial efforts of functional modeling biological systems and then transferring the principles of the biological system to an engineered system. Four case studies are presented in this paper. These case studies include a biological solution to a problem found in nature and engineered solutions corresponding to the high-level functionality of the biological solution, i.e., a housefly's winged flight and a flapping wing aircraft. The case studies show that unique creative engineered solutions can be generated through functional analogy with nature.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Keywords and Phrases

Aircraft; Design Engineering; Vehicle Dynamics; Biomechanics; Biomimetics

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2008 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2008