Design projectsDesign projects with CES EduPack

Project-based teaching is very valuable for engineering, design, and scientific degrees. It helps students to synthesize their knowledge and learn professional skills such as teamwork, communication, and project management. CES EduPack can support many different kinds of project-based activities. Read about some examples here.

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Capstone Design projects

CES EduPack and product development

CES EduPack helps students throughout the
product development process

Many universities have extensive design projects in the final year of the degree. The purpose is usually threefold: to learn about the design process, to cement the knowledge gained in technical courses in the previous years, and to gain valuable skills that they will need in future jobs such as project management, teamwork, and communication. During these projects CES EduPack helps in several ways (illustrated, right).

At the early stages of a project it can be used to generate ideas by searching for information about similar products. The limit stage (mainly used for screening) presents a list of properties; this forms a handy checklist for potential constraints, and can be used as the basis of a questionnaire if speaking to potential customers (or to the instructor, if they are representing the customer in the project). This process is described in more detail in one of the CES EduPack teaching resources: a paper describing a Product Development Course using CES EduPack [1].

At this stage, the charts created as part of the selection become an excellent way to communicate different options and the trade-off between these

During the concept development stage, different options can be worked through. Some options can be quickly discounted by roughly working out costs using the materials price data and the relative cost model in CES EduPack. Proper material and process selection can be performed on the leading idea, and different approaches, such as Eco Design and Design for Manufacturability, can be catered for using data from CES EduPack.

Depending on the structure set up by the educator, it may be necessary to communicate the design idea and material choice to a customer, to the supervisor, or possibly within the design team in order to get agreement to move forward to a build stage. One example of a decision based on material properties could be the choice between a cheap steel option vs. a light expensive aluminium option, given constraints on mechanical performance. Notes can be added to each selection stage in CES EduPack, and the selection saved as a project and shared between team members or sent to the instructor for review.

Reverse engineering projects

One type of project that is set by many universities is a project where a product is taken apart and the components are analyzed, i.e., what it is made of and how it was manufactured is investigated. An example of this type of project using CES EduPack has been contributed to Granta's Education Hub by Dr Rob Wallach of the Materials and Metallurgy department of the University of Cambridge. [2]

CES EduPack helps in a couple of ways. Firstly, each material record has a section called Typical Uses. The search function can be used to scan this text and identify a short list of typical materials that the object could be made from. There is also other information to broadly characterize a material, such as a list of the polymer 'Recycle' marks commonly seen on packaging, and images of materials, including, where possible, a surface finish image. Once the materials have been identified, the links between material and process records in CES EduPack can be used to find out which processes could be applied to that material. From there, cost and batch size information can be used to narrow down further. Different processes become economic at different scales of production—this is reflected in the attribute 'Relative cost index' in the Level 2 database. This is generated using a cost model, which includes batch size as a parameter. So if, as is likely, the students are disassembling a cheap, mass produced object, they can take that information into account when contemplating a likely process route, adding realism to their learning.

Diagram from an example project

Assembly/Disassembly diagram from a contributed project on the Teaching Resources Website

Materials design projects: prediction of properties and modelling

The Synthesizer tool, available in advanced editions of CES EduPack, enable the student to predict (estimate) the properties of hypothetical materials based on simple models. There are 5 models built in as standard: Cellular Structures, Sandwich Panels, Multilayer Materials, Controlled Thermal Expansion, and Composites (simple bounds). A model-writing guide helps more advanced students and teaching researchers to create models for themselves. The models are written out in detail in the accompanying white paper [3] so that students can understand the assumptions made and the basis for the predicted properties. In the tool, students are able to choose a model, e.g., Sandwich panels, choose the materials involved from the Materials Universe, and enter information about the geometry, such as the number and thickness of the panels. A basic record is then generated for the hypothetical material, with a cut down set of properties. These materials can then be charted alongside the usual materials in the MaterialUniverse and the usual selection process can be carried out to see if the hypothetical material would perform better than materials currently available, in a particular application.

The Hybrid Synthesizer predicts the performance of sandwich panels, as shown here, helping students compare properties with other materials

Comparing composite materials modeled using the Hybrid Synthesizer with other materials.

Students can be given projects to understand the model and to trial different material combinations and geometries to optimise performance for a given application. This is particularly suitable for courses on light-weighting in aerospace or automotive structures where composites, metal foams, or other hybrids are common.

Eco Design projects

Eco Audit Tool graphs showing end of life phase

The Eco Audit Tool allows instant comparison of the environmental impact of multiple products of life scenarios

The Eco Audit tool aims to help students model a product or component and assess its environmental impact and cost during design. It is suitable in introductory courses on Materials or Manufacturing as well as on Design or Product Development. It is by design not a full LCA tool, but something quick and easy to set up, allowing students to play with different scenarios in a short space of time.

The student downloads or builds a model of a product, detailing its size, existing or intended Bill of Materials, what each component is made of, how it is processed, and how the product is transported and used. All the calculations and sources of Eco data are intended to be transparent to the student and the model is well described under the i-button or help function within the software. A lot of effort has gone in to making sure that the Eco Data used, such as embodied energy or carbon footprint of materials, is as fully referenced and accurate as possible. However, Eco Data is not the same as mechanical property data, where thousands of physical tests have been performed to agreed standards. In the help menu, there is a warning for the students about Eco data and how to use it sensibly.

You and your students are free to disagree with how the model is set up; in fact, such discussions are very welcome in this relatively new field

Exercises using Eco Audit projects have been created to highlight that uncertain data can still be used in decision making as long as the difference in the data is larger than that of the uncertainty in the data. Many Eco Audit Projects are formed around the idea of assessing a product, suggesting redesigns, and making a comparison. You can Bar-chart the design and redesign alongside each other and quickly see the pros and cons of a product from both an environmental and cost perspective. If you click on a column on the comparison chart, you get some hints and tips for ideas on how to reduce the environmental impact in that phase of the product's life. Because the Eco Audit Tool is so easy to use and the comparison chart updates as soon as you change a parameter in the model, you can use these charts to get the students to find out which aspects of design make the most impact on the environment and get them to focus their efforts where they will make the biggest difference. At the same time they need to be aware of the cost implications so that they can properly argue for their design in a business context.


  1. Fredriksson, C,; Eriksson, M.; Melia, H.; “Facilitating the Teaching of Product Development", Proceedings of the 121st ASEE Annual Conference, June 16-18 2014, Indianapolis, USA.
  2. Wallach, R. “Case Studies: Investigation of a Manufactured Article” University of Cambridge
  3. Ashby, M.F. “Paper: Hybrid Synthesizer” Granta Design Ltd 2011
    Ball, N.; Bream, C.; Bateson, J. “Guide: The Hybrid Synthesizer - Model Writer's Guide” Granta Design Ltd