Construction theory

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The subject of construction teaches the applied basics of construction . In it, the fundamentals from other subjects such as technical mechanics , materials science or thermodynamics are brought together and applied, or the fundamentals of construction method are conveyed. In this respect, there are two types of "theory of construction":

  • The “classic type” of construction theory is based on teaching the learner the basics of physics and essential machine elements. The “how” of the application is left out and is left to the ingenuity and skill of the individual.
  • parallel to this there is the "construction methodology" as a design theory, as it has been introduced at some chairs of technical universities since the 1970s . Here it is assumed that the basics of physics, thermodynamics, knowledge of machine elements - and design are already known. Rather, the focus of the methodology is on putting the more or less random result of the construction on a justifiable basis through systematic work. It is hoped that the construction process will be better measurable, that it will be accelerated and, above all, that the construction methodology will focus on new types of products. However, due to the formalization, critics complain of a loss of creativity in the design process.

Construction methodology

Due to the relatively young age of the construction methodology, the names and contents of the subject itself vary significantly between the methodically oriented universities. Even if belonging to a special “school”, such as If, for example, many students are not aware of the “Ilmenau School”, the “Braunschweiger School” or the “Darmstadt School”, significant differences in knowledge can be made out.

Construction technology

The design theory is a central subject matter in the technical training of technical schools and universities . Exemplary departments this are precision engineering , aerospace engineering , production engineering , automotive engineering and mechanical engineering ; there also referred to as machine construction theory or MKL.

Aim and purpose of the methodical design theory

  • the development of better quality and more economical products
  • the rationalization and creation of requirements for the automation of construction processes ( CAD )
  • the creation of a lesson for better and faster training of designers
  • the creation of rules and procedures that are generally applicable and not bound to the object and provide all existing solutions for certain questions

Construction methodology should:

  • enable a problem-oriented approach, that is, it must in principle be industry-independent for every construction activity
  • Promoting invention and knowledge, i.e. it should make it easier to find optimal solutions
  • be compatible with terms, methods and findings from other disciplines
  • Do not generate solutions by chance
  • Have solutions easily transferred to related tasks
  • be suitable for the use of electronic data processing systems
  • be teachable and learnable
  • correspond to the findings of occupational science , i.e. make work easier, save time, avoid wrong decisions and ensure active, motivated cooperation

Design workflow

  • Clarification of the task : serves to obtain information about the requirements that are placed on the solution, as well as about the existing conditions and their significance. The result is the informative definition in a list of requirements ( specifications ), which must always be kept up to date.
  • Designing : is the part of construction that, after clarifying the task by abstracting it to the essential problems, setting up functional structures and searching for suitable operating principles and their combination in an effective structure, determines the basic solution. The conception is the basic definition of a solution. The form of representation can e.g. B. be a circuit diagram, a flowchart, a line sketch or a rough-scale drawing. A permanent and successful constructive solution is created by choosing the most appropriate principle and not by overemphasizing constructive subtleties. The developed solution variants must be evaluated. On the basis of the assessment, you decide on the concept to be pursued further. The construction process continues at the concrete level of design.
  • Designing : is the part of the construction that, starting from the basic solution, clearly and completely develops the building structure for a technical structure according to technical and economic aspects. Designing is the creative definition of a solution. In many cases you will have to create several full-scale drafts as preliminary drafts in order to be able to better assess the advantages and disadvantages of the individual variants. A frequent and typical process is that after evaluating the individual variants, one variant appears to be particularly favored, but can be fertilized and improved by partial solutions of the other suggestions, which overall do not seem so favorable. The final overall design then already represents a check of the function, the durability, the spatial compatibility, etc., whereby the requirements with regard to the costs must now be presented as being feasible at this point at the latest.
  • Elaboration : is the part of the design that supplements the building structure of a technical structure with final regulations for the form, dimensioning and surface quality of all individual parts, determining all materials, checking the manufacturing options and the final costs, and the binding drawings and other documents for its material implementation creates. The result of the elaboration is the technical definition of the solution.

Course content

The contents of the subject of design engineering in the sense of machine elements are, for example:

The teaching content of construction theory in a construction methodical sense is for example:

  • morphological methods (" morphological box ")
  • Idea generation methods like
  • Working with construction catalogs
  • Abstraction tools such as B.
    • general functional structure
    • special functional structure
    • logical function structure
    • Transmission diagram
  • Methods for systematic variation
  • Creation and determination of a list of requirements
  • Cost estimates
  • Analogy considerations
  • Design principles such as

and more.

Literature on the subject

Fundamental works

  • Gerhard Pahl, Wolfgang Beitz †, Jörg Feldhusen , Karl-H. Grote: Design theory - basics of successful product development, methods and application. 8th edition Springer, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3642295683 .
  • Klaus Ehrlenspiel: Integrated product development - thought processes, use of methods, cooperation. 4th edition Hanser, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-446-42013-7 .

further literature

  • Karlheinz Roth: Constructing with construction catalogs. Vol. 1: Construction theory. 3rd edition Springer, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-540-67142-0 .
  • Wolf G. Rodenacker: Methodical construction. 2nd edition Springer, Berlin 1976, ISBN 3-540-07513-5 . (Construction books vol. 27)
  • Karlheinz Roth: Constructing with construction catalogs. Vol. 3: Connections and closures, finding a solution. 2nd edition Springer, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-540-60782-X .
  • Karlheinz Roth: Constructing with construction catalogs. Vol. 2: Catalogs. 3rd edition Springer, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-540-67026-2 .
  • Rudolf Koller: Construction method for machine, device and plant construction. 1st edition Springer, Berlin 1976, ISBN 3-540-07444-9 .
  • Friedrich Hansen: Construction Science - Basics and Methods. 1st edition Hanser, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-446-11957-4 .
  • Rudolf Koller: Design for mechanical engineering - basics for new and further development of technical products with examples. 3rd edition Springer, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-540-57928-1 .
  • Paul Naefe: Methodical construction. 3rd edition Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2018, ISBN 978-3-658-22635-0 .
  • Paul Naefe; Jörg Luderich: Construction methodology for practice. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2016, ISBN 978-3-658-13871-4


  • Guideline VDI 2221 sheet 1: Development of technical products and systems - model of product development. VDI-Verlag, Düsseldorf Nov 2019.
  • Guideline VDI 2221 Part 2: Development of technical products and systems - design of individual product development processes. VDI-Verlag, Düsseldorf Nov 2019.

Method collections and sources on the Internet

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Dieter Hellige models and historical-social context of the early scientific construction methodology artec-Paper No. 8, January 1991
  2. At the Technical University of Dresden taught Willibald Lichtenheldt already in the 1950s in his lecture Mechanical design the "systematic constructing" the example of the transmission -construction. Cf. Willibald Lichtenheldt: The importance of construction theory for precision mechanics , Scientific Journal of the Technical University of Dresden, 3 (1953/54) Issue 2, pages 211 to 214
  3. Hans Dieter Hellige models and historical-social context of the early scientific construction methodology artec-Paper No. 8, January 1991
  4. Hans Hellige: Hierarchical process control or cooperative management of problematic contexts? On the history of models of the construction process. March 14, 2018 ( [accessed March 14, 2018]).