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Subfunctions as Parts of Functions: Some Formal Problems

[+] Author Affiliations
Pieter E. Vermaas

Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

Paper No. DETC2010-28095, pp. 81-90; 10 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 1: 36th Design Automation Conference, Parts A and B
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 15–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4409-0 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3881-5
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


In this paper a proof is presented that shows that the relation between technical functions and their subfunctions in functional descriptions of products can formally not be taken as a relation of parthood. Technical functions of two specific classes are modelled as well as their composition. In this modelling functions are taken as transformations of tokens of flows of energy, material and signals, which makes them proper instances of functions on many engineering accounts of functions. Then it is proved that the relations between the considered functions and their subfunctions do not in general meet the basic postulates of mereology, the theory of parthood relations. The ramification of this proof is that in engineering ontologies the relation between subfunctions and functions should not be described as a formal parthood relation.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME
Topics: Functions



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