Engineering design often involves the integration of new design ideas into existing products, requiring designers to think simultaneously about abstract properties and functions as well as concrete solution constraints. Often designers struggle to reason with functional descriptions, while not fixating on existing solutions. This paper introduces the Contact & Channel Model (C&CM) approach, which combines abstract functional models of technical systems with the concrete geometric descriptions that many designers are familiar with. By locating functions at working surface pairs, they receive a concrete location in mental models. The C&CM approach can be applied to analyze existing product descriptions and synthesize creative new solutions for parts of the system or for entire new systems. At the moment the approach is being developed into an complete modeling and problem solving approach. C&CM has been used for several years in undergraduate engineering teaching at the University of Karlsruhe (TH) and is increasingly being introduced into industry by its use in research and development projects, by its students and its alumni
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