Where and how to find bio-inspiration? A comparison of search approaches for bio-inspired design

Mart Willocx*, Amir Ayali, Joost R. Duflou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biologicalisation calls for the integration of biological knowledge in manufacturing. Although biologists have been cataloguing biological knowledge for centuries, for the non-biologist finding this inspiration as input for bio-inspired design is a major challenge. In this paper, three different methods are used to find bio-inspiration for a case study on the clamping interface of a flexible mobile machining unit: the AskNature database, a natural language processing (NLP) approach, drawing on a large corpus of biological publications, and an informal consultation of an expert biologist as could be organised by a design office. The comparison of the retrieved principles with AskNature as a baseline indicates that the NLP approach allows retrieving publications about relevant biological strategies with a good recall performance, without involving an expert. However, extracting the working principles from the biological articles retrieved with the NLP approach is found to be error-prone and time consuming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalCIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Biologicalisation
  • Biologically inspired design
  • Creativity and ideation
  • Design method
  • Knowledge management


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