Are modular products larger than integral products?

Thomas Celona, Christopher Embry-Pelrine, Katja Hölttä-Otto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Modularity, the use of structurally independent building blocks (modules), has become a common strategy in many companies due to its numerous economical benefits. One of the disadvantages mentioned with modularity is the possible larger size of the modular products compared to their integral counterparts. For example, modular products are claimed to be larger and heavier due to the space and weight taken by the additional interfaces not needed in integral products. There is, however, no quantitative investigation whether modular design leads to larger or heavier products. We will, in this paper, show the relationship of product size and the degree of modularity. We use two pre-existing modularity metrics to measure the modularity of the products and a packaging factor to measure the use of space in the product. We investigated the relationship of product's degree of modularity and its Packaging Factor in a case study of four product pairs of similar function: cellular phone & desk phone, laptop computer & desktop computer, walkman & boom box cassette player, portable CD player & standalone CD player. We found that modular products use space less efficiently than their integral counterparts. In general, the modular products were also larger, but the larger size was not necessary for the functionality of the products. We therefore conclude that modular products do not have to be larger than integral products and thus the size should not be a reason not to pursue modularity if the other benefits of modularity are sought after.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of ICED 2007, the 16th International Conference on Engineering Design
VolumeDS 42
Publication statusPublished - 2007
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventInternational Conference on Engineering Design - Paris, France
Duration: 28 Jul 200731 Jul 2007
Conference number: 16


ConferenceInternational Conference on Engineering Design
Abbreviated titleICED


  • Modularity
  • Product architecture

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