A unified life-cycle engineering design (ULCED) system embodying conceptual design, detailed design, redesign, design for manufacturing, and design maintainability forms the basis of a new computer-based design discipline for improving the overall quality of manufactured goods. The objective of such a system is to review, evaluate, and analyze the entire life cycle of a product and to incorporate, in an integrated fashion, life-cycle knowledge within the design process. Individual CAD/CAM/CAE software, developed under various programming environments and operating systems, and on various types of computer hardware, have met with only limited success in achieving total computational integration. At the initial stages of development of such a system exploration of both technologically and economically feasible architectures is of critical importance. Two ULCED system architectures, broadly classified as shared-tool and distributed-tool, are described and compared on the basis of current computer hardware, available commercial software and data bases, and existing computer programming environments. Important evaluation issues to be considered include implementation costs and complexity and the feasibility of system creation.