Abstract The design of machining fixtures is a highly complex process that relies on designer experience and his/her implicit knowledge to achieve a good design. In order to facilitate its automation by the development of a knowledge-based application, the explicit definition of the fixture design process and the knowledge involved is a prior and a fundamental task to undertake. Additionally, a fundamental and well-known engineering principle should be considered: the functional requirements and their associated constraints should be the first input to any design process. Considering these two main ideas, this paper presents the development undertaken to facilitate the automation of the fixture design process based on a functional approach. In this context, the MOKA methodology has been used to elicit fixtures knowledge. IDEF0 and UML have been used to represent the fixture design process. A methodology based on the function concept and aiming to formalize such design process is proposed. Fixture functional requirements have been defined and formalized. Functional fixtures elements have been used to create a functional design solution, the link of these elements with the functional requirements and with typical commercial fixture components has been defined via tables and rules mapping. And finally, a prototype knowledge-based application has been developed in order to make an initial validation of the proposed methodology.