Software as a draft designer – IT&Production

Generative design

If goals are overlooked during product development, unplanned iterations can quickly delay projects. Generative design aims to avoid this. Based on given parameters, the software calculates suitable design proposals.

 (Image: Autodesk GmbH)

(Image: Autodesk GmbH)

A product and its components usually go through several iterations before they are ready for the market. Planned and unplanned optimization loops occur when, for example, target values ​​such as production and material costs, weight or resilience are not initially achieved.

Design proposal with cost estimate

One way to meet the specified parameters is through generative design. With this approach, different design variants can be created and evaluated. Users specify the respective requirements and constraints, such as a selection of preferred materials, planned quantities and possible production methods, and the software then suggests different solutions, including cost estimates. As a result, there are also possibilities that the designers may not have had in mind before. This is ensured by algorithms that are calculated in the cloud. Other areas involved, such as production or procurement, can also be involved early in the development process.


potential for the industry

The first industrial applications of this technology can primarily be found in the automotive, mobility and aerospace industries. There, the weight reduction while maintaining the performance parameters provides advantages in the product life cycle. Every gram that does not have to be lifted by air or otherwise moved saves money and also reduces energy and emissions during operation. There is also potential in material and weight savings for mechanics and construction engineering. For example, when it comes to production automation and work safety, lightweight constructions can provide advantages. In addition, generative design can be used for subtractive, additive and combined manufacturing processes. In current research projects, for example, toolmakers are working on the combination of additive manufacturing and milling to produce injection molds with generatively created, contour-close cooling channels. In the first prototypes, 20 percent shorter cooling times could be achieved in the injection molding process.

Until now, generative design has been particularly suitable for rigid components.  (Image: Autodesk GmbH)

Until now, generative design has been particularly suitable for rigid components. (Image: Autodesk GmbH)

Enable use in early project phases

To increase the acceptance of generative design in design departments, Autodesk is working to apply the approach via so-called ‘Automated Modeling’ to the early modeling phases of the design process. The goal is to speed up the creation of geometric shapes and thus expand its application to daily construction activities. Unlike the functionalities of generative design described at the beginning, no loads and forces, materials or manufacturing information need to be defined in advance with this approach. Connections, shots or supports can be created by selecting two separate bodies together with areas to be cut out.

Where are the boundaries?

Autodesk is also working on adding new physics features and manufacturing processes to generative design workflows. The technology is still geared towards creating individual components, for example for rigid structures or in fluid power applications. The use in assemblies or systems where kinematic or multi-physical interactions play a role in the functionality is only possible to a limited extent. In addition, generative design is based on linear and static physical assumptions. The technology is currently reaching its limits when it comes to influencing factors such as fatigue, vibration or other non-linearities. And even if the path goes towards generative design, simulation and validation tools will remain relevant. The same applies to the assessment of engineers and the extended teams, which cannot be mapped into an algorithm. There are many – sometimes conflicting – parameters that need to be taken into account in the product development process, including accessibility, reusability and last but not least, aesthetics.


Good results require specialist knowledge

For targeted use of generative design, it is therefore important to be aware of the areas of application. Currently, the technology can be used in conjunction with rigid bodies or liquids, which requires a thorough understanding of environmental parameters and requirements. Without it, users cannot expect proper results. Furthermore, the technology is not a complete replacement for the development and construction process. A final evaluation and, if necessary, adjustments regarding aesthetic aspects, functional validation and manufacturing steps are still required. Therefore, generative design must be seen as a complementary tool.

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