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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Beyond Generative Design

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Generative Design Generative Design happens to be a hot topic and one that we will be covering at the upcoming 2019 PLM Market & Industry Forum events that will be taking place around the world in April. Let's get started with the blog!

Generative Design (GenDes) is a phrase for tools which are able to generate designs (product shape and material selection) from statements of requirements and constraints. There is now great excitement in some quarters over the potential of generative design tools, especially topology optimization. What comes next?

GenDes tools like shape and topology optimization were (commercially) developed around 1990, but they generally failed to take hold. The applications were difficult to use, computers were not fast enough and, most importantly, they generated designs that could not be made with available, traditional manufacturing methods.

The next 20 years saw the development of additive manufacturing (often referred to as 3D printing) and by 2010 it was clear that additive manufacturing of high-performance metallic production parts would be possible. This has caused a resurgence of interest in GenDes among software suppliers and in research and academia. The burgeoning academic interest has resulted in a number of start-up companies, whose technology, in most cases, has leapfrogged that of the original suppliers.

Computers are 100,000 times faster, there are new advanced materials (composites, polymers), software is easier to use, improvements in computational geometry and user interface design. It’s not just using additive manufacturing to make parts we could not manufacture before.

Companies are using GenDes and additive manufacturing to redesign parts that had been optimized before (Airbus, bulkheads), to make production high-performance metallic parts (GE, engine fan blades), and for parts consolidation (GE, engine fuel injector). Companies are avoiding the need for mass-produced parts by using these techniques to make tooling (that will then be used for mass production).

Nonetheless, there are a number of technical and process gaps to be overcome. Further advances are needed for data representations in CAD systems (e.g., lattice structures), and in data flow between elements of the Gen Des process.

The two major technologies that contribute to the innovative potential of Gen Design today are Additive Manufacturing and Advanced Materials, see Figure. 1 below.

Figure 1. Generative Design and Associated Technologies

Here we see that GenDes swims in a sea of other technologies.

A primary enabler is computer and software power. Compared to a few decades ago, computers are infinitely fast and vanishingly cheap. Today, we don’t care that many GenDes algorithms rely on heuristics, or brute-force guesswork. This idea, where the computer does the heavy lifting and the human is given choices to explore, has been called Human-Assisted Design or Generative Engineering by others.

This vision of the future relies on data availability through digital product definition, Industry 4.0, IoT, etc., and analysis through Big Data analytics and Robust design techniques. This is then overlaid with Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning to create an Augmented Intelligence environment that will revolutionize product development over the PLM lifecycle.

”Generative Engineering” is a classification that includes tools (beyond generative design) which explore the design space and options for product configuration in some human-assisted way. The phrase also describes the process of using these tools all the way from product ideation to production manufacturing; for example, including Architecture Exploration with Functional System Modeling. We will explore knowledge and organizational requirements for businesses to effectively exploit these technologies.

CIMdata will highlight this topic at its upcoming 2019 PLM Market & Industry Forum events, which this year will take place in Ann Arbor MI on April 4; Frankfurt, Germany on April 11; Pune, India on April 15; Beijing, China on April 19, and Tokyo, Japan on April 24.

Key takeaways from the discussion on this topic will include:

  • Understanding what generative design is.
  • Knowing what is causing the renewed interest and excitement in generative design.
  • An awareness of the capabilities of available commercial offerings.
  • Knowing what the required technology advances and changes are.
  • Understanding what generative engineering is.
  • A vision for a future Augmented Intelligence environment that exploits these technologies.
  • Knowledge and and awareness of the organizational considerations needed to be successful with Generative Design and Generative Engineering.


Keith Meintjes

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