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What is generative design?

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What is generative design?

Generative design is transforming the product design process, enabling designers and engineers to create high-performing design alternatives for engineering and manufacturing product development. Our in-house consultant design and visualisation manager, Paul Tallon, explains how generative design can help lightweight and improve products leaving you with a final product that’s more efficient, sustainable and durable.

Generative design is a relatively new tool in the arsenal of the product designer that can solve engineering and manufacturing challenges through machine learning capabilities. It is a design process that doesn’t produce one single solution but multiple solutions, allowing product designers or the customer to pick an outcome that best fits their needs.

Generative design is the main draw for designers and engineers, melding together natural structure or biomimetics with mathematically derived shapes to produce a structure that can be fantastically efficient in both weight reduction and strength coefficients, or, for less apparent benefits such as supply chain efficiency, fuel consumption and assembly time, to name but a few .

Reducing the global carbon footprint is a key priority and generative design will play a significant part as it transforms the future of product design by creating parts using less material, in less time, generating less waste.

How does generative design work?

Generative design is a form of machine learning that allows designers or engineers to explore possible solutions to create or refine a product by inputting parameters and objectives for the desired final version using specialist software and algorithms.

Alternative solutions are then generated, tested and learnt from to determine what works and what doesn’t. The process can develop ideas, often hundreds, that might not have even been thought of. It is then the role of the product designer or engineer to filter out the solutions to find the best one that suits the client’s needs. This may also form part of the ideation cycle.

Additive manufacture complements the generative design process by allowing designers and engineers to rapidly turnaround new parts and create them in real-time. Using testing and validation technology, such as X-Ray CT, can also internally inspect the durability of the product and detect any defects before embarking on large scale production. This is particularly important for generatively designed parts as their geometries can be very complex and therefore difficult to inspect by conventional means.

Which sectors is generative design most beneficial?

Generative design can be used across a wide range of sectors, including engineering, manufacturing, architectural, construction, aerospace and automotive.

A great example of generative design is in the aerospace and automotive sectors where light weighting is crucial. For example, in aerospace, it is critical for fuel consumption to be reduced in an aircraft and space to be maximised for an increase in passenger comfort whilst still adhering to the safety requirements of governing aviation bodies.

Through generative design, it is possible for parts to be generated with 60% reduction in mass whilst maintaining or even increasing structural integrity. This is an incredibly beneficial consideration for the future of manufacturing, as larger structures will need to be considered more thoroughly for their ecological impact, therefore, the requirement for materials could be alleviated by the usage of generative design.

However, the technology for generative design combined with additive manufacture is still evolving, with the infrastructure for testing and validation yet to catch up, which is hindering the application of this much-needed technology.

Generative design and additive manufacture at the 3M BIC

At the 3M BIC, we have all the requisite expertise to develop products for additive design and generative design with a fully fleshed validation process to suit all needs, providing a holistic approach to product development.

This is further backed by our key anchor tenant NPL that specialises in the measurement of highly critical elements.

We have worked with numerous industries using generative design, such as heavy engineering, rail, automotive and aerospace.

If you are interested in how generative design can support your product development, why not contact the design team today? We can take your product or demonstrate with a sample how generative design can be beneficial to your business.

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