Humans are great. But humans aren’t terrifically suited to exploring every conceivable option in a matter of seconds when it comes to problem-solving. We are bound by our knowledge, experiences, energy, and time. AI, on the other hand, is only bound by the availability of data and is uniquely suited to explore all the options. Generative design allows engineers and designers access to all the options within a problem’s data set. Now, once unimaginable designs are becoming the norm.
It seems the need for faster, more efficient, lighter, and more durable designs is insatiable. The military needs its troops supplied with the best available solutions, infrastructure needs strength at reduced costs and timelines, and virtually every industry is looking for ways to produce more efficient and effective products. Generative design, when combined with other advanced manufacturing methods like 3D printing, is answering this seemingly ever-present call for advancement.
AI makes possible things that were once inconceivable. As our agencies look for the best of these new options, the workforce must have the training to match the advancements in technology, if we hope to take important strides forward.
Recently, we sat down with Synergis Technologies’, David Taylor who hosted a recent webinar entitled, An Intro to Generative Design. In our talk, David discussed generative design, the reality of these possibilities, and what our agencies need to do to take advantage of the technological windfall that generative design appears to be.
Here’s what David had to say:
GovDesignHub (GDH): What is generative design? How does it differ or overlap with other advanced manufacturing methods?
David Taylor: In engineering, there is a design problem, and a human must come up with a solution for that problem. Generative design is the process that involves software, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence to generate the design iterations that meet requirements to solve those problems. At the base level, generative design uses biometric algorithms derived from nature to “grow” and optimize the design geometry.
GDH: What is the major advantage of generative design?
David Taylor: Generative design allows designers and engineers to get past the human limitation of realizing a design. Since the software uses cloud computing, there can be multiple design solutions within a shorter time and can advance us ahead of the traditional geometric shapes that we are so accustomed to. This methodology is all within the reach of solving the criteria which were set up to solve these issues. We are essentially talking about the purest embodiment of “form follows function.”
GDH: How does generative design increase sustainability efforts for organizations? In the webinar, you mention some key areas: cost, weight, number of available solutions. Can you give any examples (especially government applications) of how this has been realized?
David Taylor: Generative design creates solutions for only what is needed, therefore cutting down on material and weight. It can also combine multiple part assemblies into a single part, reducing fabrication and tolerance issues. With the usage of additive manufacturing to produce the designs, we can limit the waste byproduct.
Some real-life examples of generative design are the weight optimization solution with Airbus commercial plane partitions and the multi-part to single part automobile buckle with General Motors.
GDH: How do you see generative design being useful for governmental agencies or the U.S. military?
David Taylor: Combining multiple parts into a single part could cut down on reliability issues in the field. Weight and strength optimizations are highly essential for applications in mobility. Thinking about how harsh military environments can be, a simple, strong, light, and reliable part would be an absolute advantage.
GDH: What skill sets are needed to reap the benefits of generative design?
David Taylor: 3D CAD modeling knowledge should be a base skill, along with some minor knowledge of the simulation criteria, like loads & constraints, to apply to the software. Generative design can be taught to any level of engineering user, as the software workflow is simple to understand.
GDH: Often when newer ideas enter the marketplace, technology and training are barriers. What are the barriers for entry for generative design?
David Taylor: Usually companies are hesitant to implement designs that are so new and different. We must overcome the issue of trusting the software and believe the outcomes, no matter how much they differ from our legacy thought process.
We also look at how these unique parts are produced, especially when they are of large size and are done in huge quantities. Smaller parts are easier, as they can be made quickly and less expensive with additive manufacturing. There has been a large push to implement more and more traditional manufacturing methods within the generative design software and there have been several gains in the milling and die-casting areas.
GDH: Are there any methodologies or ways of thinking that need to be adopted to pursue generative design? Is there anything specific to the public sector that would be helpful to consider in adapting to generative design principles?
David Taylor: I believe we all just need to try it. Even if it isn’t for a finalized production design, we can use generative design for conceptualizing and realizing revisions of our legacy geometry. If we have designs that are the same for 60+ years, and we want to see what is possible for optimization, we can input the problem into generative design and see where our “human-based” design is lacking.
GDH: What do you see as a likely projection for the impact of generative design in the marketplace?
David Taylor: As additive manufacturing becomes cheaper and larger items can be produced, then generative design will open to new possibilities, such as large building or mechanical structures. In the coming years, I believe more traditional methods of manufacture will be implemented into the software and we will see more industry acceptance for all types of design.