Generative Design: The Ultimate Engineering Guide

Generative design has quickly become the next big thing in engineering and manufacturing. If you’re an engineer, project manager, planner, or even business person, it is important to understand what generative design is and how you can apply it to different industries.

By coupling artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computing with the creativity of human designers, generative design has the potential to revolutionize the engineering design process. Generative design can be used to solve problems that are too complex for traditional design methods. It can also be used to create designs that are impossible to create by hand.

 Generative design leads the charge for reducing manufacturing costs, improving performance and sustainability, and increasing efficiency throughout the design process. Generative design is changing the role of the engineer from someone who creates one solution to a problem to someone who evaluates an infinite number of solutions to a problem and then focuses on the ones requiring detailed engineering efforts. 

What Is Generative Design?

Generative design is a type of iterative design process. In traditional design processes, engineers start with an idea or a problem and then create a solution. With generative design, engineers start with a set of objectives or constraints and then let the computer create a variety of solutions.

The computer AI – often generative algorithms – explore all the possible permutations of a design to find the best solution. The process is similar to how evolution works. 

In other words, the designer will change the design framework which creates a precise feedback loop to create an optimal and customized design solution to various engineering problems. For example, it can be used to create parts that are more cost-effective and sustainable.

Generative design is often used interchangeably with evolutionary algorithms, optimization, and parametric design. 

The History of Generative Design 

Although generative design seems like new and innovative technology, it has a long history. The origins of generative design can be traced back to the early days of computing in the 1970s when it was used for complex design challenges.

Generative design was first used commercially in the manufacturing industry as there was a demand for more efficient, cost-effective ways to design products. This demand has propelled its adoption in the architecture and construction industries.  In a short period, generative design has grown due to the advancement of more affordable, high performance computing systems . 

Where Is Generative Design Applied?

It’s fair to say that the application of generative design has grown exponentially in a relatively short amount of time. Generative design is now used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, architecture, consumer goods, and more, due to the many complex challenges that engineers face.

Generative design paved the way by boosting performance, sustainability, and efficiency in the design process while lowering manufacturing costs. It’s also helped engineers scale component customization and create design solutions that wouldn’t be possible by hand.

In the automotive industry, for example, generative design is used to create parts that are both strong and lightweight while strengthening weak points and lowering production costs.

At the same time, in the aerospace industry, generative design is used to manufacture lighter-weight parts to help save on fuel costs and emissions. Similarly, it can strengthen various plane components to improve the safety and security of all passengers.

What Is The Difference Between Generative Design and Topology Optimization?

Generative design and topology optimization are not synonymous, but they are often confused because of their similarities. Both are design technologies that have revolutionized the CAD design space, but each has its unique capabilities.

The origins of topology optimization can be traced back to 20 years ago when it was first used for design challenges, now it’s widely available in a variety of software. Its process starts with a human design engineer who designs the CAD model and applies the design parameters. Then, the software runs through millions of calculations to generate a single optimized design which the design engineer then evaluates.

Generative design, on the other hand, doesn’t require a human designer to input any parameters. The computer software runs through millions of design iterations to generate the optimal solution.

Along these lines, it can be said that generative design is the evolution of topology optimization. Generative design utilizes advanced AI to generate the optimal solution while topology optimization requires a human design engineer to input parameters.

How Generative Design is Changing The Role of the Engineer

As technology changes and advances, so does the role of the engineer.

Generative design has changed the role of the engineer from someone who conceptualizes designs and tests them using different hands-on methods to someone who employs generative design software to create, test, and optimize their designs to solve complex design challenges.

Over time, designers have come to rely heavily on computer-aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional (3D) models of their designs in a wide range of industries. Designers now use generative design software to manage the details of the project while they outline the design parameters and performance needs.

Overall, designers no longer need to be as concerned with the details and can instead focus on the bigger picture. Generative design has allowed engineers to become more creative and innovative in their approach to problem-solving. They are more focused on facilitating the conditions for the design solution to succeed and be useful for the specific project application.

What Are The Benefits of Generative Design?

Many benefits come with using generative design, some of which include:

Employ Advanced Manufacturing Processes to Your Advantage

Generative design can help you take advantage of advanced manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing (AM), which is also known as three-dimensional (or 3D) printing.

The ability to use AM gives you the freedom to design complex parts and products that would otherwise be impossible or too expensive to produce using traditional manufacturing methods.

For example, you can use AM to create products with intricate designs, or you can produce parts that are too small or too large to be manufactured using traditional methods.

In addition, AM can help you create products with multiple functions or features that would otherwise require the use of multiple parts.

Concurrent Designs

Another benefit of generative design is that it allows you to create concurrent designs.

Concurrent design is the simultaneous consideration and comparison of multiple design options. Generative design software can quickly generate and compare multiple design options based on the project’s performance criteria you specify.

This is in contrast to traditional design methods, which typically involve the consideration of one design option at a time.

The ability to generate and compare multiple design options quickly can help you save time and money by allowing you to find the best design solution more efficiently.

Accelerated Design Timeline

Traditional design methods can be time-consuming, especially when you need to make changes to the design or test different options. Generative design can help you shorten the design timeline by quickly generating and testing different complex design options.

This can be especially helpful when you’re working on a tight deadline and need to find a design solution quickly to get that competitive edge.

How Generative Design Is Changing The Future of Engineering

Generative design is changing the future of engineering by  helping engineers become more creative and innovative while shortening the design timeline.

Generative design is also changing the role of the engineer from someone who conceptualizes designs and tests them using different hands-on methods to someone who employs generative design software to create, test, and optimize their designs to solve complex design challenges.

By reaping the many benefits of generative design, engineers can create better products faster and more efficiently, which is sure to have a positive impact on the engineering industry as a whole.

Ready to explore all that generative design has to offer? Transcend Design Generator is an intuitive generative design platform that empowers engineers, planners, and developers to quickly and easily create, test, and optimize their designs for critical infrastructure, including water & wastewater treatment facilities and energy assets..

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