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In an age where impressive technological feats have become the norm to even the most average consumer, it can be hard to sift through all the latest technologies and be awed by any one thing. However, if we look at the world of industrial manufacturing, game-changing technologies and applications are on the horizon; generative design software, for instance, could be the future of custom manufacturing.
Leveraging the power of cutting-edge robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT), generative design is yet another example of how modern technology is drastically transforming the global manufacturing industry. The designers of today will become the “curators” of tomorrow, as generative design software takes on the task of true creation. Here are only some of the many benefits of this new technology.
“Generative design” is not a misnomer. It’s a software that is literally capable of generating thousands of never-before-seen design options based on a set of user-inputted parameters such as height, weight, materials, budget, manufacturing methods and more. These are no mere iterations on human-created designs, but rather entirely new designs that make use of shapes and forms inspired by nature.
Many of which can only be created using the latest additive manufacturing methods and technology. Going beyond the visuals, natural inspiration serves a functional purpose because of its strength, flexibility, and scalability. If generative design takes off, the straight, inflexible lines and edges of a traditional industrial design that are anomalies in nature will likely also become anomalies in the future of the manufacturing industry.
Creative impact aside, generative design can actually also have an impact on the entire manufacturing process because it takes manufacturability into account as one of the many accepted parameters. For instance, by allowing designers to input specific manufacturing methods and materials, generative design tools will only produce options that fit within the given constraints.
As such, the amount of time manufacturers need to spend on prototyping and testing products will be significantly reduced. Instead, they’ll be able to choose from any number of affordable, realistic designs without sinking time, money and resources into tinkering around with concepts that might at the end of the day simply prove to be in-viable.
On that note, generative design can be effective in terms of cutting costs. This is because its algorithms are able to come up with creative solutions that often end up consolidating different parts. The nature-inspired designs that can be created using additive manufacturing technology have been shown to be able to replace anywhere from 2 to 20 (sometimes more) individual parts.
As an added benefit of parts consolidation, product weight is often also significantly reduced, without compromising on load-bearing requirements like flexibility and other such critical factors. As such, by implementing these AI-created designs that make use of consolidated parts, manufacturers can reduce overall maintenance and manufacturing costs.
If all this seems too much like fantasy and not enough like reality, look no further than NASA, who has been making use of generative design technology for about a decade. An early experiment saw them testing out new antenna designs and simulations – thousands of them – until they ended up with a solution that provided double the performance of its human-created predecessor.
Airbus too has reaped the benefits of generative design, finding themselves with a superior product weighing 45 percent less than the original part, thereby reducing the amount of fuel needed to get their A320 aircrafts up and flying. The environmental impact of this is truly impressive. On a smaller scale, even consumer products like Under Armor sneakers are now being put to market thanks to the power of generative design.
Generative design tools aren’t just limited to companies like NASA and other big corporations either. While small manufacturers can certainly face capital cost barriers when trying to adopt new tools and methods, a viable strategy might include looking into working with suppliers that provide Additive Manufacturing as a Service (AMaaS).
Whether you look to your feet or look to the skies, there are small signs everywhere that the world of manufacturing is starting to shift under the influence of generative design. Thanks to the many men and women that have taken online robotics courses, fine art degrees, biochemistry knowledge and more, the world’s leading manufacturers and top innovative companies are transforming software-generated dreams into a reality.