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Today we’re going to focus on Generative Design. We’ve noticed a significant uptick in people using the term generative design over the past months. Generative has a lot of overlap with mass customization. Generative design is the use of software and algorithms to evolve designs based on constraints.
Often based on topology optimization software or FEA (finite element analysis tools) the basis could be any data or rules. If you were designing a table using a generative method you’d input the materials, maximum size, and minimum size, costs for your design and any other limits. Software could then model many different outcomes to see which one would be the most efficient.
Survival of the best fit
Instead of a human using CAD to design what is intuitive or best based on their experience, all of the possible solutions to the design problem will be attempted. With generative it is potentially also exciting to combine this with cloud based or AI based solutions. If one would combine it with AR, for example, one could see all of the potential tables in one’s living room before selecting one. By using a computational process to procedurally generate a design, generative can automate design to a certain extent. The human’s work is moved from creating to describing the right rules. Often generative is described as being evolutionary in the sense that the designs with the highest fitness survive. People working with generative also use evolution and the natural world as an inspiration for their designs. One could easily see how a generative design process could play a part in mass customized goods. Generative software could be a path to let consumers create their own things or to based on data create things for them. With generative there is still a human in the loop but that human is not drawing, only selecting.
Joris Laarman’s SoftGradient chair shown above is 3D printed out of Polyurethane based on generative algorithms. Below we can see his Starlings Table which was based on a simulation of a flock of birds flying.
CAD software vendor Autodesk is promoting generative in lots of ways. The company’s Elbo Chair was created through generative methods using it’s Fusion 360 software in Project Dreamcatcher. The company seems to be on the cusp of launching a new generation of generative software tools.
The above wine label is unique each of the 30,000 bottles has a one of a kind label made with generative design software.
Mhox is an innovative design studio that has used generative software to make futuristic masks.
Under_armor_architect shoes have generatively designed soles.
Airbus has used generative design to make prototypes for aircraft parts.
Generative design has a real future as a buzzword. This is not meant to be coy but if all of the current developments in data driven design and algorithmic CAD get placed under the word “generative design” then it is possible that this will be the term by which this movement is known to the public. We can already see that it is easy for journalists to tie in ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence to this term as well.
For us, it is clear that much is happening to bring about the more efficient use of software in design. By combining this with useful real world data the objects of the future could be more efficient. We see this movement happen in CAD, mass customization, 3D modeling, in design and architecture. We think that it will have fundamental impacts on the world especially when tied to 3D printing and other digital manufacturing methods. Will this be known as generative design or another term?