Remember ever looking at similarities between a bird and a plane? We, humans, have always strived towards making designs which best serve their function, but we weren’t always the best at it. Sometimes, we tried to find answers in nature, other times we struggled to build our own models – and went through trial and error.
So far, we’ve been quite successful in satisfying our design needs, but what if we could do, everything, just a bit better, or even optimize it to the best possible outcome? Imagine a car – lighter, stronger, and more efficient than ever before, for less price. It would be great and I believe it could change the way we view transport, or any other field this might affect.
What I’m talking about is generative design, a new Autodesk design software, which allows a designer to specify what the design needs to accomplish, along with the constraints which the design element has to fit, if it is, for example, a part of a larger product, or has to be made of a particular material. With that information, a computer generates various possible designs using deep learning algorithms and artificial intelligence.
The outcome is rather strange, non-conventional looking – perhaps alien in a way, but yet familiar. It reminds of nature, with structures similar to bones, which took evolution millions of years to achieve the form that they have today. However, aside from the looks, generative design also brings a lot of benefits. The node in the photo above features a weight reduction of 75 percent while retaining the strength and function.
The designs made by this software are rather complex and still expensive to manufacture, but the time for such products is appropriate with the advancements and lowering costs in the 3D-printing technology. Today, we can 3D-print most of the widely used industrial materials such as nylon, resin, steel, titanium and even ceramic.
In partnership with Autodesk, General Motors, an American vehicle company used this software to produce a concept seat bracket, 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original counterpart. Because of reduction costs, the goal is further optimization in additive manufacturing required for the possibility to introduce such products to a larger market.
Companies such as Airbus and Under Armour are already using this technology for constructing airplane cabin frames and sneaker soles. Besides the product optimization, generative design removes the element of the designer’s imagination from the design process and reduces the negative impact of the product assembly on the environment.
Does that mean that everything will look this organic in the future? Probably not (in the upper picture, for example, the car body can still look like a car), but the fundamental design elements like frames or base structures will most likely be optimized to their fullest degree. I can’t wait to see the application of this technology in the near future, and what it might bring.
Disclaimer: The photos in this post are not mine and I do not hold any rights to these photos.