Generative design and 3D printing are buzzwords that everyone has come across in the past years. No wonder, as they has the potential to disrupt the way we manufacture things and spark innovation.
Read this article to learn:
- What generative design is
- How generative design works
- The benefits of generative design
- Examples of using generative design
What is generative design?
In its essence, generative design is an iterative design process using designated software. With software, you generate a number of designs that meet requirements you may have on the part you want to manufacture. In the software, you input parameters, constraints, intended outputs, requirements, materials, and manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing.
To create multiple designs, the software explores all possible solutions and permutations. As a result, you can create innovative structures that are perfectly optimized according to your requirements.
However, many people often mistake generative design for topology optimization. Although the two concepts are related, they have different meanings. Topology optimization optimizes a set design to satisfy requirements such as strength, weight, cooling, or flow. Generative design is more about exploring several options and possibilities. Using generative design, you can efficiently evaluate a multitude of design outcomes.
How does generative design and 3D printing work?
When engineers and designers work on a customer’s project, they must take into account several requirements. With a generative design process, you don’t have to start from scratch. You tell your software what you want, set your goals, and specify the parameters. There is no need for a geometry at the start.
Generative design software gives you hundreds of design options. But it will also be able to analyze the design in depth and determine which is the most efficient. You can use this method to explore design options to get the best part.
Software allowing generative design options use cloud computation and machine learning to explore new solutions. The software tests and learns from all the iterations what is working and what is not. Generative design is available as part of some CAD software on the market. One example is the function Topology Study in SOLIDWORKS Simulation. Using Topology Study, you start with a maximum design space and the software considers all applied loads, fixtures, and manufacturing constraints. The software then seeks a new material layout and distribution, within the boundaries of the allowed geometry. Here’s a more in-depth article on SOLIDWORKS Simulation and topology optimization.
There is also TruForm SW, an integrated simulation software solution for SOLIDWORKS. With TruForm SW you get a powerful method to reduce mass and material cost, identify and resolve design issues and optimize designs for additive manufacturing.
Oftentimes, but not always, the final step is manufacturing using a 3D printer. Depending on complexity, material and properties, many parts that have been created using generative design, can only be produced using 3D printing. You can read more about the different 3D printing technologies here.
What are the benefits of generative design?
The key advantages of employing generative design can be summarized in three bullets:
Create design alternatives that are unique: With generative design software, you can create geometries that are beyond what people can imagine, increasing human product design capabilities.
Achieve lighter weight for part or assembly: Engineers can use generative design to build lightweight parts with the least amount of material while conforming to engineering constraints.
Consolidate parts: Subassemblies can be consolidated into a single part with generative design. Consolidating parts simplifies assembly and maintenance while also lowering production costs.
Examples of generative design and 3D printing
Generative design has a wide range of applications, especially in highly advanced and technological projects. Below are some examples of how generative design and additive manufacturing can help you.
Volkswagen’s revamped microbus
An engineering team from Volkswagen’s Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC) reimagined and retrofitted a classic 1962 VW Microbus with cutting-edge technologies like electric propulsion and generative braking, which are expected to play a significant role in the future of the auto industry.
The team concentrated on increasing strength while reducing weight. Finding weight savings wherever possible is one of the most important components of building electric vehicles, because the lighter an automobile is, the less energy is necessary to move it down the road. Reduced energy consumption means more range per charge, which is one of the most important factors for consumers when deciding on an electric vehicle. By, using generative design, the team was able to:
- Create new wheels 18% lighter than a standard set
- Re-imagine the steering wheel, external side mirrors and the support structure for the seating area
- Reduce the overall development time to manufacturing time, shortening the 1.5 year-cycle down to a few months
NuVasive’s optimized implants
Generative design can be utilized in the medical field to build implants that mimic the porous nature of human bone. Titanium implants are created by NuVasive, a medical business based in the United States, using their patented design optimization software and metal 3D printing. Only additive manufacturing allows for latticed, asymmetric, lightweight designs, which are possible with the software.
Modulus is a titanium implant that has been tailored for bone fusion with the appropriate porosity. In comparison to other implant materials, the business claims better ongrowth and ingrowth. The porous surface’s enhanced surface area and wicking capabilities improves blood-to-implant interaction. Modulus was established to try to replicate the modulus of bone as closely as possible.
The business accomplished this by developing algorithms that create a proprietary framework that optimizes the implant’s performance. It’s critical work that can improve on existing techniques and procedures. At the same time, these structures and algorithms can be patented and protected.
Lightweight Bicycle Rocker by Robot Bike
US based Robot Bike Co approached GRM Consulting to use their SOLIDWORKS topology optimisation software, TruForm SW. They chose TruForm SW to guarantee their new components were as lightweight and cost effective as possible before building their R130 mountain bike.
The first component that Robot Bike Co improved was a frame-mounted rocker that gives better suspension. Robot Bike Co was able to lower the mass of the rocker by 27%. They could also enhance torsional stiffness and reduce stress by over 50% using the TruForm SW software.
Generative design contributes to sustainability
The use of generative design eliminates mental barriers to human creativity. It generates shapes and geometries you might never consider. It is also a fantastic way to come up with new design ideas. The method also contributes to using less material and less energy.
By enabling the production of lightweight parts, industries such as automotive and aerospace can make vehicles and aeroplanes more fuel efficient, thus more sustainable. By optimizing the design and lowering the amount of material required to make the part. Consolidation is not forgotten in generative design. Obtaining a sturdy part will undoubtedly be advantageous, as it will save total maintenance and production expenses. Because of the design flexibility offered by modern manufacturing techniques, entire assemblies can be replaced by a single part.