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May 14, 2019

Generative Design Meets Traditional Manufacturing: The Claudius Peters Story

For 113 years, German manufacturing company Claudius Peters has been a leader in the heaviest of heavy industry—creating, delivering, and installing large-scale industrial machinery all over the world. Their clinker cooler is just one example of what they make: it’s a massive machine half the length of a football field used to cool molten rock (or “clinker”) fresh from the kiln to make cement.

Thomas Nagel of Claudius Peters
Thomas Nagel tells the Claudius Peters story at AU Las Vegas 2018.

And while Claudius Peters carries a long legacy as a traditional manufacturer, they are actively embracing new digital technologies and new approaches to making to become more sustainable and avoid being disrupted by younger competitors. One example: Chief Digital Officer and Operations Director Thomas Nagel and his team have partnered with Autodesk to reinvent parts of the clinker cooler using generative design.

Claudius Peters Clinker Cooler
Claudius Peters’ clinker cooler is used to cool molten rock to make cement.


“Digital transformation is not a project; it’s an inner attitude. The questions of today and tomorrow will not be solved by the knowledge and experience of yesterday.” —Thomas Nagel, Chief Digital Officer, Claudius Peters

After just one generative design session, the team created a new design for an important component that was 30-40% lighter than the previous one their design department had optimized themselves. What’s more, because additive manufacturing is not yet a viable option for a part like this, they were able to enter constraints so that it could be manufactured using traditional subtractive methods, proving that generative design can be a useful tool in a range of industries.

GD part
The generatively designed part was lighter, simpler, more easily available, and more cost efficient.

The success of this first experiment has inspired the company to use generative design as a standard for examining and optimizing all existing parts, as well as designing new ones. And generative design is just the beginning—they’re also embracing reality capture, cloud-based collaboration, and simulation tools like FEM analysis. With each effort, they’re creating parts that are more efficient and cost effective, while also easier to transport.

You can read more about Claudius Peters at

Watch the video

Thomas Nagel shared the Claudius Peters story at AU 2018 as part of the Product Design & Manufacturing Keynote. Don’t miss his insightful talk (video: starting at 23:53 min.). 

Related learning

Curious about generative design and how it can work for you? Check out these related AU sessions:

Autodesk Generative Design Tools for Industrial Designers

Fusion 360 can be used as part of your generative design exploration strategy. Learn how to use the generative design tools in a workflow in Paul Sohi’s instructional demo (video: 74:49 min.).

Seamless Generative Design to Manufacturing

If you’re considering adding generative design to your manufacturing, make sure you take a look at Steven Szymeczek and Matt Lemay’s downloadable handout from their industry talk.

Generative Design and Additive Manufacturing in Automotive: The Future of Making Cars

Dr. Markus Fricke was inspired at AU a few years ago when he heard the Dreamcatcher team discuss generative design. When he returned to Germany, he couldn’t stop thinking about how the technology could help his team at BMW. Eventually he convinced his team to try GD on a new motorcycle (video: 30:46 min.).