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The Future Of Making

Optimize Traditional Manufacturing Methods
with Generative Design

Examine how next-generation generative design can be used to help engineers identify and optimize traditional manufacturing methods like CNC machining

Generative design and additive manufacturing are a powerful force, revolutionizing product development and allowing engineers to design and create next-generation products. These two methods complement one another. Generative design creates lighter, stronger, fit-for-purpose parts, while additive manufacturing provides a viable way to make these innovative geometries.

However, additive manufacturing, while making great strides forward, is simply not ready for large-scale production. There are fundamental differences between additive and traditional techniques, in which conventional manufacturing methods remove blocks of material or casting pieces to create the desired shape. This presents manufacturers with a challenge where a novel design that’s perfect in terms of the product requirements cannot be made using traditional manufacturing techniques.

Fortunately, there is another way. This article will examine how next-generation generative design can be used to overcome this issue, helping engineers identify and optimize traditional manufacturing methods to produce innovative designs while balancing production machining and product design requirements.

Issues Gating the Value of Generative Design

Generative design, where a software produces a wide range of possible designs using different approaches including biomimicry, can create wildly innovative products. Biomimicry addresses human challenges by emulating the designs and ideas found in nature, and the resulting designs often have an organic, natural-looking shape. Generative design helps identify these novel design concepts and refines and finalizes mature concepts in the detailed design stages. Engineers are coming up with previously unimaginable design concepts that could disrupt entire markets and industries.

Generative design expands your ability to deliver innovative design.

These novel shapes are often made with few constraints, so additive manufacturing is the perfect technique to produce the designs. But such designs are not suitable for casting and machining techniques, which are the only large-scale methods available to manufacturers at the moment. Engineers must translate these designs into new shapes entirely. Such translation is not always possible. Even if it is possible, the translation requires a significant amount of work, where designs are repurposed, eating into any time gains engineers would have otherwise realized thanks to generative design, and stopping innovation in its tracks.

Manufacturing-Aware Generative Design

Next-generation generative design can resolve this issue. It allows engineers to explore different production outcomes for multiple manufacturing methods, including additive and subtractive techniques.

Subtractive is often defined as 3-axis or 5-axis. Both methods impose various constraints on the design of the product and the manufacturing techniques used, such as the minimum tool diameter and length. There are differences between the techniques. The 3-axis technique uses common machining tools, but is often labor-intensive and not suitable when machining narrow cavities. The 5-axis technique is often faster and requires less material handling, compared to the 3-axis method. It provides a higher degree of precision, thanks to its computer-aided tooling, but it also requires longer preparation times.

MJK Performance uses generative design to optimize triple clamps for 2.5 axis milling. Courtesy of MJK Performance

Thanks to next-generation generative design, engineers can set up the design space and generate outcomes appropriate for both 3-axis and 5-axis techniques to evaluate these manufacturing methods. Engineers can align the setup orientation with the direction of the manufacturing method and match this to the geometry that must be preserved. This allows the exploration of different design possibilities. For example, if the preserved geometry includes cylinders with a hole, but the axis is not aligned to the cutting direction, engineers could evaluate a different geometry, such as a cube instead of a cylinder. Manufacturers can avoid geometry gaps in the resulting outcomes, and export designs for further exploration. Engineers can also clone generative models, without affecting the original model and its outcomes, allowing them to reuse much of their original work.

The Advantages and Benefits

Next-generation generative design provides real value. But this is different from the value realized from traditional generative design in which engineers can create innovative designs that are impossible to manufacture using common production methods. Without next-generation generative design, their innovation could all be in vain; engineers may not be able to come up with any design that is feasible from a production standpoint.

The new generatively designed BAC wheel has been fabricated on a 5-axis mill. Courtesy of BAC.

By adding manufacturing constraints as an input for generative design, engineers can now explore many valid geometric options for a given set of materials, operating conditions, and manufacturing processes. They can evaluate the practicalities of certain manufacturing methods, such as milling or 3D printing, and identify the right balance between production machining requirements and the product design requirements. Next-generation generative design allows companies to find a near-optimal design in less time, thanks to the high degree of automation it provides across the product design lifecycle. This not only speeds up the development process but also frees engineers from the burden of completing repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on optimizing the final product and its manufacturing method. As a result, next-generation generative design allows companies to innovate while using traditional manufacturing methods.

Generative design helps to quickly find near-optimal designs
for 3-axis and 5-axis techniques

Generative design creates innovative geometries with few constraints, which are perfectly suited to additive manufacturing techniques. While additive manufacturing holds great promise, many manufacturers still rely on subtractive production methods and it is not practical to make these novel designs using their existing facilities. To make these designs suitable for subtractive manufacturing methods, engineers must translate these designs into new shapes, which takes time and kills innovation.

Using next-generation generative design, engineers can explore different production outcomes for multiple manufacturing methods, including additive and subtractive techniques. They can evaluate both 3-axis and 5-axis techniques, avoiding geometry gaps and cloning these generative models to further optimize workflows.

Next-generation generative design allows engineers to identify designs that are feasible from a production standpoint. Thanks to automation, they can explore all valid geometric options under specific manufacturing constraints and find a near-optimal design quickly, to expedite the development and deployment of next-generation products.

Generative Design Resource Center

Explore a variety of generative design manufacturing customer stories, articles, ebooks, whitepapers, and infographics.

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