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The Future Of Making

Does Generative Design Work
in the Real World?

Image courtesy of General Motors

By targeting the right problems, companies can apply generative design in a number of different ways to yield value-added benefits.

Generative design can seem to be a panacea for manufacturing woes. It promises to solve engineering challenges and devise innovative design solutions inconceivable to the human mind.

Using generative design, engineers or designers input design goals and other parameters, such as product performance requirements, cost constraints, and materials. Then, the generative design solution explores many possible design iterations before suggesting an improved solution that’s viable from design and production standpoints. Engineers can filter and select the best outcome depending on initial requirements.

But generative design has constraints and requirements, like any other manufacturing tool. Organizations need trained designers or engineers to understand and input boundary conditions. They also require sufficient computational power to run simulations, and may need to conduct post-processing activities. The trick to getting value out of generative design is to target the right problems. Then companies can apply generative design in a number of different ways to yield value-added benefits for their products and production lines.

Generative design helps explore feasibility in concept design

One way to apply generative design is to explore the vast range of feasible designs it creates during the concept design phase.

Generative design solutions cycle through possible design iterations within predefined constraints, exploring many working combinations. This quickly generates a vast amount of potential design solutions.

Generative design produces a variety of innovative design concepts. Courtesy of Edera Safety

Users may generate hundreds or thousands of possibilities, depending on their requirements. This number of iterations would be impossible for a human engineer to analyze effectively. The analysis would require many hours of work, and engineers could easily miss a promising design.

Generative design provides a wealth of automation capabilities to help filter and select the best outcome. Users uncover geometries that will work well within given design constraints, while also eliminating human bias. Automation also enables them to prioritize different elements during this analysis. They could prioritize lightweight designs, for example, or performance improvements or sustainability goals, and so on.

Automation is a huge boon for companies that push the envelope in design and engineering. It allows them to discover innovative solutions at minimal cost and time.

Using generative design to find better options for existing parts

Generative design can also refine existing designs or design spaces to find better-performing products. The software could redesign a table that supports a minimum weight, costs a maximum amount to manufacture, and uses a specific material. Instead of the usual flat surface and four legs, a generative design solution may suggest a range of alien-looking tables.

Using generative design for lightweighting the wheel for the new BAC Mono. Courtesy of BAC

One of generative design’s strengths is the way it explores innovative shapes, which are often outside of the bounds of the human imagination, but within the bounds of previous constraints and requirements. Generative design can also enable the design of cheaper, lighter components which minimize mass and material use.

It isn’t necessary to overhaul production environments to realize these novel designs, either. Leading-edge generative design solutions now come with capabilities that allow the inclusion of traditional manufacturing constraints, making this approach more accessible. This includes constraints for techniques such as:

Machining: Generative design can balance conflicting machining requirements for a specific production environment. Users can investigate how to employ traditional mills to optimize 3D parts by exploring three- and five-axis milling methods using generative design.

Casting: Generative design can develop increasingly organic shapes using casting techniques, while complying with casting constraints. Users can account for draw directions and observe minimum and maximum thickness requirements.

Additive manufacturing: Generative design and additive manufacturing have strong links, allowing engineers to uncover new product possibilities thanks to the design freedoms both techniques enable. These two next-generation methods have revolutionized past development and production processes. However, constraints and restrictions remain. The materials used in additive manufacturing are often more limited compared to traditional techniques. Other issues must be taken into account, including material shrinkage, the inclusion of support structures, and optimizing nesting configurations in the print space.

Some generative design solutions now incorporate cost measures as requirements and constraints. This helps companies evaluate low-cost materials, cost-effective designs, and different manufacturing techniques. Ultimately, generative design aids in making more informed decisions that can protect a product’s profit margins.


Generative design is often regarded as the epitome of design perfection. Yet, it has constraints and requirements, like any other tool. Organizations can apply generative design a number of different ways to yield benefits.

One way to apply generative design is to explore options during the concept creation stage. Generative design’s automation capabilities uncover many new geometries that may work well within given design constraints. This is a highly beneficial strategy for companies that are innovating in the design and engineering space.

Another way to apply generative design is to refine existing designs, or design spaces, to optimize them. Some generative design solutions allow users to include manufacturing constraints, making this approach more feasible. This includes defining manufacturing constraints for machining, casting, and additive manufacturing. Some solutions also incorporate cost measures as requirements and constraints, allowing companies to make more informed decisions to protect product profit margins.


Generative Design Resource Center

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

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