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In Case You Missed ’Em: 6 Examples of Generative Design in Manufacturing

generative manufacturing vw steering wheel design

In just a few short years, generative design has taken the manufacturing industry by storm.

Thanks to its ability to both produce never-seen-before designs and reimagine existing items in lighter and more efficient ways, manufacturers of all sizes have been using generative design increasingly for everything from heavy machinery to safety harnesses. Although the technology is still fairly nascent, its promise is revolutionary, and the industry is taking note in cool and surprising ways.

If you missed these or simply want a refresher, please take a look back at these six examples of generative design in manufacturing from Redshift this year.

1. Generative Design Holds the Key to the Future of Cool, Fuel-Efficient Car Design

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Volkswagen Innovation & Engineering Center California, the company wanted to do something that would represent its DNA while showcasing technology that will become significant within the automotive industry. So the team took a classic 1962 VW Bus and retrofitted it with the latest technology, which included using generative design to reimagine the wheel rims, wing-mirror arms, and other parts.

“From a designer standpoint, I have to say, it just looks cool,” says Andrew Morandi, senior product designer at Volkswagen Group of America. “It’s absolutely a totally new aesthetic and something I believe we’re going to start seeing more of in new concepts and new vehicles moving forward.” Watch the video.

2. Japan’s DENSO Takes on the Engine Control Unit, a Small but Mighty Auto Part

To meet the global auto industry’s need for improved engine performance and reduced vehicle weight, DENSO Corporation started by focusing on a component small enough to fit in the palm of your hand: the engine control unit (ECU). The ECU is an electronic fuel-injection control system that determines the required fuel supply for the engine. It plays a critical role by optimizing the amount and timing of fuel injected, which can improve driving performance and reduce emissions. Akira Okamoto, DENSO’s project assistant manager of product design, used generative design to modify the ECU to be lighter while ensuring it retained heat-dispersing properties, achieving results in a short period of time. Read the article.

philippe starck ai chair

3. From Analog Ideas to Digital Dreams, Philippe Starck Designs the Future With AI

To add to his extensive portfolio of designs for furniture, household objects, hotels, and even space travel, French visionary Philippe Starck collaborated with Italian contemporary-furniture maker Kartell and Autodesk Research to create a chair through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). With Starck providing the overarching vision for the chair, advanced generative-design algorithms helped meet Kartell’s injection-molding manufacturing requirements.

As impressive as Starck’s design work is, he admits that even his human imagination has its limitations. “Obviously, with the upcoming arrival of a talented AI, the situation will change,” he says. “In a few years, it might be possible that I would be able to increase my creative potential with this tool.” Read the article.

4. What a Big Leap Forward in Humanoid Robot Design Could Mean for the Human Body

Roboy 2.0 is an ambitious interdisciplinary project from a university in Germany to design a robot with the closest possible likeness to a human being. Currently, Roboy can pedal a bike, shake hands, talk, and play the xylophone. Soon, Roboy 2.0 should be able to serve ice cream from a stand. By 2020, it will be able to perform basic medical diagnostics.

Engineers use advanced technological methods such as 3D printing, generative design, and other processes to replicate bones, muscles, and tendons instead of simply replacing joints with motors, which is typical in robot construction. This process is also helpful in reducing the weight of important components while maintaining stability, so Roboy can be as agile as possible. Read the article.

5. This Spine Protector Worn as a Second Skin Makes Extreme Sports Extremely Safer

Did you know that many countries with a high incidence of sports-related spinal-cord injuries (SCI) don’t have mandatory laws for spine protectors? To help bridge that gap, Austrian design studio Edera Safety has developed a safety harness for extreme-sports athletes. Armed with research about spinal injuries, Edera used generative design to find the best solution to help prevent SCIs. Generative design helped reduce the amount of material needed, based on the software’s calculations for where the lines of force and energy apply to the body.

“Without it, we might have had more material, or it might have been heavier,” says Rene Stiegler, the firm’s resident sportsman and designer. “It basically gives us the answers about the amount of load we have to carry or how thick the material needs to be. It’s your decision how you implement it in the final product.” Read the article.

6. 5 Ways Industrial-Manufacturing “Dinosaur” Claudius Peters Staves Off Extinction

Claudius Peters is a Germany-based manufacturer of materials handling and processing systems for cement, gypsum, steel, and aluminum plants. It’s also more than 100 years old. To keep the aging enterprise relevant, the company’s chief digital officer and operations director adopted generative design, helping establish Claudius Peters as a global leader in digital innovation.

For the company’s initial generative-design test, its designers focused on an extremely large cast-metal part that was heavy and expensive to manufacture. After a four-hour training in generative design, the Claudius Peters engineers designed a substitute part that would be 25% lighter. Using software analysis, they learned the new part—made from welded laser-cut plates instead of a cast—would be stronger, simpler, and more cost-efficient. Read the article.

About the Author

Rosa Trieu is a technical writer and journalist in San Francisco, where she works on making information more accessible.

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