Change is Coming: Are You and Your Company Ready?
Generative Design is not an FEA tool, not a Specialist tool, not a separate process, but a design, engineering, and manufacturing tool that should be incorporated into existing processes.
“Engineering is a combination of creativity, critical thinking and mathematics. Historically, innovation in engineering design has been constrained primarily by the human capacity to perform the calculations required to bring imaginative solutions to life.”
Jesse Coors-Blankenship, formerly at Autodesk, now at PTC, Machine Design
Generative design in Fusion 360 aids designers and engineers by expanding the opportunities for design geometry and manufacturing process under consideration. Topology opportunities that a human would never have conceived. Further, generative design in Fusion 360 works with any other CAD tool and existing subtractive manufacturing methods.
History is About to Repeat Itself
Are you ready for what is coming? It will be Culture change with a capital “C.” The train is coming down the tracks, ready or not. Freed of the tedious trial and error of refining their models, engineers can now focus on design goals rather than the process of how to capture the design geometries – instead, the software does that.
It does not often happen that new technology can totally disrupt an industry. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) did this to the Mechanical Design Industry about 30 years ago, while companies traded their drafting boards in for workstation terminals if their corporate decision was to survive. This move from pencils, compasses, protractors, and triangles to software, mice, and display screens scared the heck out of most companies at the time.
It looks like history is about to repeat itself. Now generative design in Fusion 360 (with subtractive and additive fabrication constraints) poses a similar disruption to the Mechanical Design Industry. We can now see a new train steaming down the tracks, and it is named Generative Design. Just look at the objections to Generative Design. They are almost identical to the objections to CAD 30 years ago:
CAD Migration/Autodesk Generative Design Common Objections
- Engineers/Designers/Draftsman think they can lose their job because of this new technology
- The technology is too technical making it challenging to use
- Engineers/Designers/Draftsman state they are more comfortable with current tools
- The technology Requires too much change to current Product Development processes
- Questioning the accuracy of the results
None of these were valid concerns back 30 years ago, and they are not legitimate concerns today. One can read the most recent and relevant White Papers to understand how forward-thinking companies have implemented and found significant value with generative design in Fusion 360, just like the companies who transitioned to CAD:
- Autodesk: Generative Design Whitepaper
- Harvard Business Review: The next wave of intelligent design automation
- McKinsey & Company: How generative design could reshape the future of product development
These articles are comprehensive and insightful, describing the value propositions of generative design in Fusion 360, the specific use cases, detailing this information as case studies from companies that have been successful using Generative Design.
A Dose of Reality
Now it is time for a dose of reality in plain language from a guy who has been in the CAD industry for over 30 years and has lived through many of these technological changes. The Cultural change is here!
You either adapt, or you fade away. Unless you are future-focused, your company is on its way to becoming a dinosaur. Do I need to tell you stories about companies in the past that had kept their heads buried in the sand, clinging to the status quo, and then went out of business? There are too many to list in this blog.
Mechanical engineering has not changed much in the last 5,000 years (Products fabricated from mechanical drawings produced manually). Then, 30 years ago, engineering was introduced to software, CAD, simulation, and FEA.
I lived and worked through the last 30 years of the Mechanical Engineering Industry, and the CAD train hit us hard. As a long time participant and observer, I expect the new train – Generative Design, to hit just as hard.
Case in point, 30 years ago, most companies were still on drafting boards. CAD was only found in well-heeled companies and CAD service bureaus. Many engineers and companies quickly dismissed the idea that mechanical drawings could be completed accurately on a computer faster than manual drawings on a drafting board. Further, engineers, designers, and drafters were afraid that their jobs would be at risk because of CAD. This is the tone that we are seeing in the industry today.
The detractors did have a minor point. The first mechanical drawing sometimes could be done faster manually by an expert draftsman. Still, any time a design change was required, ensuing redraws (iterations) were way, way quicker on a CAD system by a novice draftsman.
These were the fun days of being in CAD sales! I would let the customer prove his point on the first drawing, and then my Applications Engineer would allow the customer to suggest a few changes to the drawing (because there are always changes). The customer would then watch in amazement as the changes were made lickety-split in software. CAD was made for scale. So is Generative Design.
And the winner is…
I do not think anyone would argue that CAD won the battle, and generative design in Fusion 360 and additive manufacturing will win as well. The productivity of the average engineer, designer, or draftsman significantly improved and introduced a different level of scale. The companies that refused to move are all out of business. Generative design in Fusion 360 is following the same path.
Once the word spread, there was no stopping CAD software. In the beginning, CAD Implementations were only found in a few select Fortune 500 companies and high-end CAD service bureaus. As the costs came down, in-house CAD capabilities became a necessity; CAD software quickly became a commodity that was required by every company to remain competitive. The same is becoming true for generative design in Fusion 360 today, and we see the same transformation of companies in the market, both large and small.
The Additive Factor
Additive Manufacturing adds a whole dimension to this innovation wave and will very soon be competitive with and quickly surpass traditional subtractive fabrication methods in terms of time, cost, repeatability, and materials selection. Check this out:
- New machines are coming to market every day offering more choices at a lower price point
- Every new machine and iterations of existing models are faster, more reliable, less expensive
- Modern engineered materials provide more opportunities to explore unique structures
- Due to software and hardware enhancements, pre-processing and post-processing of additively fabricated components are more simplified, more accessible, faster, and less costly, than ever before.
The significant upside is Additive manufacturing of the future will be able to offer new engineered materials, repeatable processes, and generative design in Fusion 360 will produce new concepts with geometries that can better meet engineering requirements that cannot be provided with traditional manufacturing methods. Even today, generative design in Fusion 360 and additive manufacturing capabilities have already demonstrated significant increases in performance and productivity for many companies.
The Younger Generations are Making the Move
Our youngest engineers and designers (Millennials, Generation Z) they all get it, have already bought into, and are readily accepting the advantages of Generative Design methodologies. They see Generative Design as a necessary component of adequately doing their job well. In their minds, this is not a Culture change, but the way things are.
Three thousand engineers are graduating each year that have been trained in generative and additive design/manufacturing processes. These engineers also have bought into and readily accepted the benefits of Generative Design.
Younger engineers may be interns or already interviewing with your company and demanding access to these tools as a precondition to hire. Again, this happened 20-30 years ago when interviewing CAD trained engineers. Engineers graduating from college (maybe even you) demanded access to specific CAD systems tools as a precondition to hire—this affected Culture change in engineering and design departments across the world.
Are you going to let some forward-thinking big company or upstart with generative and additive capabilities send your company to the back of the line? Engineering Manager, Engineer, or Draftsman; it does not matter; you are all at risk if your company doesn’t begin to explore generative design Fusion 360.
Autodesk understands this culture change is not going to be easy. Autodesk experts stand ready to help on generative design projects to make you and the project successful. Also, Autodesk can help by identifying the right intern with experience for your company or help you deliver proof of concept projects for design, manufacturing, and production.
Can you hear the train coming? Step onboard the “Generative Design in Fusion 360″ train today. It is warm and comfy in here, and the destination will be a beautiful future.
Try Generative Design in Fusion 360 for yourself.