The Future of Manufacturing & Design Through Automation

Emily Suzuki Emily Suzuki August 30, 2022

3 min read

Learn how automation tools like generative design in Autodesk Fusion 360 are enabling a bright future for design and manufacturing automation.


This article is based on a Raconteur report about the democratization of product design. You can download your copy of the full report here.

Product design and manufacturing have always been challenging and time-consuming processes. A first design draft rarely makes it through to manufacturing without one or more changes along the way. Additionally, the industrial design and manufacturing landscapes are ever-evolving. Modern artificial intelligence (AI) and automation tools, for example, are offering new ways to decrease time-to-market (TTM).

What is design automation?

Design automation is an important step toward creating a digital factory. It refers to the automation of design tasks, often with the help of AI. By automating design tasks (often simple but time-consuming ones), designers and engineers free up time that can be better spent on more important, complex tasks. Examples include lightweight-ing parts with generative design and improving airflow with automated surface patterning. See more examples and applications here.

Reducing TTM with automation tools

Continual improvement is an important ingredient of successful innovation. Like anything else, this process takes time. But the future is now, and demand is rising. Designers, engineers, and manufacturers are working tirelessly to keep up. Shifting demographics, sustainability concerns, and a desire for products that speak to values and needs have shifted the market, adding to design demands and constraints. 

To stay in front of the competition, designers must reduce TTM metrics and collaborate while producing less waste. That sounds like a lot! Fortunately, though, automation tools exist to help you stay two steps ahead of the competition.

Here are three examples of automation tools that support designers, engineers, and manufacturers in this journey:

1. Generative design

Although AI may sound futuristic to some, it has been around for a while and is only getting more efficient. Generative design in Autodesk Fusion 360 is an iterative design exploration process that uses an AI-driven software program to generate a range of design solutions that meet a set of constraints.

To use generative design, designers input goals and parameters, such as performance or spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Then, the software explores all of the possible permutations of a solution. It then generates multiple design alternatives. Generative design is a great tool for testing out ideas and seeing how far you can push a design within specific parameters.


Generative design blends the speed and efficiency of AI with the designer’s own experience and knowledge, enhancing skillsets and inspiring creativity. Real-world test data can even be used with generative design to improve each iteration and address challenges such as weight, strength, flexibility, and safety. All this while optimizing for manufacturability and cost.

A more curative role does not mean an absent role. Designers shouldn’t expect AI to do all the work. Nor would the tool produce viable products without proper input data. AI can generate product designs that are lighter, stronger, or faster than their original design. However, not all AI-generated designs will be desirable for everyday consumer applications. 

2. Automated surface patterning

In addition to generative design, geometric patterning tools allow designers to automate the process of patterning a solid shape across a flat or curved surface. Geometric patterning tools can improve airflow, grip, texture, or simply design flair.

3. Volumetric lattice tools

Over the next four years, the adoption of 3D printing technologies in manufacturing is expected to increase by 50 percent (from 18 percent in 2021 to 68 percent in 2026). Volumetric lattice tools help designers create well-designed lattices that can make 3D printed parts and products lighter and stronger while creating less waste.

Autodesk brings automation to the future and beyond

Automation tools could change the market for the better by reducing costs and eliminating costly errors. Fortunately, automation won’t make the human element obsolete. Designers must still provide contextual data for AI and automation tools to work effectively. AI has yet to create the emotional elements required to ensure a product design is usable. 

Autodesk is at the forefront of the future, giving manufacturers the best tools and technology to meet growing market demands. Autodesk Fusion 360 is the first cloud product development tool that fosters collaboration, includes next-generation capabilities (like generative design), and enables designers to go from design to manufacture within the same software.

To learn more about the future of making, visit Autodesk’s The Future of Product Design and Manufacturing.

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