Topology Optimization is not Generative Design

Roger Orban Roger Orban June 9, 2020

3 min read



As the generative design process takes off in many organizations, it has sent other CAD and software tool vendors scrambling. In the midst of their scramble to compete, CAD Vendors have begun rebranding and selling topology optimization as generative design. This is wrong, and do not get fooled!


Here we go, we explain the difference and give you a questionnaire to finally answer the question, “What is the difference between topology optimization and generative design?”.


What is Topology Optimization?




General topology optimization begins with one complete human-designed CAD model concept (in other words, the process begins with human bias and is limited by this bias) with loads and constraints applied based on the project requirements. Topology optimization returns only one optimized concept for evaluation based on the human-designed model. There is no automated ideation. Lastly, it returns to the user an optimized mesh-model result (optimized only from the human-designed model) that must be rebuilt in a CAD system that is intended for downstream use.


Topology optimization has been around for 20 years. Every vendor, including Fusion 360, has had this capability for many years and has been made widely available to all users.


What is Generative Design?




Generative design in Fusion 360 begins with hold out areas, preserved areas, loads, and constraints based on the project requirements. Artificial Intelligence, not humans, determine the topological concepts that are created for evaluation. Autodesk generative design returns many optimized concepts (automated ideation) for evaluation based on the design and manufacturing criteria. Further, Autodesk generative design leverages Apriori to suggest costing criteria for each outcome to make better decisions. Lastly, Autodesk generative design in Fusion 360 returns to the user a CAD ready geometry model that can be edited in any system.


The Test (Questions to ask yourself or the competition)


  1. How do you begin the process?
    • A fully defined CAD Model. (This is topology optimization)
    • Hold out areas, loads, constraints, and Manufacturing process based on the project requirements. (This is generative design in Fusion 360)
  2. What does the system return to you?
    • One outcome (This is topology optimization)
    • Multiple outcomes (This is generative design in Fusion 360)
  3. Is the outcome returned CAD ready, or does it have to be rebuilt?
    • A mesh model that must be rebuilt as valid geometry in a CAD system. (This is topology optimization)
    • CAD ready for any CAD System Geometry (This is generative design in Fusion 360)
  4. Will the “generative design” work with any CAD data both as CAD data input and the CAD data output (outcomes)?
    • Restrictions to CAD data inputs and outputs (This is topology optimization)
    • Work with any data/any CAD system, both input & output (This is generative design in Fusion 360)
  5. Can manufacturing methods (Subtractive and Additive) be considered and added as a constraint?
    • No (This is topology optimization)
    • Yes  (This is generative design in Fusion 360)
  6. Does the solution automatically provide Costing Insights?
    • No (This is topology optimization)
    • Yes  (This is generative design in Fusion 360)


Generative Design in Fusion 360


Generative design in Fusion 360 allows users to explore, optimize, and evaluate data-driven design alternatives based on project goals, constraints, and inputs. For the first time, Engineers and Designers can utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to explore multiple design alternatives and weigh the trade-offs in order to identify improved design outcomes and make data-informed decisions faster than ever before.


For more information on Generative Design, please review the following links:


Top 7 Generative Design Learning Guides


Future Of Making: Generative Design For Manufacturing


Change is Coming: Are You and Your Company Ready?


Do you aspire to be great at CAD, or to be a Great Engineer?


Fusion 360: The Next Wave of Democratization


Don’t get fooled by one of the many pretenders.  Leverage the power of generative design in Fusion 360. More importantly, use this process from Fusion 360 with any other CAD data or CAD system you have installed.


Try Fusion 360 today.




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