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What is generative design?


Generative design might have the power to change the manufacturing landscape. It can become a real ally for your manufacturing process and could benefit companies coming from all industries. We will see today what is generative design and how it works, but we will also go a little further and discuss the use of generative design for additive manufacturing!

Who will benefit from this generative design technology, and what is the impact of this design method on the future of manufacturing? You will find answers to all of your questions.

What is generative design?

Generative design is an iterative design process involving software that will generate a certain number of outputs meeting specified constraints. This is kind of a computer-aided methodology will create an iteration of a design based on defined real-world constraints and needs it. Designers or engineers input parameters, constraints, intended outputs, requirements, materials, and manufacturing methods into the generative design software. The software explores all the possibilities and permutations of a solution, thanks to all this information, the software will design multiple solutions. This will allow you to create innovative structures, perfectly optimized for your use.

Generative design is an efficient way of getting optimized parts: you can create lighter parts and it can help to consolidate and get more durable pieces. If this technique can create perfectly optimized designs, keep in mind that using generative design algorithms is different from design optimization techniques such as topology optimization! Indeed, topology optimization will improve the part and design by removing material from an existing file, optimizing the product’s form, improving its strength, cooling, or weight. For generative engineering design, you don’t need a finished design, only the basic information, and requirements that will allow you to explore the design space of possibilities! 


generative design


How does generative design work?

Usually, when working for a customer, engineers and designers will have to develop the project, taking into account several requirements. Instead of starting to work on a design from scratch, with a generative design process, you tell the program what you need to accomplish, you set your design goals and mention all the parameters you can. No geometry is needed to start a project. The software will then deliver you hundreds or thousands of design options, the AI can also make an in-depth analysis of the design and establish which one is the most efficient one! This method is perfect to explore design possibilities to get an optimal part. 

Programs allowing generative design options use the power of cloud computation and machine learning to explore sets of new solutions. It tests and learns from all the iterations what is working and what is not. Generative design is available as part of some CAD software such as Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software, PTC’s Creo and Siemen’s NX, for example.

But concretely, what do you have to do to generate designs? Based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms, generative design software searches for the best design based on your constraints. You don’t need anything more than this information to get your project started. The first step of the process will be to enter the different inputs and information about the design you need to generate. Your set of contraints will contain:

  • Information about the physical constraints: This is the basic information to give for the creation of your design. What should be the weight and the size of these parts? What areas should the part not occupy?
  • Information regarding the forces, pressures and loads: This will help the algorithm decide where the part will need to be reinforced and where are the areas sustaining stress.
  • Information about the materials you have access to, and that might be considered for the creation of this part. This will help the program understand the design freedom available for the creation of this file. This way, the software will add material in high-stress areas and reduce material in low-stress areas, for example.
  • Information about the manufacturing process: will you use additive manufacturing or CNC machining? This is essential, as it has to be a manufacturable design and each technique as its specificities.

Thanks to all these criteria, the program will be able to create several designs. After that, the engineer or designer will based on their own criteria and experience, choose the design. Getting all these different solutions allows comparing the different possibilities.  Generative design software actually relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to design!

What are the benefits of generative design?

All sectors can actually benefit from a generative design process. With its great impact on productivity, innovation sectors such as automotive, aerospace, industrial machinery, architecture, or consumer goods can all benefit from the design exploration offered by this technique. 

Using generative design removes all the mental boundaries of human creativity. It creates designs and geometries you might never have thought about! Generative design is a great method to get innovative design options. It allows getting lightweight parts, which is a huge advantage for industries such as automotive and aerospace for example. By using optimized design and reducing the amount of material needed for the creation of the part. Generative design does not forget consolidation! Getting a strong part will definitively be useful, reducing the overall maintenance and manufacturing costs. The design freedom provided by these manufacturing techniques allows whole assemblies to be replaced by one single part.

By using generative design, you save time and reduce the workload, the software will generate the design for you, which will increase your productivity. All of these advantages also have an impact on the overall cost of your production! Less material, faster design development, innovative, and already optimized designs will save time and money on your projects!

The endless possibilities of generative design and additive manufacturing

If you are planning on using 3D printing to manufacture your project, generative design might be an interesting solution to consider. Applications of generative design are numerous, especially when it comes to really advanced and technical projects. 

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) requires specific training and knowledge. Additive manufacturing enables new possibilities, by giving more freedom and flexibility. Innovating by developing interesting structures such as products with internal lattices to optimize the weight of a product is a great advantage offered while using Design for Additive Manufacturing. Designing for this technology creates a new way of thinking and creating objects: this design development is not dependant on the manufacturing constraints of traditional technologies. If you are used to design for other manufacturing techniques, it can be difficult to forget about these constraints while designing: generative design can be a great solution. Free from manufacturing and design constraints, generative design can help to develop innovative parts!

Let’s go through some examples showing the benefits of generative design and additive manufacturing!

Airbus and the cabin partition

Which industry needs to reduce its component’s weight more than the aerospace industry? Indeed, optimizing the weight of airplane components directly impacts CO2 emissions and costs.

This is one of the reasons why the aircraft manufacturer Airbus implemented generative design into its processes to recreate a cabin partition of the A320, its most famous airplane. 

Was this trial a success? The answer is yes, according to Airbus, this new part weighs half of the original part, saving 3,180kg of fuel per part. This reduction could lead to a reduction of CO2 emissions by 166 metric tons annually per plane! 

This part has originally been designed for metal additive manufacturing. 

generative design airbus

Airbus “bionic partition” – https://www.newequipment.com/research-and-development/article/22059780/what-generative-design-is-and-why-its-the-future-of-manufacturing 

As we can see with this example, additive manufacturing actually emphasizes the advantages of generative design. Indeed, this manufacturing technique is perfect to bring to life complex and perfectly optimized geometries, impossible to create with other traditional manufacturing methods.


Bugatti, the car manufacturer has tested Siemens NX, the generative design software. They generated a design for their wing control system for the 1,500 PS Chiron super sports car. The part has been printed in titanium and carbon fiber, and this whole process resulted in an optimized assembly, with a weight reduction of more than 50%. 

Bugatti brackets


General Motors and the seat bracket

Using Autodesk, the car manufacturer General Motors also experienced the potential of generative design to create a seat bracket. The 150 designs generated by Autodesk were actually 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the bracket they are currently using! 

General Motors design

General Motors 

Is generative design the future of manufacturing?

Generative design is helping some big companies such as airbus to solve great engineering challenges. AI is becoming the norm, and generative design could become the main designing method in the future. Less waste and more productivity.

Even with its efficiency, the generative design won’t replace the designer’s work, as it won’t replace the skills and knowledge of professional architects or mechanical engineers. But no doubt that this generative design process will become essential. 

Even if generative design has a lot of great advantages it might not be the solution for all the projects. If you are, don’t worry, Sculpteo has another solution for you. Sculpteo Studio, our team of designers and engineers specialized in additive manufacturing are here to help you develop your optimized designs according to the specificities of your industry! 

Once your 3D file is ready, Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service will be happy to partner with you and give life to your project. Get you free instant quote in just a few clics.

Is generative design AI?

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