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Autodesk’s Vision: Generative Design

ComponentsJust a few short weeks ago, Autodesk held their annual AU 2014 event in Las Vegas. Mainly comprised of training classes, this event is also an opportunity for Autodesk to unveil new products and offer insight into the vision driving their products. And on Tuesday, December 2nd, they did just that.

In this post, we’ll look at the concept of Generative Design, the capabilities that Autodesk plans to provide in support of it and the implications that it has for the industry.

Generative Design and Capabilities Provided by Autodesk

So what is this thing?

Well, in the simplest terms, the concept is to enable software to design mechanical components autonomously. Yes, really.

How does it work? The process will look something like the following. The idea here is that a user determines design objectives and constraints. The software application or system then explores options to varying degrees of completeness. Resulting designs are then offered to the user to select and even refine.

OK. OK. I know. It seems pretty far fetched. But in reality, there is some precedent. Especially when you look a bit closer and see how this will conceptual work. In talking with Kevin Schnieder, the product guy for Fusion360 and Inventor, such a software tool like this will end up using many different kinds of algorithms, not just one. In one form, it might look like topology optimization, where material is removed based on loading conditions. In another form, an algorithm that mimics the growth patterns seen nature might be used. Yet another form would be some kind of design of experiments. You can mix and combine these algorithms or approaches and apply them to your design as needed.

Now, the result of such process is intriguing. By ‘growing’ such designs, you end up with very organic shapes. Shapes that the human mind could rarely achieve. But, nonetheless, these designs satisfy and often even exceed the objectives and constraints of the user. Read the rest of this entry »

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