Is productivity really an advantage you can gain from using generative design? Many people believe that with generative design you can set up a substantial number of runs. Either topology optimization runs or generative design with biomimicry. Generative design is going to be doing all the work, allowing you to walk away. This belief is true. However, there’s a big task that people are not considering: functional design. To set up your generative design run, you need to specify all the constraints, all the loads, etc. that is going to influence that generative design run. This must happen upfront.

Compared to other engineering disciplines, mechanical engineers don’t do much functional design today. For example, with electrical engineering, there is board design or harness design. Engineers will first define a schematic and a diagram that represent the functional and the logical aspects of their design. Moving into the physical design brings about the board layout, routing wires and cables through a 3D assembly. However, when looking at mechanical design, there’s this process that happens only in the engineer’s head where you have a set of requirements. The problem is it manifests in their head as a functional solution. After, they model the solution in a CAD software tool. This leads to a mechanical engineer infrequently documenting the functional and logical aspects of their design. They go directly to a representation of the solution in a 3D model.

So, with generative design, that’s got to change. There must be a functional definition of your design that then feeds generative design. This will lead to more work on the front-end. As the process proceeds, there will have to be studies on the amount of work mechanical engineers put into the back-end of development as compared to the front-end. This creates an atmosphere of unease and unanswered questions around the process. It deserves a deeper analysis to work out all of the details so customers can properly weigh the positives and negatives.