There’s a ton of buzz around Generative Design right now. And while everyone is excitedly discussing the possibilities, the number of companies that have actually used it in production are few.

One of the leaders in this space is General Motors. They have been heavily investing in its possible use alongside additive manufacturing. At Autodesk’s Accelerate event in Toronto, Stephen Hooper gave us some insight into how GM is applying the technology.

First, Hooper gave us the Autodesk perspective on Generative Design. I thought these were notable, so I’m including them here and I’ll provide some commentary following them.

I think the point Hooper is trying to make here is that production approaches, such as additive manufacturing, are having a direct effect on how engineers design products. And that’s true. If you are die casting and then machining a component, you have to avoid internal voids and undercuts. If you use additive manufacturing, however, then you have more freedom. You can design that void in the middle. You can have extreme angles. That’s not a problem.

There’s an important point here. Too frequently, engineers don’t explore many design iterations due to schedule constraints. They find the first feasible, accept it, and move on to the other terribly urgent issues on their plate. Generative Design provides the opportunity to explore many more designs. However, I ultimately think engineering executives will look at that and pursue even shorter schedules. Generative Design can find a few feasible designs. Engineers will pick the best one. Executives will be happy to shave a few weeks off the schedule.

I think the exception here is for big, critical, long-lead time components. If there is a large opportunity to save on weight, costs, or other measureables, engineering teams will leverage Generative Design to more completely explore the design space.

This is also true. If and when engineering teams start to adopt Generative Design on a broader basis, processes will need to change drastically. Due diligence and engineering ethics need to be revised. Checking and testing will change dramatically. But the design process itself is up for an overhaul.