I once attended a seminar on one of the Generative Designing softwares. It was conducted by Altair, which also introduced to us in the seminar one of their products “Solidthink Inspire 2017“. I was amazed at how the integration of human mind and a machine’s ability to solve complex algorithms has made us perfect maximum of our product designs.
What is Generative Designing?
The first step is designing the product over a CAD software (3D modelling software) which virtually is nothing but a conceptual design based on our previous experiences and designs. This design is then sent for analysis of the functionality and durability (Computer-aided Engineering). The results of analysis give us an opportunity to further optimise our product.
But the truth is that the whole designing process is easier said than done. We may look at a product and comment,”how well and perfectly has this product been designed”. But behind the perfection of the design lie the hundreds of iterations it has undergone.A rigorous cyclic process is involved between the designing and testing phase.
The softwares like “Dreamcatcher” by Autodesk and “Solidthink Inspire” by Altair make this iterative process a thousand times easier and are doing what was once beyond human imagination.
The designer in place of performing these ‘n’ number of iterations, uses generative design algorithms to generate a much better and optimised version of the design. It could be in terms of weight reduction or for that matter even strength to weight ratio increase.
“Imitating, how nature accepts or rejects designs, generative design software produces incredibly complex forms that use precise amounts of material, exactly where needed to create, optimised structures that far exceed the performance of a traditional configuration”, says Mark Davis, Senior Director- Design research, Office of the CTO at AutoDesk.
It is a misconception that a product design must look “logical” and “traditional”. What we get through a generative designing software is more organic and bionic. These bionic designs are not for the aesthetic pleasure but are said have evolved from the study of human bone growth and inspired by nature’s process of selection and rejection.
A Generative design system enables the designer to craft a definition of his design problem through goals and constraints. This information is used to synthesise alternative design solutions that meet the objectives. The algorithm learns with each iteration and updates its library with what worked and what didn’t. Designers are able to explore trade-offs between many alternative approaches and select design solutions for manufactures.
Let’s take an example of a design engineer who does his work traditionally.
A traditional way of designing would start with concept designing followed by preparing the model and then finally testing it.
But when it comes to optimisation, the game is all about how well a designer can read the analysis result and then act accordingly.
Each design he can think of will be the result of his understanding of the product added to his experience and the ability to find a solution.
Think of all the solutions that can be possible. Or for that matter a better design that might skip his mind because of the complexity of the design.
What is the role of humans?
“Future designer would be less like aeroplane pilot and more like traffic controller”.- Che-Wei Wang (a product designer, architect and a sculpture)
We have been busy in the process of making tools to make our work easier. These tools need guidance from us and one or the other way depend on human ability and skills for their effecient use. And therefore humans are needed as operators till date. But with the advancement of technology, humans will be seen playing a completely new role.
Humans have started taking over the role of a mentor rather than that of an operator.
Generative Designing software is a tool to help us avoid solving complex algorithms manually. The computers can do them a million times faster than any human. But the fact remains that any nascent idea can only be conceived in a human mind.
We are not even in the vicinity of developing “the intelligence” required to judge and make a decision like a human brain. The human brain itself took millions of years to evolve and the process still continues.
The results of the perfect solution depend on how well the designer understands the environment and conditions in which his product exists. A tool is as good as it’s operator.
He defines the goal. He finally selects the best suitable solution for his design.