Generative Design

The future of CAD

Why MCAD platforms are good for generative design

with 4 comments

Generative Design – that is, computers generating design – is yet to happen. It is currently confined in its computational form to the confines of reasearch labs. it has been there for some time. When it  gets out to the real world,  it faces two real challenges. One is the setting up of generative schemes and the other is the selection process which needs to analyse the merits of  thousands of designs.  The CAD system in which designs are generated plays a critical role in both these.

Many may not realize that Design – is a relatively new word (appearing in the English language only after the 16th century) when the art of conception and execution took separate professional paths. Before that, there were only artificers – folk, who just built stuff.

Design by Build & See

Many things that were built-in the pre-modern days, fell down. Design was by – build and see. Strangely, nature works just the same way. According to research about half of mammalian fetus suffer build failure and are discharged from the womb,  saving valuable build resources for another try. You may see this as an inefficient way of executing design exploration. But that is precisely what nature does. Because, in its vocabulary “design” does not exist, neither did  it exist in the English langauge before the 16th century. Designing in nature is purely based on “build and see”. The creation of unviable designs is very much part of design exploration – as it is away of exploring the boundaries of what is possible.  Designing – as we know it today – is just about that.

Build Errors

Mechanical CAD engines are based on geometric kernels – which are able to do reality checks on geometry. They are able to detect build errors as mammalian womb detects deformity. This critical capability allows the rejection of unviable designs before future resources are invested in nurturing them.  The same is true for generative design – where unviable designs need to be detected early to prevent the squandering of computational resources that are required to build and analyse the entire design. While it is possible (as it is done now)  to generate designs without the use of geometric kernels, it is no guarantee for  their viability. As the field of generative design matures, the importance of the geometric kernels now hidden deep within CAD systems, will become more apparent to designers.

Interesting geometric designs are likely to cause build errors

The geometric kernel manages the reality of the geometry protecting it from build failure. A good kernel will be able to cover a larger area in design space than a poor kernel that will cause the build to fail easily without giving the designer the opportunity to explore the limits of geometric possibilities. Interesting designs are often at the edge of geometric space and the ability to explore this edge is important in generative design.

Physical modeling is now being recognised as a valuable part of early stage design conception. The mechanical, thermal, structural and other performative aspects of design are increasingly analysed in the early stages of design. MCAD packages score well here as they are designed to represent these properties accurately enabling designers to work with realistic representations of design.

Why  MCAD ?

Generative design today is disconnected from real life constrains. The pre computer age designers  do not wish to be restricted by constraints in the early stages of design exploration. These constraints are managed later  – often by teams of engineers. But this will change. The next generation of generative design technologies will allow designers to creatively explore design possibilities while managing the constraints through the use of geometric kernels and analytical engines, which are increasingly embedded in CAD systems.

Designing is increasingly about building stuff in virtual environments. Simulation and analytical engines are beginning to blur the distinction between the virtual and the real – thanks to MCAD systems that can now replicate reality. Hence, generative design implemented on top of MCAD systems are likely to be anchored in reality.

Great design  is about fantasy, contained within the limits of reality.

MCAD systems can help manage this reality, allowing designers to dabble in fantasy.


Written by Sivam Krish

April 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

4 Responses

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  1. who said that generative design is about computers generating design?
    at least, next time you will be over-simplifying things, try to learn how to spell design…


    April 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    • Oppps, its my spellings again. Thanks for pointing it out. I have fixed them now.

      There does not seem to be an accepted definition of “generative design” – yet. There are many. I have proposed my own definition in my previous blog article “what is generative design” . Many think that using computer models that they drive them selves can be considered generative design. I think not.

      Sivam Krish

      April 12, 2011 at 7:21 am

  2. Dim,
    Why the hostility towards a fellow designers? Don’t you agree with Sivam that this area deserves attention? Who cares about a formal definition of generative design. What matters is that current CAD and modeling software’s fall short of understanding how to take craftsmanship and material constraints into account, to say nothing of things like gravity and moment of inertia. The sooner folks tackle this issue, the better designers will be at making things that can be built the way they are imagined, or at least drawn. Right?

    bill kreysler

    August 4, 2012 at 12:25 am

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