Generative Design

The future of CAD

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Why co-creation and mass customisation will rely on genetic modelling

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Customisation is often an afterthought necessitated after the product is launched, bringing with it  the pains of late adjustments.

This is now changing.  Due to market saturation products and services are being designed for customisation. Generative Design has a defining role to play in this.

CAD was first developed to replace paper based design. A piece of paper can hold only one design at a time. But nuts, bolts and many mechanical parts shared similar geometry and were only differentiated by dimensions. So engineers got efficient. They created table driven configurations. Then, marketeers found going back and forth between engineers accountants and production managers a drag. Online configurations were stitched together based on existing work process to help customers wants to what companies can offer. But underneath it all, an even greater, more powerful phenomenon  was simmering.

Consumer Creation

In its ideal form, it would eliminate altogether the human involvement in mitigating between what consumers want and what companies can produce. The growing collection of web-based configuration technologies can now ensure that Joe, the customer, can create something that is both useful for him and viable for the company to produce and support – all by himself. But it is possible mainly due to a series of hidden rules that prevents Joe from doing the wrong thing; so that Joe does not configure a laptop  that he cannot carry home. Most customisation solutions today are based on rules.

Why rules are bad

It is known that even simple combinatorial design problems can lead to not millions but trillions of possibilities. Currently, this nightmare of choice is narrowed down by writing rules. Often, hundreds or thousands of rules will be required to produce a decent set of viable designs.

Rules are there to avoid confusion. They need to be simple and straight forward. Hence they are crude. They are good when the context of its application is simple. If it is complex (as in design)  you need to make exceptions (or clauses). Therefore, rules tend to  multiply rules. Worse still, difficult to judge the effect of one rule on another or on the design itself. Rules written in one domain will affect another. Worse still, only experts know how to write rules. Even if you mange to write them – you are left with another big problem.  You need to generate the designs out of these rules. But despite their limitations, rule based configurators are very much in use – because that is currently the only way to trim solution into a viable range.

Setting limits is easier than setting rules

What is now achieved though patchwork methodologies may be achieved much more elegantly – if the problem of configuration is resolved at conception – directly on the representation of the product. Genetic modelling can do that. It will allow designers to conceive designs that are fundamentally configurable. Genetic modelling will allow them to represent 100o’s of design possibilities based on a single CAD model. Instead of waiting for customer requirement (that now force companies to create variations) it is now possible to create ‘variable models’ as part of the design development process.

The walled garden

The holy grail of consumer creation is for companies to provide the greatest choice to consumers, allowing them to design/configure products according to their own individual requirements. The danger here is that consumers may come up with designs that are dysfunctional, un-manufacturable or beyond their means. Hence, companies provide not only choices but methods by which consumers can make intelligent choices. A combination of genetic modelling, filtering and performance measurements working jointly can crack this problem elegantly – keeping Joe within a walled garden of constrains.

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Written by Sivam Krish

May 31, 2011 at 11:18 am

A Great Example

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This is a great example of the shape of things to come. The magic combination of online tools, genetic models and digital fabrication. ……thought I heard some one say “User Generated Content” .

Damn it . It can now do products. Enjoy the dress rehearsal.

more on >  sketch chair

Written by Sivam Krish

March 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Will Generative Design enable mass customisation ?

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Mass customization is about empowering consumers. Its about allowing consumers to create what they like. Currently consumers are tricked into this.

Many companies now offer their online customers  – DIY design tools – which are in fact interactive front ends of catalogs . These interactive catalogs  enable millions of permutations that are not possible to store but can be manufactured, often  at additional cost. This is likely to change as competition extends the envelope of customization through the use of rapid manufacturing technologies.  Perhaps generative design technologies may be of help here.

Generative Design is about generating useful or viable design possibilities. These possibilities are now generated by random numbers – these very same numbers can also be generated by customers. The generative model could  be set to operate within manufacutrable and cost limits. By replacing the random component of generative design with customer preferences, the form shape texture and color of  hi-complexity consumer products can be scroll bared -by non designers . By bounding the parametric generative model with cost, engineering and other constraints – companies can ensure the feasibility of the product and ensure its manufacturability. More importantly, they can crowd source designs and create a great diversity of products – all of which need not be manufactured but will be available online in rendered realistic from. They will also benefit from the  marketing advantages of co-creation and customization.

Hence, generative design may in fact hold he key for unlocking the next generation of manufacturing  possibilities empowering non designers to create truly customized products.

This possibility from a design tool point of  view was fist demonstrated in Singapore in a workshop by Genometri in April 2007. Non designers designed a series of blue tooth devices using a generative model by pulling scroll bars.  Further experiments in consumer design were done by Matt Sincalir Nov last year, with very encouraging results.

Here is an interesting early stage example by Xylem

Click Here for details

The modeling and constraint management aspect of generative design may form the design rock bed of mass customization. It will allow companies to selectively open areas of design for consumer play ensuring that what is designed can be realized within cost, manufacturing and engineering limits.

Written by Sivam Krish

January 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Towards a world of unique copies

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An interesting Turkish  article by Eray Çaylı , recently translated discusses new and interesting possibilities.

Recent technological advances provide designers with the possibility of modeling not only the form but also the ‘DNA’ of artifacts. This is precisely what is of primary concern to ‘generative design’: how to design not only the artifacts themselves but, more importantly, the processes that will produce those artifacts. Therefore, what ‘generative design’ actually designs–thanks to software such as Processing and Mathematica–are algorithmic processes, which then result in the production of unique products.

It refers to the  “Breesing Tables” project by Kram/Weisshaar’.

Breeding Tables

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Written by Sivam Krish

December 27, 2009 at 7:19 am

Generated Prodcuts

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Fluid Form has just launched a consumer product created by generative design technology.

This may be the beginnings of interesting possibilities. The rings were designed by Michal Piasecki and Krystian Kwieciński who

used artificial selection in genetic algorithms to unleash a population of ring designs. From this first generation Michal and Krystian selected the most appealing individuals, which passed on attributes to the next generation. Iterating this evolutionary process with parametric modelling techniques they guided the ring’s evolution step-by-step towards the silver ring’s final shape. Thus Darwinean “Survival-of-the-Fittest” in nature becomes “Survival-of-the-Most-Aesthetic” in jewelry design.

More info on how it was made

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Written by Sivam Krish

December 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm