Generative Design

The future of CAD

Archive for the ‘Product Design’ Category

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

Adoptation : why only in Architecture ?

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It took 20 years for CAD practices to replace the drafting board. That transition was not without pain. The vast majority of draftsman/designers did not see the benefit of using CAD which was then, still in its early stages of development. Many opposed it vehemently. Is it the same with generative design ?

Significant changes normally induce an equal and opposite reaction. It seems not the case  in architecture.

Generative Design, in its core – is a very radical concept

entailing significant changes in the way we think about and practice design. Yet, the architectural community seem to have embraced it without throwing a major tantrum. I have, for some times wondered why ?

Here, I think are the four main reasons:

  • Development of the intellectual frame-work
  • Publicly by established firms
  • Adoption  of  easy to use tools
  • Rapid knowledge and skill creation through social networks

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Written by Sivam Krish

June 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Selling Generative Design to prodcut designers

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Saw this amazing video which reminded me of my experience in trying to interest product designers in some amazing new & revolutionary technology that our company developed. As founder and CEO of Genometri, I met-up with at least a good hundred product designers all over the world, to interest them in generative design software. In early 2005  – it was one of the first truly generative design software working on CAD platforms. They saw in front of them, computers generating designs – hundreds of them,  without their involvement.  I guess, they felt left out. This was exactly their response.

They had 200 reasons as why it has no use in industrial design.

Written by Sivam Krish

May 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

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

Auto Doodling

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For most designers, computes are tools that are most useful at the last part of the design process.  Few w0uld dispute their usefulness at detailing, rendering  and in helping in the fabrication the design. However, computers are of very little use  in the early conceptual stages where design practice is firmly routed on the paper. Sketching is fun easy and fast. Its a good way to explore possibilities. Can computers do the same ? Can computers sketch ?

Like most manual sketches, it has low levels of details. But it need not be, because computers can now represent design artifacts as though they are real. CAD files now carry sufficient details to realize them as products and rendering quality makes the designs almost  real.  So, for the first time we now have the capability to have before us many different design possibilities in realistic form. This was not possible before. Because this was not possible, design exploration practice evolved differently. Sketches were done with low levels of detail focused on important aspects of the design. Details were added gradually. Detailing reacquired enormous amounts of investment, and therefore not viable in states where the design was still evolving. This has changed. BIM and other design technologies enable the automation of detailing. Soon generative design will enable hi-detail realistic sketching. But will designers change their practice ? That’s unlikely for now.

It is now possible to have accurate representation of multiple possibilities at much higher levels of detail than ever before allowing designers, engineers and marketeers to make much more informed decisions. The representations are of such hi-quality that they can be sold online before they are even made. This is already happening. Companies like zazzle sell over 4 billion virtual products – that do not exist, but will be made and shipped once the order is received. Generative design will allow consumers to be real looking products. It will allow clients to explore with the architect  many realistic solutions instead the final design that the architects now present.

Written by Sivam Krish

November 20, 2009 at 8:24 am

Do designs live in an envelope ?

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Design Envelope

Design Envelope –  is a difficult concept for designers to grasp. Their mission in life is to push design beyond that envelope of what is thought to be possible.  But as they attempt this, designs get pushed back in – by these nasty constraints brought to their attention by  engineers, managers, marketers and all those who do not understand design. They are the “no you can’t” people. They know nothing about design, but they know about constraints.

Designers spend their lives  negotiating constraints. But do not see it that way.

In the center of this envelope  is the area that designers fear, for this is where designs converge pushed in by the realities of constraints. Here products start looking like each other and behaving like each other. So design training and design practice is about avoiding this region of commonality.  Design is about escaping it. Design becomes a struggle against this envelope of constraints.

Thankfully, the envelope itself is ever evolving. New materials, technologies and social needs continue to open new regions of possibilities. If you look any interesting design, you will see that it is remarkable because it is distinctive.  It is distinctive because it has moved away from the commonality – to limits that the envelope of constraints will allow. The masters of design are at play in this region, creating stuff claiming  new territories as their own. This is where they play. But with generative design, they can not only play but have a party. As patrons vie for attention in an attention deficit world, architects compete with each other to seek attention through complexity. At enormous cost, taking engineering risks  that eventually  help keep pushing the envelope of possibilities. This game is greatly amusing and gratifying.  The results appear to be creative – to a large extent it is, as it  pushes boundaries an conquer new territories within the envelope of the possible.

Currently the use of generative design is flourishing with this envelope and it will till it can no longer attract the attention of those who are tired of squiggly shapes ans strenuous patterns. Till then, those who are interested in harnessing the powers of computers for  better design  may invest their efforts in better understanding constrains –  for design is primarily the management of constraints.

Written by Sivam Krish

November 18, 2009 at 2:53 am

Teaching Generative Design

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Teaching Generative Design has many challenges. The Philosophy, the work process and the thinking I believe are radically different from conventional design practice, unless you want to present some software tool as generative design. Teaching the use of tools is often the easy way out. Students are quite comfortable with mindless dabbling in front of computer screens and would certainly feel they have learnt something. Cool tools that make them do cooler stuff is naturally of interest. But this is what we need to avoid – the very aspect that attracts students to generative design.

The challenges are far greater; as it requires  the reorganization of our notion of design. It’s about thinking differently about design. It’s about designing in a  computational medium. It was tough to  ensure  that the outcomes are sufficiently wild and sufficiently viable. Just wild stuff is easy. Most schools now love that kind of stuff.  The trick is to be able to teach how to do it, while you yourself have yet to figure out how to do it. So, for me it was more about learning with my students, pretending of course to know what I am teaching. Most students in Singapore are  perturbed by the lack of clear directives. Clear directives are part of  educational from kindergarten well into university in some parts of Asia. The robotization of humans probably helped the late industrial development of Asia.   In such context, it was best to pretend  to know everything as it wins the respect of the students and the envy of your colleagues.So teaching generative design is such context, before it became a fad was particularly challenging.

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Written by Sivam Krish

November 11, 2009 at 3:40 am