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Generative Design Keeps Manufacturability in Mind

Category: Manufacturing Technology By: Stephen LaMarca, Manufacturing Technology Analyst Aug 5, 2021


Generative design helps engineers earlier in the workflow explore a wider cross-set of the potential solution universe, considering many parameters and constraints, such as performance, material, and cost. But beyond just offering geometric form options, generative design can introduce manufacturability for exploration early in the engineering process.

Whether it’s used for finding a new way to make steel beams or lightweighting a small part, generative design identifies multiple solutions that consider many manufacturing methods. Most people consider generative design to be a solution just for additive manufacturing but, in fact, the technology can consider other traditional manufacturing methods such, as CNC machining and milling (2.5-, 3-, or 5-axis), injection molding, water-jetting, casting, and stamping.

“It’s no good to just focus on one part of the process,” says Stephen Hooper, vice president and general manager at Fusion 360, a generative design software from Autodesk. “If you focus on getting someone up and running in a couple seconds on their CAD tool, what good is that if the production engineer…can’t produce the machining strategies?”

By adding manufacturability as another functional requirement of the input, generative design explores hundreds of thousands of potential tradeoff solutions. A designer can determine whether there are manufacturing constraints to take into consideration before exploring production processes. This information empowers engineers earlier in the process to drive more innovation.

Generative design software simulates the production process using different methods. The output may be a form of production that the manufacturer may not have even considered before. For example, a part that has been casted in the past may now be optimized with 3D printing.

According to a blog post on Applied Software’s website, “In a continuous workflow, simulations could begin before the design is finished, with feedback to the designer. Likewise the machinist can provide feedback to the simulation process before the entire design is finished.”

In some cases, a solution may involve blending two manufacturing methods. For example, a process may involve 3D printing one phase of production and then finishing the product using traditional machining or milling.

Eight Benefits to Alternative Methods of Manufacturing

  • Lower material costs
  • Faster production
  • Less waste
  • Part consolidation
  • Lower labor requirements
  • Quicker time to market
  • More complex parts
  • Higher precision and consistency

Benefits like these not only help established manufacturers of all sizes improve their bottom line, but also help new companies streamline their start-up process to get into the industry faster and more efficiently.

Learn more about generative design and speak with experts at the Controls & CAD-CAM Pavilion at IMTS 2022.

About the Author

“Stephen LaMarca is AMT’s manufacturing technology analyst. He has a background in physics and a passion for all things mechanical, namely automobiles, clocks and wristwatches. He’s pretty sure he has the best job at AMT. He oversees and runs experiments on AMT’s manufacturing testbed, which includes a 5-axis horizontal CNC mill. Stephen is an enthusiastic IMTS TV and IMTS Network correspondent who injects humor into technical subjects. He also hosts the AMT Tech Trends podcast with Ben Moses, Technical Director. Stephen also tracks the research and development throughout the industry that goes into the stuff you see at IMTS!”

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