What is Generative Design?

What is Generative Design?

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to debfromqa@mxdusa.org

Dear Deb from QA: What is generative design?

Generative design means never having to say “back to the drawing board.” Yes, I’m riffing off a  line from my favorite ‘70s movie “Love Story.” You’re probably too young to remember that tear-jerker starring the incomparable Ali MacGraw. Anyway… 

Simply put, generative design uses artificial intelligence, or AI, in component design to think up a whole bunch of options, including some that an engineer may never have considered.

An engineer designing a component can plug all of the goals and constraints, things like weight limits, material availability, cost and manufacturing processes into the generative design software, and the computer will spit out a multitude of the best viable options.  

Think of it like booking a flight on Travelocity. You know where you are and where you want to go. But until you type in all your info and press “search” you have no idea that a layover in Milwaukee can save you 500 bucks and still get you to Miami in time to sip your prickly pear margarita as the sun sets.   

Generative design technology aims to fix a bunch of pain points, including what are politely called “knowledge gaps.” 

I’m always telling my niece not to miss any classes at her fancy university. Who knows what “knowledge gaps” she could end up with. In this case, an engineer may not know enough about additive manufacturing, for example, to understand it’s the best road to take to get this component made quickly and at a good price.  

Everyone has big plans for generative design. 

Dan Miles, a senior manager with Autodesk, which partners with my friends over at MxD, said in a recent webinar I watched that the dream with this technology is that someday it will be able to design entire systems, not just individual components. 

That’s for another day. Today, the goal is to get us better designs in less time. 

In the meantime, don’t worry about the engineers taking up all the chairs in the break room. 

They still have a lot of work to do, fine-tuning and making sure the info they are typing into the generative design software is just right and that they are choosing the best option when it comes time to pick. 

No longer limited by what they don’t know, those hotshot engineers will now be able to explore new and smarter ways of doing things — without all that shuffling back to the drawing board.  

In the end, all of this could mean… generative design means never having to say you’re sorry.

Assuring quality,

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
What are cobots?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to debfromqa@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.