An opportunity for manufacturers to reduce material costs, streamline the design process, and produce more sustainable products.
By Tristan Gunderston
Emerging technology takes time to become main- stream in the manufacturing industry. Raised on traditional processes and tried-and-true meth- odologies, designers tend to forego advantageousmoves to new platforms. When the opportunity arises to reduce manufacturing costs, increase productivity, and improveproduct design, however, it is imperative manufacturers takenote and learn to adapt.
Generative Design may seem like an abstract conceptand difficult to onboard, but much like CAD software introduced digital tools to make it easier to draw and revise parts,Generative Design technology introduces ways to improveand accelerate the design process.
Most misconceptions about Generative Design includethe impression that it is complex or the idea that it willreplace engineers and designers. In actuality, GenerativeDesign provides a way for engineers to quickly explorevarious design alternatives that enhance and augment existing work processes.
To best understand how Generative Design fits into theproduct lifecycle one can look at a 7-step structure: Ask andResearch, Imagine and Plan, Create and Test, and Improve.
ASK AND RESEARCH
As with any design, the “ask and research” phase is critical. Without a clear understanding and specificity of theproject constraints, the work can fail before it even begins.Whether designing a new part or reimagining an existingone, Generative Design requires an intimate knowledge ofthe part, its use, and its interactions with other parts.
The first step in Generative Design is to develop thefoundational model for the software. This model includesthe base geometry and constraints the program needs todevelop its own designs. While this can seem confusing oroverwhelming, it uses similar tools to other 3D modelingsoftware. The engineer inputs information on necessarygeometry and obstructions for mounting and interactionswith other parts, load conditions, manufacturing requirements, material, a minimum accepted factor of safety, andother data to guide the design.
IMAGINE AND PLAN
Once the design criteria is set, Generative Design does
its part refining the model using algorithms to optimize
the design. This could mean reducing material usage or
maximizing strength while maintaining the weight of the
original part. This process allows
engineers to quickly develop a
series of unique models and di-
rectly compare them by weight,
volume, material, sustainability,
machine time, cost, and more.
As with any design, this process isn’t guaranteed to resultin the perfect design on the first try. The key to GenerativeDesign is speed and diversity. While it may take several iterations and changes to the initial conditions to land on thebest design, Generative Design provides the ability to quickly explore varied avenues. It can run assorted materials ormanufacturing options side-by-side, potentially eliminatingweeks of work exploring a wrong path.
CREATE AND TEST
While traditional prototyping is an option, computermodeling and simulation can quickly validate results. Theoutput from the Generative Design tool provides both a 3Dmodel and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulations forall input load conditions. This allows for rapid prototypingand further comparison and validation of designs.
It is important to also assess the manufacturability atthis point. While there are settings to select manufacturingmethods, tool settings, and minimal part thicknesses, it isstill possible for the design to be inefficient or outside thescope of existing manufacturing capabilities. The softwarecan also generate a cost analysis based on material use andmanufacturing methods or simulate a tool path to determine machine time.
It is this step in the design process that has caused themost confusion and misconceptions surrounding Generative Design. For some industries, this step can be skippedor significantly reduced as they have the technology tomanufacture complete models generated by a computer. For most manufacturers, however, this would be thetime to simplify the design and adapt manufacturability toavailable machinery.
Using the generated model, the FEA results, and manu-
facturing analysis, engineers can interpret the results and
modify them to capture the design intent in a more manu-
facturable manner. By using techniques like consolidating
and standardizing limbs, creating flat surfaces or standard
fillets, and reinforcing connection points, engineers can
craft a final product that revolutionizes the design without
the need for expensive new equipment.
Another, more accessible, example of generative design is
a case study of an elevator door drive wheel wherein the pro-
cess helped to literally reinvent the wheel. The original carbon
steel part was cut down to the sleeker aluminum design using
Autodesk Fusion 360. While this new design boasted over
30% material reduction by volume and over 75% reduction
by weight, it was deemed unsuitable for manufacturing.
However, by modifying the new design (removing thinand unwanted geometry, flattening surfaces, re-establishingsymmetry, and strengthening the central connections) thefinal model had comparable machine time to the original by3-axis milling or reduced lead time by casting while remaining within 2% of the volume and weight reduction achievedby the generative design.
Generative Design is still a new technology in the manufacturing world and is constantly improving and evolving.It isn’t a substitute for engineers but rather a tool for themto elevate their designs. Once they’re able to look past thepreconceived notions about Generative Design, they’ll seethat the benefits are well worth the effort.
The first thing any company will appreciate is the savingson part production, as reduced material use not only savesthe cost of the raw material but also shipping expenses. Theredesigns can also lead to reduced machine times and quickertime to market. Most importantly all of these factors contribute to a more sustainable manufacturing process.
As an Applications Engineer at Nashua, New Hampshire-basedM2 Technologies, Tristan Gunderson provides support andconsulting services to help customers optimize their softwareutilization and design processes. He works to promote sustainable and efficient manufacturing through the implementation of simulation and generative design.
For more, visit newequiment.com/21137345Multi Piece Fastener