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David Busacker
Senior engineering consultant

Designing only the best.

Every 3D printing trade show I attend or speak at, I make it a rule to spend at least a half-day taking pictures and videos of the incredible parts on display. These companies are spending the big bucks to show off their equipment, software, and solutions, and their displays often sport the very best of 3D printing. 


So, it’s no surprise that most of the parts that end up captured on my memory card are made with some form of generative design.


Generative design is the embodiment of iterative design. When an engineer is faced with a particularly challenging weight, strength, or assembly constraint for a part, he or she may employ generative design processes to radically rethink and refine the solution. He or she will combine generative design generators (including topology optimization, true "generative" algorithms, lattice  generationwith simulation software to develop functionally optimal designs. In this way, the engineer leans heavily on computer-driven analyses and becomes the moderator in a heated debate between computer-proposed design concepts and simulation feedback. 


The goal with generative design: proceed with the “best” design. 

3D printing + generative design.

Okay, so why are we always talking about generative design and 3D printing in the same breath? 


Generative design and additive manufacturing are really just two sides of the same coin: generative design is the practice of designing material where it's needed, and additive manufacturing is the practice of manufacturing material where it's needed.  


Until additive manufacturing, designs were made to serve the manufacturing method, not the application needsThe design constraints of casting, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding are so demanding that from the very beginning of the design process they govern the design decisions made. But with the advent of additive manufacturing, designers and engineers can free their minds to create truly function-serving designs... "generative" designs!  

The best designs for the best applications.

Generative Design is most effective when pushing application boundaries. When it comes to making parts “best”, generative design and additive manufacturing are a powerful combination.  
Generative design 3.
Aurora Flight Sciences takes flight with Stratasys FDM.

Aurora Flight Sciences worked with Stratasys technology and generative design to redesign an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) fuselage to move weight strategically within the aircraft. Fine-tuning the aerodynamics and vehicle body allowed this record-breaking jet-powered UAV design to fly over 150mph.


In another public demonstration, Stratasys worked together with Airbus and aerospace supplier Sogeti to optimize the design of a weight-sensitive antenna bracket. By using generative design to reimagine the form of this bracket, they used FDM ULTEM 9085 material to consolidate a multi-part assembly into one part and save 35% of the weight off the final design. 

Partnership is the path to innovation.

Stratasys is investing in generative design exploration for high-performance polymers


In November 2020, Stratasys announced a partnership with generative design company nTopology to develop generative-design based design workflows, including the publicly accessible FDM™ Fixture Generator. 

Generative design 2.
Digital Anatomy Printing uses programmable lattices to mimic human anatomy for surgical training and planning.
Not all generative design is for structural performance. Stratasys is partnering with world-leading hospitals to democratize access to lifelike human anatomy using lattices and generative design. The Stratasys Digital Anatomy Printer™ simulates bone marrow, muscle, skin, and hundreds of other anatomical materials using generative design algorithms. 

Think Additively™ before choosing generative design.

Stratasys teaches engineering groups to Think Additively™, with a value-driven process for making the right additive decisions at the right time.  


For example, while generative design is developing rapidly and will become mainstream in the next 5 years, it will never be for every additive application. The same design freedom that makes generative design freedom possible is often best used for the opposite reasonquickly  materializing quick, rough designs. Complex design processes like generative design, when un-automated as they are today, can get in the way of the game-changing turnaround speed that additive manufacturing offers 


In other words, sometimes the best design is the fastest design, and generative design is not the fastest design method. At the end of the day, understanding the cost, quality, and time constraints of a project is the key to making a decision on whether to use Generative Design.  


Think Additively is more than “design for additive manufacturing”, it’s a mindset shift on deploying additive in high-value environments. For more information on our proven additive manufacturing methodologies and trainings, please inquire at thinkadditively@stratasys.com