Autodesk launches generative design tool for Netfabb 3D design software

Autodesk has released a beta version of a generative design tool for its Netfabb additive manufacturing software, slated for a full launch early next year.

Generative design is a term to describe an automation feature in 3D design software that allows users to define parameters such as materials and physics and allows the software itself to conjure up a design.

Some might describe it as automated or self-contained design – or even sorcery and magic – as it uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate structures in software.

Stanley Black & Decker Breakthrough Innovation Group Technical Manager Harry Zhong reviews crimp tool attachment concepts

Greg Fallon, Vice President of Simulation, explains Autodesk Generative Design in a bit more detail.

“Generative design technology requires goals set by a designer or engineer,” says Fallon. “For example, size, weight, strength, style, materials, cost, and a number of other criteria, and then uses cloud computing to create a huge number of design solutions.

“Using intelligent algorithms based on machine learning and advanced simulation, it produces intelligent design solutions that can be difficult to discover and model effectively for today’s designers and engineers.

“The designer or engineer then identifies and adapts the right solution according to his wishes. This process leads to significant reductions in cost, development time, material consumption and product weight and gives our manufacturing customers the ability to design and build in entirely new ways.

“Autodesk Generative Design is not just a topology or lattice optimization, it’s a huge step forward.

“While optimization focuses on refining a known solution without any notion of manufacturability, generative design helps the engineer explore a whole set of functional design and manufacturing options.

“With Autodesk Generative Design, a designer or engineer can not only discover a new solution, but also bring it to life using additive manufacturing tools.”

stanley autodesk crimper
Using generative design and additive manufacturing technologies, the Breakthrough Innovation team was able to reduce the crimp tool attachment by more than three pounds, reducing weight by more than 60%.

Autodesk has been studying the software for several years as part of its Dreamcatcher project, and early customers include aircraft manufacturer Airbus and clothing manufacturer Under Armour.

Fallon also described an Autodesk project in partnership with Stanley Black & Decker that resulted in the power tool maker becoming the “superpower” of generative design.

Stanley’s breakthrough innovation team sought to design a hydraulic crimp lighter while keeping it as strong and durable as before. Normally these tools weigh around 15.4 pounds including the crimping attachment. Using the generative design application, the team was able to reduce the weight of the crimping accessory by 60%, or over 3 lbs.

He says, “After looking at thousands of material and process combinations, the service generated many options from which the innovation engineers could decide on a path forward, satisfied that they had explored all the options – not just the three or four or even 10 options that engineers might have considered if they had used traditional design tools.

Frank DeSantis, vice president of Stanley Black & Decker’s Breakthrough Innovation Group, says, “The generative design capabilities we can access with Netfabb are almost magical. This is not brute force engineering. It’s elegant. You define a problem and you get a set of solutions that is unlike anything you would have predicted.

DeSantis adds, “The results of the wire crimping project ensure that we will apply the incredible combination of generative design and additive manufacturing that Netfabb offers to a range of other products that we have in development.

“It’s clearly the future and that’s what our Breakthrough Innovation group stands for.”

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