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Generative Design and Additive Manufacturing: Innovative Approach to Manufacture Complex Parts

As Additive Manufacturing is toolless manufacturing technology, It has the potential to manufacture parts with any geometrical complexities, and this gives an edge to designers to keep up with new ideas to create high-performing, efficient, and cost-effective products that are possible with Generative Designs.

Generative design is an iterative design process involving a software tool that will generate optimized designs based on the engineering and operational constraints that you set, it will create an iteration of a design based on defined real-world constraints. Designers or engineers input parameters, constraints, intended outputs, requirements, materials, and manufacturing methods into the generative design software. The software explores all the possibilities and permutations of a solution; it will create all possible output of the part design.

Generative design is able to create lighter parts and it can consolidate complex assemblies to give you simpler, optimized, uni-body output with the same functionality and even much improved performance. Generative design algorithms are different from topology optimization as here you do not need a final design only the basic information and requirements of part functionality will be allowing you to explore all different possibilities.

Image source: PTC

Generative Design and Additive Manufacturing: A Perfect Match

Creating the complex geometry of generative parts via traditional methods would not only be difficult - if not impossible - but would also be wildly expensive and time-consuming, making additive technology the only way to access this new design space.

Without the need for tooling, manufacture jigs, fixtures, or molds, engineers and designers can go from design to functional part very quickly. If needed, designers can print multiple versions of a part, then quickly iterate on the design based on functional testing results. The speed and accessibility of additive manufacturing allow design teams to go through dozens of design iterations in as little as a week.

The benefits of generative design:

When used with 3D printing, the benefits can be further expanded to include decreased manufacturing costs and increased productivity.

1. Innovative design options: Generative design software can produce geometries that go beyond what humans can conceive, thereby enhancing human capabilities in product design.

2. Lightweighting: Generative design tools give engineers the resources to create lightweight parts using the minimum amount of material necessary, whilst adhering to the engineering requirements.

3. Part consolidation: Generative design can provide solutions to consolidate subassemblies into a single part. Consolidating parts simplifies the assembly process, maintenance and can reduce overall manufacturing costs.

Additive manufacturing combined with generative design is used in various industries


Generative design is used to create different components to find ways of reducing weight, reducing material, and exploring alternative designs that may improve performance and efficiency of motion.


General Motors is exploring the use of software-based generative design and AI-driven algorithms to optimize the shape and weight of automotive structural components. Through the use of generative design, it is possible to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design, generating hundreds of possible solutions based on goals and parameters set by the user, such as weight, strength, material choice, fabrication method, and more. As a result, the components often showcase organic-looking, intricate geometries, which can be produced using additive manufacturing technologies.

GM has used Autodesk’s generative design software to generate multiple seat bracket designs.

Software Tools for Generative Design

Individuals who have experience with CAD can easily make the leap to generative design software. In addition to generative design-specific software, many CAD programs now offer integrated generative design tools or plug-ins.

  1. Fusion 360 from Autodesk: Fusion 360 offers users a powerful set of modeling tools, including sketching, direct modeling, surface modeling, parametric modeling, mesh modeling, rendering, and much more. Its generative design capabilities enable users to identify design requirements, constraints, materials, and manufacturing options to generate manufacturing-ready designs, all the while enabling users to leverage the power of machine learning and AI to review cloud-generated design outcomes based on visual similarities, plots, and filters.

  2. Creo Generative Design from PTC: Leveraging the cloud, this software enables users to create optimized design concepts and simultaneously explore and test numerous design iterations quickly. It highlights the iterations that best match a user’s objectives based on the design parameters the user sets. Within the Creo design environment, this software promises to generate high-quality, lower-cost, and manufacturable designs, all in less time than leading competitors.

  3. nTop Platform from nTopology: The nTop Platform software promises users complete control over every aspect of the optimization process and its outputs. Leveraging advanced generative tools, users can create custom, reusable workflows tailored to an application’s unique requirements. Featured capabilities of this program include unbreakable modeling and latticing operations, topology optimization, reusable design workflows, field-driven design, and mechanical-thermal finite element analysis simulations.

  4. NX from Siemens: Beyond generative design, the main feature that NX offers is the digital twin technology, which promises users a flexible, powerful, and integrated solution to help them streamline the design and delivery of better products. NX combines design interoperability, validation, model-based definition, and more to help users move products through research and development faster and at lower costs while improving product quality.

  5. MSC Apex Generative Design from MSC Software: This program promises users an end-to-end solution for making high-precision metal components more quickly and with less human intervention than its competitors. MSC Software reports that users experience reductions in initial design and setup time by as much as 80 percent. At a glance, the software combines simplicity, automated design, import and validation, and direct output in one process.


Generative design is helping companies such as Airbus, GM, Hyundai, Volkswagen to solve great engineering challenges. AI is becoming the norm, and generative design could become the main designing method in the future. Less waste and more productivity. Additive manufacturing enables new possibilities, by giving more freedom and flexibility. Designing for this technology creates a new way of thinking and creating objects: this design development is not dependant on the manufacturing constraints of traditional technologies. If you are used to designing for other manufacturing techniques, it can be difficult to forget about these constraints while designing: generative design can be a great solution. Free from manufacturing and design constraints, generative design can help to develop innovative parts!

When used together Generative Designs and Additive Manufacturing have the ability to simplify processes and to achieve parts with greater performance and reduced production time, lower costs.

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