Generative design facilitates more freedom in manufacturing by automating design processes. While topology optimisation can be considered a form of generative design, its distinct nature makes it well suited for incorporating into a hybrid approach combining the two processes that can be used to improve products, particularly in terms of performance.

Generative design process

The main similarity between generative design and topology optimisation is that they both involve using computational software to generate designs based on criteria defined by the designer, as opposed to the designer manually creating each design iteration. However, a generative design process differs from topology optimisation in that it places more emphasis on the designer’s requirements for the end product’s presentation.

For this reason, it is often called a rule-based process; the designer defines values for the design, and the software adheres to them. Topology optimisation, on the other hand, is employed more often when the focus is on product performance rather than presentation. Furthermore, it is more physics-based than rule-based, meaning the optimisation adheres to the physics of the problem rather than primarily following the rules set by the designer.

Hybrid approach

With one process prioritising presentation and the other prioritising performance, taking a hybrid approach that combines generative design and topology optimisation allows for producing an end result with sufficient performance and optimal presentation.

In addition, incorporating topology optimisation rather than using a purely generative approach can result in an end product that is more sustainable, as designs created with topology optimisation are based on objective criteria and thus tend to be timeless.

A hybrid approach could look like using generative design and topology optimisation for different components of one larger product. Most commonly, a majority of the components would be produced traditionally, and then generative design and topology optimisation would be added for only a few, specific components.

It would fall to the designer to decide how to balance the needs of different components, such as determining which parts could sacrifice presentation for stronger performance, and vice versa.

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