“Solid modeling, when it was introduced, let users design parts that could not be manufactured. With 3D printing, parts can be manufactured that cannot be designed.”
The Bear Growls – Andreas Vlahinos on Generative Design
Dr. Andreas Vlahinos. (Picture courtesy of ResearchGate.)
A variety of generative design products and technologies took to the stage at the second ASSESS conference. Generative, or GD, a technology very much ascendant on the hype curve, is breathlessly described as revolutionary. It is like CAD when it was first introduced. Or like parametric design. With the hype so cranked up, each vendor has a product better than the last. And each competitor has fixed the shortcomings of the others.
Next to me is Andreas Vlahinos, the bearded bear of a man, 20 years teaching engineers at University of Colorado, a PhD from Georgia Tech and holder of three patents, is sitting next me in the audience. He shakes his head. He does not agree with a presenter, who has just made a lofty claim about generative design. There’s been a lot of that. Andreas is having none of it. When a shake of the head is insufficient, he whispers, “No way.”
I use these things, he says to me later, meaning he knows enough to not be fooled.
Andreas, who is at the same time a champion and a critic of GD, now heads his own consulting firm. His favorite generative design is GENESIS. It’s an old code (created by De Garrett Vanderplaats in 1984) but he finds it more useful and robust than the new codes being introduced. Many of the vendors of the new codes are at ASSESS, which is in danger of being overrun with GD.
Andreas has been presenting and critiquing generative design for years, pointed to a flip-flop at COFES 2016. Solid modeling, when it was introduced, let users design parts that could not be manufactured. With 3D printing, parts can be manufactured that cannot be designed. For example, the internal structures that make a part super lightweight, composed of lattices or irregular cell structures.
You can barely model it, he says. Forget about simulating it.
Years of generative design user experience, as well as an overview of the technology, make Andreas much sought after by the founders of GD startups, who present Andreas their business cards after he makes it apparent, by the nature of his questions, that he knows more than they do. They would do well to employ his services exclusively, assuring themselves of his insight and—at the same time—denying their competitors. In the race for the ultimate generative design software, one that will truly be the revolution in design, usefulness and ease of use will no doubt determine the winner, but it will take someone with true insight to determine to what measure the product has achieved in both criteria.