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Breaking announcements in printable materials, hardware, and the latest end-use applications are now standard at major 3D printing conferences. Focusing on the latest parts designed for additive manufacturing, typical explanations for how each was conceived likely include the terms topology optimization, lattice design, and generative design.

Although these concepts are well established in an academic sense, their commercial implementation and technical definitions have become the focus of large corporations and startups alike. Driven by greater part manufacturing freedom and a need for efficient generation of optimized designs, the design software world is rising to the challenge with software innovations across CAD, CAM, and CAE applications.

NTopology - Frustum - ParaMatters - Startups - Parts

nTopology, Frustum, and ParaMatters are three venture-backed startups that are pushing to redefine how parts are designed optimally and efficiently for any manufacturing method.

Interviewing these companies’ founders provides definitions for generative design, explains how topology and lattice algorithms relate to the concept, and illustrates each founder’s vision for tomorrow’s design and optimization process. Additionally, a market landscape analysis offers context for where these startups and their technologies fit into the broader design software landscape.

NTopology - Prints - Photo - Michael - Petch

nTopology designed 3D prints. Photo by Michael Petch.

The definition of generative design

Design - Visit - Wikipedia - Definition - Form

Defining generative design begins with a visit to Wikipedia, which offers an Autodesk-cited definition as “a form finding process that can mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to design. It can start with design goals and then explore innumerable possible permutations of a solution to find the best option”.

These innumerable possible permutations are available to the human user for further idea generation or screening. Although invaluable when expanding on the spectrum of design concepts or possible solutions, the engineering value associated with generative design requires more than idea generation. According to Jesse Coors-Blankenship, CEO and Founder of Frustum, “Generative design requires a holistic way of working with indeterminate geometry that is produced for the...
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