Integrating generative design and topology optimisation with product design values

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Anton Nemme
Roderick Walden


Advances in computer technology and software increasingly encourage the usage of CAD tools for designing forms that algorithmically manipulate ‘structural’ and ‘surface’ features. These sophisticated new computational processes, broadly known as ‘generative design’ and ‘topology optimisation’, are very likely to become a regular part of the product design process for many types of products. A core value of design practice is the development of intuition and iterative skills to explore the technical and experiential performance of design concepts through sketching, model making, and prototyping. Identifying ways to integrate ‘generative design’ and ‘topology optimisation’ CAD processes with ‘making’ as a core value in product design concept development is a significant challenge - particularly for design education. A related concern is that ‘topology optimisation’ can generate structurally optimised parts for the amount and type of material used, which essentially determines the fabrication method. Often these parts in their raw form can only be made using 3D printing technologies, though they can (and often need to) be ‘styled’ or modified. Therefore, the relationship to 3D printing and its limitations as an end-part manufacturing technology must be critically tested as part of the design process. The practice-led research presented includes a case study of the design of a mountain bike (MTB) crank arm developed using an integrated design process that incorporates a series of ‘topology optimisation’ simulations. The authors undertook the project to inform the design of a new ‘generative design’ and ‘topology optimisation’ studio-based subject to be offered to second and third-year product design students at the University of Technology Sydney. The research proposes a form of integrated design practice that values ‘making’ iteratively, and the advancing CAD-based ‘generative design’ and ‘topology optimisation’ tools to responsibly support experiential learning in product design, manufacturing and engineering.

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How to Cite
Nemme, A., & Walden, R. (2022). Integrating generative design and topology optimisation with product design values. Australasian Journal of Technology Education, 8.
Author Biographies

Anton Nemme, University of Technology Sydney

Anton Nemme, is an Industrial Designer and graduate of UTS. He began his carreer in the field of product visualisation producing 3D models and renderings for some of Sydney’s leading Product Design consultancies. Anton has a strong focus on teaching being involved across all the undergraduate year groups. His most recent research themes centre on the value of iteration in design projects, university Industry collaboration, applications for 3D printing, generative design and authenticity in design education.

Roderick Walden, University of Technology Sydney

Roderick Walden undertakes research into the contemporary methods and practice of professional industrial design. His principal areas of research interest lie in professional practice, practice-based design research, design expertise and academic design. He has previously worked as a product designer and production engineer for a range of local and international manufacturers in the commercial office furniture industry including Herman Miller U.S., and Wilkhahn and König + Neurath Germany. His design consultancy, Walden Design Pty Ltd, formed in 2003, designed a range of products for Australian companies, working particularly closely with manufacturing SMEs. In his academic role, he has co-developed, through research, prototypes including a mountain bike (MTB) multi-tool (2008), leather-moulded office accessories (2008) and a fire-fighters cooling vest (2009), all with long-time colleague and friend Stefan Lie. He has conducted research into additive manufacturing technologies with the design of a DMLS MTB Crank Arm (2010) as part of the CCDP-sponsored Digifacture project, which was co-curated with Berto Pandolfo. His masters (by research) degree studied self-initiated product design and modelled connections between knowledge and practice that he is currently advancing as part of his PhD. He has co-authored research on topics including university-industry collaboration (UIC), design in business, design education and academic design practice. Roderick is passionate about his role as a teacher, the technical work of design and the meaning behind the connections designers make with other areas of knowledge to solve problems, innovate and learn.