AI is coming for industrial design, MIT researchers have debuted a new tool that can optimize the design for any product. This machine logic can do in seconds what humans have perfected over centuries.
MIT researchers, in conjunction with Columbia University, have unveiled a new tool for designers who work with computer-aided drafting software. Building on previous work over the past year, their technique can optimize a design for any object, like a lamp or boat or wrench, for all sorts of metrics like mass, drag, and stress tolerance. And then it can create dozens of designs of that object, each tuned to different optimal efficiencies.
In other words, it removes iteration from the design process–and it could be applied to the design and engineering of consumer goods and industrial parts, replacing some of the human guesswork of product design and augmenting the intuition of designers themselves.
“A fundamental limitation of typical design optimization techniques is that they require a single objective function for evaluating performance. In most applications, however, multiple criteria are used to evaluate the quality of a design,” the paper explains. “Structures must be stable and lightweight. Vehicles must be aerodynamic, durable, and inexpensive to produce. In most cases, the performance objectives are not only multiple but also conflicting: improving a design on one axis often decreases its quality on another axis. In reality, designers and engineers navigate a complex landscape of compromises, generating objects that perhaps do not optimize any single quality measure but rather are considered optimal under a given performance trade-off.”
Take the humble wrench. Why is it shaped the way it is, with that bulbous head, and a skinny neck? This is exactly what MIT’s system can answer as it generates alternatives to the wrench we all know by reshaping the design to optimize for a myriad of factors at once. Through its generated CAD models, we see that a wrench with the most torque for force would actually have a very elongated and skinny design. But there’s a catch: It couldn’t take much stress. A short, fat wrench could take a lot of stress, but it couldn’t generate much torque. And in fact, right in the balance of all the most important factors–weight, torque, and stress–we see the wrench design we all know.
In other words, this machine logic can do in seconds what people perfected over centuries, arriving at the exact same conclusion–which is validating and humbling at the same time.
READ MORE ON(AI is coming for industrial design): Fast Company