I have discussed a possible integration between Autodesk Fusion 360 and Project Dreamcatcher in previous blog posts:
- Summer Intern Uses Fusion 360 and Project Dreamcatcher to Imagine, Design, and Create a Cool-Looking Chair
- Generative Design Chair in the office of the CTO
As mentioned in the original post:
Autodesk Fusion 360 is our cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool. It has a desktop component that connects the entire product development process in a single cloud-based platform that works on both Mac and PC. It is a perfect solution for engineering situations that do not require all of the complexities handled by Autodesk Inventor.
Project Dreamcatcher is our research project that allows designers to specify functional requirements like material type, manufacturing method, performance criteria, and cost restrictions, and based on these design requirements, Dreamcatcher searches a procedurally synthesized design space to evaluate a vast number of generated designs for satisfying the design requirements. The resulting design alternatives are presented back to the designer along with the performance data of each solution. The designer can then select the alternative based on the performance data or other factors such as aesthetics. In other words, instead of modeling a design by hand, analyzing it, failing, and iteratively updating the design by hand until it passes the analysis, Project Dreamcatcher generates designs and shows them to the designer who can pick one.
As part of his work with the intern Brittany Presten this summer, Technical Assistant to the CEO, Arthur Harsuvanakit, filed this report. I liked it because it covers the project and sheds some light on Arthur's role at Autodesk.
The office of the CTO has some technical assistants to the CEO, Carl Bass. These employees tackle new technologies and design processes by producing projects that showcase and communicate the potential of these technologies. This work improves both Carl’s understanding of what is and isn’t possible with our tools and showcases his commitment, both inside and outside the company, for a hands-on approach to improving our products. In addition to technical assistants, Carl has the office of the CTO hire summer interns whose job is to design with Fusion 360, fabricate at our Pier 9 facility, and report back to Carl as well as the product teams with suggestions on how to improve our software. One of the interns this summer tackled the problem of what an integration of Fusion 360 and Project Dreamcatcher would look like.
The object used for the summer project was a chair. A chair represents the design space for generative design software. As a design tool, generative software has to provide solutions that not only perform under the given load conditions, but also that satisfy aesthetic, fabrication, and comfort constraints.
After using Fusion 360 to create the seed geometry, this is the Generation Workspace inside of Project Dreamcatcher:
To generate the solution for the chair in Dreamcatcher, we optimized the frame of the chair by inputting to Dreamcatcher load conditions representing the person's weight on the seat and chair backing. The loaded weight was 300 lbs. We didn’t model the seat but loaded the frame where the seat met the legs, to ensure the generated frame was independent of the seat for our main joint strategy. The biggest challenge in the project was having Dreamcatcher generate solutions that are feasible and sensible to fabricate using wood and a CNC router.
Generative design software creates and evolves forms that are optimized for force criteria and that satisfy user-defined constraints. Of the solution set Dreamcatcher generated, we selected a solution based on the requirements of our fabrication technique and our personal aesthetic preferences.
Here is a grouping of iterations from Dreamcatcher:
Compared to the original design, Dreamcatcher’s solution has 18% less volume and decreases the max displacement by 90.4% as well as decreases the max von Mises stress by 78.6%. [So that's less material, less bending (displacement) of the wood when you sit in the chair, and an equal distribution of your weight across the frame. Win-win-win.]
The form of the Dreamcatcher solution informed the type and number of furniture joints. To fabricate the solution, we used Fusion 360 CAD, CAM and a CNC router.
The chair is composed of 10 total pieces (4 for each side, 1 for the seat, and 1 for the backing). Black Walnut was used as the material. To create organic forms with the CNC router, we machined the top side of each piece, then flipped this piece into its negative mold to secure the piece while the CNC router machined the bottom side.
No project would be complete without fitting joints (left) and a clamping strategy for glue up (right):
It took three days to sand and finish the chair once all of the pieces were assembled with glue:
What we learned from this project is that there is a new design space fueled by generative software. Today's designer is required to create forms informed by their intuition for how the design will perform under load cases. The designer then needs to evaluate their design through simulations and continue to iterate and improve their design. Generative design tools like Dreamcatcher replace this iterative process by suggesting to the designer solutions that take into account performance. Thus, generative design tools become a collaborator in the design process, allowing the designer to explore viable solutions that meet criteria such as load conditions, aesthetics, and ergonomics.
Arthur affectionately refers to the chair as the Elbo chair because Danish furniture master, Hans J. Wegner's 'Elbow' chair was one of the inspirations for designing the initial seed geometry. Arthur also notes that the Dreamcatcher Elbo chair's distinguishing form features remind him of elbows.
Catching dreams is alive in the lab.