"Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind"
— Paul Simon, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," 1970.
Autodesk Research is part of the Office of the CTO (OCTO). One of the research projects they are working on is Project Dreamcatcher.
Project Dreamcatcher 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. This is important research because it ties into the future of making things.
One of our summer interns in OCTO was Chin-Yi Cheng who is majoring in Design and Computation at MIT. Chin-Yi used his experience in design and mechanical engineering to demonstrate how future designers could tackle challenges using Project Dreamcatcher by implementing an iterative, interactive optimization process. As part of his summer project, Chin-Yi used Project Dreamcatcher to design a bridge. Check out these 3D prints of Chin-Yi's bridge.
Given a desired deck shape and load requirements including wind, pedestrians, vehicles and boat clearances, Project Dreamcatcher generated the supporting structure and the railing — both of which have a very organic style. This organic appearance is based in part on the fact that Dreamcatcher's design synthesis methods are similar to those employed by nature in the growth of skeletal structures, minimizing material where it is un-necessary and strengthening where required.
Thanks Chin-Yi. Thanks to Software Development Manager, John Schmier, who provided the 3D print.
Bridges are alive in the lab.