Post Industrial Manufacturing Systems:
the undisciplined nature of generative design

P. Atkinson Et Al, 'Post Industrial Manufacturing Systems: the undisciplined nature of generative design'
Proceedings of DRS2008, Design Research Society Biennial Conference, Sheffield, UK July 16-19 2008


Post Industrial Manufacturing Systems (PIMS) is a research program with the overarching aim to explore the impact of emerging technologies in Rapid Prototyping, Direct Digital Manufacture, Parametric Modelling and Generative Design software on the design process.

The initial research project within PIMS involved an industrial designer working with a CAD programming expert in developing a software system that allowed the user to view various products or designed forms, which were continually randomly mutating in real time. The user could not affect the form itself or the mutation in any way, but could decide at which moment they wanted to ‘freeze’ the constantly changing form to create a unique, one-off item. The user could then purchase the product, at which point the relevant stl files were created by the computer and exported to a rapid prototyping machine to be manufactured.

As this work progressed, various approaches were tried, including the random placement of a selection of predetermined elements within specified space envelopes. At this point, a second project was started involving a craft practitioner with the express notion of exploring the differences in approach between practitioners of different disciplines. This work has produced a system in which individual building block units are randomly assembled together within three-dimensional mesh forms that can be manipulated in various ways. When the
process is complete the resulting object can be digitally manufactured.

This paper will describe these different approaches to random generative design and discuss the implications for the disciplines of design and craft, their interpretation and meaning raised by this research. The experience of using these systems potentially opens the floodgates for amateur design and craft in ways previously unimagined. Developments such as these are clearly harbingers of a new era for design and craft and an example of the
reshaping of disciplines.

The full paper can be downloaded from the Online Proceedings.