Tag Archives: IDTechEx

Designed by algorithms

There’s a design technology that’s taking its cue from nature and generating functional design options – for everything from furniture to medical implants – that meet predetermined goals. It is not a fantasy, it’s the generative design. Let’s have a look at some examples of products, prototypes and concepts designed by algorithms. 

This article on generative design is based on information gathered at lectures and exhibitions that were part of San Francisco Design Week 2017, conferences IDTechEx 2017 in Berlin and Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, and the exhibition “California: Designing Freedom” now shown in the Design Museum in London.


The traditional design process most designers know today can be a laborious, full multiple revisions and iterations before arriving at the finished product. But the generative design software – a new tool for designing – is helping to speed up the process and, more importantly, enabling designers to come up with ideas beyond their imagination.

The next stage of computer-aided design (CAD) will be generative.

With generative design, a designer simply enters his or her goals and constraints into the computer software. Once design parameters are defined for a specific project – for example, four legs, an elevated seat on a specific height, weight requirements, given materials – the software goes to work.

Employing evolutionary algorithms, generative design software uses predetermined criteria to produce thousands, possibly millions, of optimised options for a single design, using complex forms with precise amounts material, exactly where needed. The software creates optimised lattice structures that far exceed the performance of traditional configurations.

Generative design is not just about creating interesting designs. It is about doing the most optimised designs.

All given offers meet the designer’s criteria. And because the computer isn’t constrained by preconceived notions of what a chair should look like, it’s free to discover solutions that the designer might not have come up with on their own.

To put it simply, with traditional design (first chair from the left in the picture above), a designer might start creating a chair with an initial sketch and then play with the form and materials. The end product might be something sleek and functional, but also familiar.

Technologies such as computer-aided design software and 3D printing have opened the door to new possibilities, such as the lattice leg structure (Chair 2), but here designers are still somewhat limited in what they can do.

Generative design (Chair 3) removes those limitations by exploring all the various ways to make a chair that meets the designers’ requirements while producing unexpected and new forms.

Briefly speaking, the design process with generative design program consists of the following steps.

A designer starts by setting goals – an alloy chair that supports, for example, 200 lbs and weight less than 7 lbs. The software then begins to generate many possible solutions. Then, to ensure that the chair is strong enough to support the maximum weight, each iteration undergoes performance analysis.

Through many variations, the software continues to create, simulate, and optimise the design. From results, the designer selects the solution that best satisfies his or her needs. Then, the designer can produce a prototype using various fabrication methods – such as 3D printing – to do a real-world testing.

Generative design technology mimics nature, employing algorithms to create complex forms that imitate how the natural world accepts or rejects designs.

This technology can be applied to almost anything that needs to be designed – furniture, vehicles, buildings, cars, bridges, implants etc. Below you can find a handful of generative design projects.


Generative Art Nouveau

As you can see on the picture above, the software is quite talented in designing chairs –probably Antonio Gaudi would not be ashamed of such a design of a chair.


Bicycle frame

Generative designs of a chair and bicycle frames were part of the presentation entitled “The Future of Making Things is Now” that was held at Autodesk during San Francisco Design Week in June 2017.



Under Armour, an American company that manufactures footwear and sports apparel is an early adopter of generative design software. In 2016 the company introduced the Architech – the performance training shoe with a complex shape 3D-printed midsole.

Under Armour used selective laser sintering (SLS) to 3D print the Architech’s flexible yet durable complex lattice structure, made from bonded chalky substrate.

The Architech shoe performs admirably in activities that require lateral stability as well as those where flexibility, cushioning, and lightweight are critical, improving performance across athletic disciplines without the need to change shoes during varied training regimens.

Want a pair? Actually, this item is sold out. Another model – Architech Futurist – is not available anymore as well. Sorry.


Skateboard trucks

The skateboard truck was designed by designers Daniele Grandi and John Schmier in California based on tools developed by Autodesk.

The truck’s prototype is the part of the exhibition „California: Designing Freedom” that run in Design Museum in London until 17 October. If you will be visiting the British capital up to that time (London Design Festival is quite soon), I encourage you to visit this exhibition.



On the left: the traditional approach to node design. On the right: the optimised node that performs the same function as the original component, but with significant weight reduction.

The traditional part is handmade. The optimised version was made by digital fabrication employing laser-sintered steel powder.


Heat exchanger

A cleverly designed series of struts inside each of the tubes increases internal surface area and disrupts the flow of cooled fluid to maximise heat transfer. The outside form has been designed to increase the cooling surface area and utilise the cooling air as it passes through the device.


Bio-engineered surfaces

Autodesk Within Medical software enables implant designers to create a porous coating for implants to aid in osseointegration – the fusion between bone and implant – where the porosity itself can be tuned to allow for optimal fusion. The integrated lattice topologies have been developed specifically with cell growth in mind.

This spinal implant by Novax DMA was 3D-printed using a multi-planar structure based on hexagonal cells that resemble the porous structure of the trabecular bone.


Femoral implant

In the session „How Functional Generative Design Reshapes Everything” given at IDTechEx conference in Berlin that run in May 2017, Jesse Coors-Blankenship, the CEO and founder of the company Frustum, introduced Generate, the cloud-based generative design software.

One of the examples of optimised design is the body of a femoral implant. You can watch the entire session by Mr Jesse Coors-Blankenship on the video embedded below (image and sound quality is not the best as I recorded it using a tiny sport camera; however I hope you will find the recording interesting).


In addition to these examples, generative design can also be used to design a car chassis, bridge construction or even interiors of offices and apartments. Carl Bass – a member of Autodesk’s Board of Directors and former CEO of this company – talked about it in his lecture titled “Design and the Future of Work” at Web Summit 2016 conference in Lisbon. You can watch the entire session below.



Main picture: Under Armour’s press materials. All other photos and videos: TrendNomad.com.

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Print, chip, click

Contactless public transport tickets and contactless credit cards are the standards we quickly become accustomed to. Within a few years, as common as them can be printed magazines with NFC chips hidden in paper covers and advertising pages, as well as books, product packaging, labels, tags, brochures, business cards and invitations made with miniature electronics, blurring the boundary between traditional media and the online world.

Arjowiggins Creative Papers, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the fine paper and luxury packaging is knocking the wall separating print and digital worlds. Its product called PowerCoat Alive developed by Arjowiggins’ operation based in France, is a physical paper sheet made with a flexible printed RFID tag that can interact with a Near Field Communication enabled smartphones and tablets, causing them to reveal information that is pre-programmed on the chip.

Unlike QR codes that only link to external content, mobile NFC-enabled devices trigger data stored in the microchip that is hidden in the paper without the need for third-party reader apps.

PowerCoat Alive is a form of a digital paper combining Arjowiggins’ papers sandwiching a core layer of customizable printed electronic circuits and a microchip. Electronics are pre-applied to the PowerCoat XD paper base using silver ink, and then thin grades of conventional yet quality fine paper are laminated onto both sides. The outer layers may be chosen from the Arjowiggins’ sampler.

PowerCoat Alive papers credits TrendNomad
Outer layers of the “digital paper” may be chosen from the sampler. Photography by TrendNomad.com

PowerCoat Alive sheets can be printed, finished and handled the same as normal papers (though, antenna or the chip must not be embossed or stamped). The paper is delivered ready for all types of printing, including offset, digital, screen printing and flexography. A pre-test is recommended for thermographic printing. PowerCoat Alive paper can be also used with standard inkjet or laser office printers, as long as they accept the thickness of the paper.

As the circuits are invisible, Arjowiggins company suggests using printed symbols to show that the paper is NFC-enabled and to indicate where the hotspots are placed.

PowerCoat Alive paper can be stapled, sewn or bound into a book or a magazine, as long as the chip and antenna are not placed along an edge. Naturally, the paper can be torn, burned and recycled.

The standard 13.56 MHz NFC chip implemented in the paper can interact with many current Android and Windows mobile phones (though, iPhones still does not support NFC). No battery is needed, as radio energy from a mobile device is enough to power the chip.

The communication distance is less than 2 cm. In order for the communication to work, the paper must not be placed on a metal surface or immersed in a liquid. It is also important to not press the microchip on the surface of the paper with an excess pressure. In good storage conditions, the electronic circuits can last for over five years.



1. Packaging, labels, price tags

”Digital paper” allows a consumer to tap an NFC-enabled phone against a tag to learn more information about the product while shopping, or to ensure that the item and a package are authentic and not a fake, receive a discount on its price or a coupon for the next transaction, register the product or receive instructions of how to assemble or use the product after the purchase.


One of the first brands that use smart packaging is Alba1913. Watch the movie above to learn more about Scan Me packaging from this Polish cosmetics brand.

2. Brand loyalty

PowerCoat Alive champagne

The chip embedded into a packaging may link directly to an online shop, so a client can easily place an order for a new piece or a product (for instance, a small jar of high-end cosmetic or a bottle of premium olive oil) at the moment when he or she realises the need for buying a replacement.

3. Printed magazines

PowerCoat Alive magazine ad

Electronics hidden in a cover or an advertising page may link to the additional digital content about the promoted product or service, as well as a direct link to an online store where an instant purchase with a discount may be finalized.

4. Business cards

PowerCoat Alive business card

Any potential clients that you gave your business card can easily scan the card and have your contact information inputted into their contact list on their phone so they never lose it.

5. Event tickets and paper invitations

PowerCoat Alive festival ticket

Clients and guests can simply trigger the data about the event they are going to attend by placing their smartphones on the paper and all the information embedded in the chip would be added right to their digital calendar.

6. Source of data

PowerCoat Alive invitation credits TrendNomad
Photography by TrendNomad.com

The interactivity of PowerCoat Alive extends beyond the customer experience. Brand owners can obtain a tremendous amount of data via dedicated analytics platform allowing them not only to measure the impact of their campaign, but to track and even respond to customer behaviour in real-time, resulting in more personalised, engaging, impactful and efficient campaigns.


To learn more about PowerCoat Alive paper watch the video interview recorded at IDTechEx show that was held in late April 2016 in Berlin.


If you want to ask more questions to Mark Heise regarding PowerCoat Alive, please send him an email at mark.heise@arjowiggins.com. Please note that Mark Heise is PowerCoat Applications Engineer working in the United States, but he will be happy to deliver any information you need and find a distributor in your region.


Do you like this article? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Wind of change

How the transportation in our cities will look like in the late 2020s? After visiting CES 2016 event in Las Vegas, it seems quite feasible that in the next decade we will start using a convenient, environmentally friendly and free car-sharing service, based on a fleet of electric cars, which will not only drive autonomously, but also independently produce electricity from renewable resources.

At the end of 2015, the market research company IDTechEx identified three new megatrends that recently emerged in the world of new technologies: energy independent electric vehicles (EIVs), 3D printed electronics (3DPE) and structural electronics (SE).

At CES 2016 I found examples of two of the three emerging businesses. And what fired my imaginations the most, is a project that can give today’s electric cars enough power to go from current 25-312 mile range to upward of 1000 miles.

Usually, concepts of energy independent vehicles include solar panels or wind turbines for generating electricity. However, there are some doubts and difficulties about the efficiency and reliability of such resources of energy when implemented into cars. But aerospace engineer Robert Yost announced in Las Vegas that he has invented a super-efficient and compact wind turbine, which can provide enough power to extend the range of electric vehicles by 3-4 times. That is an important step toward EIVs.

MicroCube credits Trend Nomad
The creation of this design was made possible through 3D printing via 3D Systems Quickparts Solutions. Through the design and iteration process (Yost worked on more than 20 different iterations) the inventor learned to arrange his print files for maximum efficiency, getting parts and assemblies indistinguishable from injection molding in all aspects apart from timeline and cost of production. Photography by TrendNomad.com

Robert Yost claims that he has developed an incredibly efficient micro wind turbine device that is capable of generating power in wind speeds as low as one mph, and as fast as 100 mph (2,4-161 kph). Yost named his patented invention a MicroCube.

A single MicroCube can generate more power than a standard solar panel for a fraction of the size. Stacking several Cubes together in the same space it takes for one solar panel can produce 18 times as much energy.

The high efficiency comes from the unique, multiple airfoil design, which captures a high level of windflow. Yost borrowed a blade design from a jet engine. Each individual MicroCube stands at only 9x9x9 inches (around 23x23x23 cm) and weighs 9 lbs (4 kg), with a maximum output of 1 kW. While engineers have previously worked with miniature turbines and combining multiple turbines together, there has never been a generator created with the characteristics of the MicroCube.

Yost has installed four mobile versions of MicroCubes on the roof of a Ford C-Max Energi electric car, generating 2,800 watts per hour to keep its lithium-ion battery charged. The goal is to adapt air flow turbines in the lower air dam and side vent.

Before Robert Yost invented the MicroCube wind turbine, he worked for major aerospace companies such as Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney. His experience gave him the practical skill to follow through on the idea of a small wind turbine. He formed American Wind in February 2012 to fulfill his vision.

To learn more details about MicroCube project, watch the video interview with Robert Yost recorder at CES 2016 at 3D Systems booth.


Yost is aware of his many critics and nonbelievers. In order to demonstrate how his 3D printed MicroCubes can revolutionise the way renewable energy is generated and how people commute, he will drive across the United States in an electric vehicle powered by four MicroCubes without stopping even once to plug in the battery for a recharge.

Transport in 2030

An emergence of EIVs that can produce energy from renewable resources coincides with intense work on self-driving cars (Google and Ford belong to main players in that race). If an automotive company would apply both technologies in one vehicle, a new type of a car would be very economical to operate.

After visiting hundreds of booths at CES 2016 and talks with many representatives of various companies (including Bosch, Ford, Velodyne and American Wind), and following sensational press releases about autonomous cars, I came to the conclusion that Google’s goal for the second decade of this century is not to sell self-driving cars to end users, but to provide in many cities all over the world a mobility service based on autonomous vehicles rented on request using a smartphone (or a device that will replace smartphones by that time).

Due to the fact that self-driving and energy independent electric cars will bring very low running costs, we can guess that rides will be offered free of charge or at low price. However, Google will make a fortune on this business.

If this scenario comes true, Google will earn a lot of money by charging fees from advertisers who will provide content displayed to passengers in moving cars, as well as by selling data about their preferences and reactions. We will pay for this service with our increased vulnerability to personalized ads, accurately matched to the context and our needs.

Another source of incomes for Google may be commissions received from online and physical outlets and restaurants that will use Google Cars for deliveries. Uber and Lyft (though, it is very likely that they have similar plans for the future), cars, buses and trams manufacturers, as well as professional drivers, motorman and couriers may have reasons to start to worry.


Small turbines have more uses than electric cars. Because the MicroCube can work in the turbulent air in cities, they can be built into structures by the thousands. They also can be placed into cellular towers to produce significant power to keep these units working during disaster periods, or to increase power on busy days. Everyone can now place an order for MicroCube turbine. The net price of one piece with a wall case is 2600 dollars. First deliveries will be made late summer this year.

If you have any questions regarding MicroCube, you can send them directly to Rober Yost at robert.yost@americanwindinc.com.


Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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