Deep learning has recently been applied to various research areas of design optimization. This study presents the need and effectiveness of adopting deep learning for generative design (or design exploration) research area. This work proposes an artificial intelligent (AI)-based design automation framework that is capable of generating numerous design options which are not only aesthetic but also optimized for engineering performance. The proposed framework integrates topology optimization and deep generative models (e.g., generative adversarial networks (GANs)) in an iterative manner to explore new design options, thus generating a large number of designs starting from limited previous design data. In addition, anomaly detection can evaluate the novelty of generated designs, thus helping designers choose among design options. The 2D wheel design problem is applied as a case study for validation of the proposed framework. The framework manifests better aesthetics, diversity, and robustness of generated designs than previous generative design methods.
Generative design refers to computational design methods that can automatically conduct design exploration under constraints defined by designers. Among many approaches, topology optimization-based generative designs aim to explore diverse topology designs, which cannot be represented by conventional parametric design approaches. Recently, data-driven topology optimization research has started to exploit artificial intelligence, such as deep learning or machine learning, to improve the capability of design exploration. This study proposes a reinforcement learning (RL) based generative design process, with reward functions maximizing the diversity of topology designs. We formulate generative design as a sequential problem of finding optimal design parameter combinations in accordance with a given reference design. Proximal Policy Optimization is used as the learning framework, which is demonstrated in the case study of an automotive wheel design problem. To reduce the heavy computational burden of the wheel topology optimization process required by our RL formulation, we approximate the optimization process with neural networks. With efficient data preprocessing/augmentation and neural architecture, the neural networks achieve a generalized performance and symmetricity-reserving characteristics. We show that RL-based generative design produces a large number of diverse designs within a short inference time by exploiting GPU in a fully automated manner. It is different from the previous approach using CPU which takes much more processing time and involving human intervention.