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Pioneering design research leads to radical 'shape-breeding' software

24 January 2012

A radical new design tool that breeds new shapes at the touch of a screen has been developed at Loughborough University. The software automatically creates new shapes based on the DNA of earlier shapes, rapidly offering endless inspiration to the designer and reducing the time between concept generation and digital modelling. The software can instantly generate a variety of shapes that the designer can then 'evolve' towards whatever they like.

The designer simply selects the shapes they like or scores them, prompting the system to breed new populations of shapes. The real innovation is that each new population of shapes will inherit the desirable features of the previously selected shapes, while simultaneously offering new ideas and variations.
 
“By selectively breeding 3-D shapes, EvoShape is not only inspiring product form and styling but also innovative new product features,” says Dr Graham. “It’s particularly exciting to see how a family of products can evolve from the same ‘shape DNA’ and also how this can encourage design professionals and their clients to collaborate on product design, across many industry sectors.”

 
Dr Ian Graham discovered this high-tech Darwinian approach to design while an undergraduate at Loughborough’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and developed the technology during his PhD there. Knowledge Transfer funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) continues to support Dr Graham in commercialising the innovative research in the University’s Design School, with the backing of the University’s Enterprise Office.


Following its initial trial with 10 Leicestershire design companies, EvoShape was unveiled to the design industry in Austria in October 2011. Since then, it has already stimulated further collaborations with companies in Italy, America and the UK. The Enterprise Office is in discussions with companies interested in developing the software under licence.
 
“EvoShape is an excellent example of how innovative research can be exploited to boost the competitiveness of the design industry at a local, national and international level,” said Professor Steve Rothberg, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Enterprise). He concluded, “We can now confidently demonstrate this exciting new technology to both potential investors and development partners.”
 
Watch a demonstration here.


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