Generative design is making into space. Even if it’s used just for lightweighting, generative design software earns its weight. Yet the tool has become useful beyond just taking weight out of objects destined for space. Jacobs Engineering used generative design to improve NASA’s life support backpack. Engineers at Jacobs were tasked to leave behind conventional design biases and come up with an optimal balance of performance and safety.
Jacobs product engineers needed to balance safety, reliability, and lightweight design. As a NASA contractor, Jacobs teamed with PTC to deploy generative design software to optimize the life-support backpack.
The backpack is called the Exploration Portable Life Support System, or xPLSS. Astronauts will be using the backpack on the International Space Station, the Moon, and even Mars. These environments are hundreds of thousands of miles from earth. Because weight means energy in space travel, NASA scrutinizes every gram for impact on launch costs and, in the case of the backpack, for impact on the astronauts’ mobility.
Bring in Generative Design Tools
The Jacobs team used generative design to create the optimal solution to meet system requirements. With the generative design tool, the engineers were able to rapidly explore hundreds of combinations of different materials and manufacturing processes, including traditional and additive manufacturing.
Jacobs applied generative design to a variety of structural components to squeeze the most performance out of every kilogram that makes up the backpack. PTC’s Creo 7 generative design engine was able to challenge conventional design biases.
Using the tool, Jacobs was able to reduce the mass of the backpack up to 50%. This resulted in significant fuel savings while improving astronaut mobility. Jacobs also expects that using generative design tools will shorten design time by 20%, increasing the engineering team’s overall productivity.