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Studio Bitonti: from 3D consultancy to generative design software developer

Francis Bitonti discusses his studio’s first cloud-based API for generative design: GENYSIS

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New York-based design firm Studio Bitonti has become known in the additive manufacturing industry for its boundary-pushing designs that emphasize innovation, aesthetics and function—often in relation to the human body. The studio’s founder, Francis Bitonti even designed some of the most notable 3D printed fashion pieces over the years—including Dita von Teese’s iconic 3D printed dress.

Since its founding in 2012, Studio Bitonti has gone beyond creating its own products, collaborating with various clients on product development and design, R&D initiatives and custom software solutions. A crucial part of enabling Studio Bitonti’s services and bringing its clients the best solutions was developing its own software tools for 3D printing, ones which catered to custom product development.

Now, the cutting edge design studio is bringing its own generative design software to market. The solution, named GENYSIS, is a cloud-based API that combines simulation and customer data to generate complex design processes. We had the chance to speak to Francis Bitonti in the wake of the launch to learn more about the generative design platform and Studio Bitonti’s vision for the future.

Francis Bitonti GENESYS interview
Piston component, GENYSIS

3dpbm: Can you give an overview of how GENYSIS came to be developed?

Francis Bitonti: We started off doing a lot of design work for companies that were creating 3D printed end-use products, such as highly engineered custom medical devices. What ended up happening was that we started building our own software tools to solve a lot of the problems we encountered and eventually we started becoming software developers more than we were a design firm. So we’ve wrapped up all that work into this API.

The idea is to address applications where people need to process a lot of CAD files and they need to customize CAD files, because, while there are a lot of design environments that can handle all that complex geometry, if you want to create a scale system, nothing really exists.

For instance, we had one customer come to us and they had a special super computer running this Grasshopper model and they couldn’t run all of their clients’ files through it. That came up quite a bit, that people were really at the limit of their software. We’re trying to open these tools up to a larger developer community, to enable people to build these applications. We’re marketing as a generative design tool, but we also have simulation. This is something that could really enable personalization.

3dpbm: How long has GENYSIS been in development?

FB: This is the first product we’ve ever put out. If I’m totally honest, we’ve been building this for about two years, but there’s been about a year where we’ve been thinking about it as a product. I would say it’s been a yearlong sprint towards this release, but it’s been something we’ve been working on for a long time.

Francis Bitonti GENESYS interview

3dpbm: Can you describe the business model for the software?

FB: There are different ways to engage. On the website, you can sign up for a restricted license for $50 a month. This license is for cases in which you’re building an application and you want to test our API out to see if it works for that use case. It’s going to be very restrictive, something like 100 API calls a month for prototyping and beta testing.

We’re also working with customers under a SaaS agreement model. There have been a lot of different use cases and different needs depending on the client, so we’re using a SaaS model through which people can come to us and we can put together a proposal to match the system to their needs. That’s the way it’s gone to date, and we’re going to see if those licenses turn into something a bit more organic.

3dpbm: What has feedback from early adopters been like?

FB: The feedback has been positive. That’s why we decided to release GENYSIS. We have some customers who have been using it for about a year, throughout the development phase. We’re feeling pretty comfortable about releasing it.

3dpbm: In terms of applications, what segments are a main priority?

FB: Medical applications are where we’re going to have the most impact; it’s where our team has the most expertise, especially relating things onto the body. Our experience at the design firm shows that projects related to the body really benefit from customization.

I think implants will be a great application. Historically, we’ve done some work in the prosthetics and orthotics space. I think the world of metal printing is another place where the meshes and geometries get very complex, though I see less need for customization there. For implants, however, there is definitely a need for customization, which is why we have such a strong value proposition.

We’d also like to find some partners in the tissue engineering world. I see them using a lot of the same types of forms, but the tools don’t seem to be as strong as they could be. That’s a place we could add a lot of value.

Francis Bitonti GENESYS interview

3dpbm: Looking at the numerous functions in GENYSIS—which include various lattices and geometries—do users have to select a specific lattice or will it be generated?

FB: If they’re using the simulation package, they can run tests and simulations to see if it’s working for them. Today, we are not offering automatic lattice design, but we have an enormous amount of data from lattice simulations, so that is very much part of the near term roadmap. We’re in the process of putting together that data set.

3dpbm: Are there any other features you anticipate launching soon?

FB: The other thing we have our eye on is a data science module. Often in generative design, people create optimization routines, but what we’ve seen—at least in our consulting work—is that what you really want is to explore a possibility space; you want to see what happens when you look at parameters across a given range. The problem with more traditional optimization is that it’s very hard to explore all that data.

For instance, if you run 100,000 simulations, most CAD packages don’t give you the ability to mine that data. That’s something we’re looking into as well. It’s stuff we’ve done as a consulting firm and we’re now trying to find a way to make it digestible for customers.

That’s our philosophy around generative design. I don’t think it’s a magic button; it’s about exploring the possibility space and finding the right solution. Particularly with custom products, because what you really want to do is find a range or cluster of parameters that work and then expose that to the customer. It’s not really ever as simple as finding a single data point.

Francis Bitonti GENESYS interview

3dpbm: How else does GENYSIS differ from other generative design platforms?

FB: I think our big separator is that we are cloud-based. We see our software as something that you will integrate into your favourite tool. Over time, we plan to begin integrating our software into other major CAD packages.

I’ve run a design consultancy for the last six years and the biggest killer of productivity is multiple software packages—importing, exporting, etc. Our focus is being able to really fit into a firm workflow and make sure that it’s productive and that these very cumbersome design processes don’t become even more cumbersome.

The other thing I would note is that GENYSIS is a voxel-based system—that’s at the core of it. What we’ve developed offers a way to handle volumetric and meshing properties. That’s what enables us to deal with all the complexity.

3dpbm: Going forward, will Studio Bitonti continue its consulting services and other operations?

FB: Yes, Bitonti Studio and the software work very well together. The studio is amazing in that it kind of creates the demand for the software. I definitely see both continuing to be symbiotic and I hope this product takes on a life of its own.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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