These fittings appeared on Twitter this morning from https://twitter.com/CaseyRutland. The left hand one is presumably the bog standard weld and galv. The others, the result of computer optimisation and 3D printing. Pretty spectacular stuff but...
Of course we have no indication of how big this is or what it is for, though I assume those lugs are to take cables with forks or something like that. The fact that they are printed suggests they are relatively small.
So begin with some guesses. This fits as a cap on some form of strut with a ring of ties at odd angles. I guess it must be about 150mm high and the plates about 3mm thick. The printed ones are not, I think, direct replacements but different forms for a similar task. If pressed I would say that No 3 is designed to do a similar job to No 2 with different connections.
There is at least one sense in which the new models are better than the old. They are not hard and angular. One doesn't feel likely to be cut while assembling them. My objections (for I did make objections and was condemned as "old school" as a result) centre on the issue of abrogating the concept of design. Let the computer find the best form.
These forms may be optimised within the constraints imposed by the programmer and the computer operator but where is the designer in this process. Computers are tools and I trust they will always remain so. Actually, they only become tools when equipped with programs and the combination is very powerful. But no fitter would thank you for a spanner with sharp edges. Programs and computers need to be designed to assist not replace the designer.
The form is by no means unconstrained. The computer will have been given a massive array of possible links and allowed to choose which to use and how big to make them. The patch of spiders web at the back of No2 is an indication of that.
Looking for something similarly complex and beautifully designed I had a hunt for the Tobacco dock. It would be interesting to see what the computer made of this.
Of course Rennie started from further back. This branching cast iron support is a more complete thing.
So, where does that get us. 3D printing can release constraints but I suspect that the printed brackets would be many times the cost of the weldment. If there were many of them, the printer could make a pattern from which others could be cast. But what is this filigree going to look like when it has had several coats of paint and begun to accumulate dust and grime? Perhaps that depends where it is going. I have a mental picture of a brand new Leeds station with elegant white trusses dripping with the grease from dozens of dirty diesel locos. Actually, it was beautiful for a few days but quickly showed itself to be not fit for purpose.
My feeling is that the design is incomplete. It needs a bit of human intervention.