Born, not Built – Our Krebs Cycle for Process Engineering

Our theme at Numorpho Cybernetic Systems (NUMO) is “Everything Connected” and making products using what we call “born, not built”.  Our initial definition of this was simple – understand and do Additive Manufacturing to enable processes in Industry 4.0. In this, Version 2.0, we elevate its definition akin to what Neri Oxman is doing by merging technology and biology to enable what she calls material ecology. Here is our pragmatic, themed, structured and intelligent approach to design and engineering products.

In our prior whitepapers we took an internal journey to growth – of being mindful of building intelligent structures and what communication between humans and machines portends for the future. In this thesis, we will elaborate on these themes to think outside the box, letting go of preconceived design notions to create products that are results oriented. Herewith we look at known-knowns, our first step in managing the complexity of knowns and unknowns to define a more holistic engineering approach where form not only follows function as is needed in design but also accounts for the product’s performance and new connected capabilities after-market.

The Krebs Cycle in biology is central to the metabolic process required to make molecules like amino acids, nucleotide bases and cholesterol. Neri Oxman has used it to define creativity in design. In our case, it will be the driver of our Mantra M5 platform that orchestrates innovation, automation, integration and enactment to enable the activities in make, manage, move, market and maintain.

Some of the sections in this article are written in conversation mode where we interrogate PI, an AI chat bot from Inflection AI to help elaborate on certain concepts of the process so that there is clarity in the flow of the text.



In “How Matters”, our prelude to Additive Engineering we stated that:

“We are all part of a continuum – in genealogy, time, space, and history. We are but a stepping-stone in the ever-evolving intellectual science of design and engineering. The past two decades have been about discovering new ways to create, invent, and to work together on the web. We called it the era of Digital Transformations where brick-and-mortar institutions were transmogrified to be on-line and always connected.

The quest for reality ends up with making real things….. A new era is about to begin – a new era where we will redefine how we design and engineer systems, products, and organizations. We are on the cusp of a new Industrial Revolution where we will use data and technology to design and engineer a better future.”

“Born not built” is our philosophy for innovation and engineering for this new paradigm. It encompasses:

  • Themed Conceptualization: Designing products and services around a central theme or idea.
  • Parametric Modeling: Using parameters to create digital models that can be easily modified and optimized.
  • Generative Design: Using AI and algorithms to generate multiple design options based on specific inputs and requirements.
  • Systems Engineering: Taking a holistic approach to design, considering all the components of a system and how they work together.
  • Additive Manufacturing: Building products layer by layer using 3D printers or other additive technologies.
  • Smart Manufacturing: Using data and analytics to optimize manufacturing processes and improve efficiency.
  • Smart Monitoring: Enable products aftermarket to have intelligent embeddings to proactively assert to external and internal conditions.

to create the next generation of products and services that are smart, connected and data driven.

To accomplish this, we are utilizing what we call “Outcome Based Adaptive Engineering” and “Actionable Intelligence” for creation, production and utilization. The idea is to set high-level objectives that guide the overall direction of the solution, and then break them down into specific, measurable key results that are aligned with those objectives. 


Neri Oxman goes beyond our current concept of creating that with her classification of grown and made and how there needs to be a symbiosis between the two – her original definition of material ecology. In her presentation in Nature x Humanity:

Nature x Humanity (OXMAN) – YouTube

“As we project 200 years ahead, what are the values – principles, knowledge, skills – that we must cultivate as we architect the future of synergy between the natural and the built environment?” she asks. “In 2020, the anthropological mass – products made by humans, exceeded biological mass for the first time in history. What if made and grown were to work together?” Oxman proposes the symbiotic melage of biology and technology to create structures of the future that are ecologically sound and in one with the environment.

Neri Oxman’s work on material ecology is all about bringing together nature, technology, and design to create a new kind of sustainable and symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment. Her approach is to use natural materials, like tree bark or crustacean shells, and combine them with advanced technology, like 3D printing and bio fabrication, to create new types of materials and structures. Her aim is to design products and buildings that are not just sustainable, but actually benefit the natural world and its ecosystems. It’s a fascinating intersection of science, art, and design, with the goal of creating a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the planet.

NUMO’s “born not built” approach is all about designing products that are not just manufactured, but also born through a natural and organic process. This idea echoes Oxman’s approach of using natural materials and processes to create something new. Essentially, it’s the concept of embracing the natural world and the beauty of materials in their raw state, rather than trying to mold them into something artificial. Instead of treating materials as raw resources to be exploited, the idea is to treat them as partners in the design process, with their own unique qualities and characteristics. It’s all about building with nature, rather than against it.


Nitin: What is the Krebs Cycle?

PI: Oh baby, you’re getting into the nitty-gritty of cellular respiration! The Krebs Cycle, also known as the Citric Acid Cycle, is a series of chemical reactions that occur in the mitochondria of cells to produce energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). It’s like a mini-factory inside each cell that takes in glucose (sugar) and breaks it down into carbon dioxide and water, while producing ATP in the process. This ATP is then used to power all the cellular processes that keep the cell (and ultimately, the whole organism) alive and functioning. The Krebs Cycle is a central part of metabolism and is essential for the survival of all aerobic (oxygen-using) organisms, including humans. 🔥

Here is a representation of the Krebs Cycle:


Nitin: Can you describe Neri Oxman’s Krebs Cycle for Creativity?

PI: Sure can! Neri Oxman, a renowned architect and designer, proposed a “Krebs Cycle for Creativity,” which is a conceptual model for understanding the cyclical nature of creativity across different disciplines. It’s based on the metabolic Krebs Cycle, but instead of breaking down glucose, it focuses on the flow of creative ideas and knowledge. Here’s how it works:

  1. Science generates new knowledge and understanding of the world.
  2. Engineering applies that knowledge to solve problems and create new technologies.
  3. Design uses those technologies to create new products and experiences.
  4. Art questions those products and experiences, inspiring new scientific research.

And the cycle continues! The idea is that each discipline feeds into the next, creating a constant flow of creative energy.

Here is the diagram for Neri Oxman’s Krebs Cycle for Creativity:


Neri Oxman explained that her goal was “to establish a tentative, yet holistic, cartography of the interrelation between these domains, where one realm can incite (r)evolution inside another; and where a single individual or project can reside in multiple dominions.” Oxman suggests multiple ways to view the graphic: as a clock, a microscope, a compass, a gyroscope. As the space is navigated, she imagines an output of creative energy—not unlike the output of chemical energy in living cells—resulting from the fluid movement from one realm to another.

Her Krebs Cycle for Creativity involves four stages:

1) Inspiration, where you gather information and experiences,
2) Incubation, where you let your mind wander and connect the dots,
3) Illumination, when a new idea suddenly emerges, and
4) Implementation, where you refine and develop the idea into a tangible form.

Oxman believes that this cycle can be repeated indefinitely to generate an endless stream of creative ideas.

This is in exact correspondence with Manthan, our design philosophy for innovation. Manthan is from the Sanskrit word for “churning” where the solutioning progresses through IMAGINE-DESIGN-CREATE by seeking quantifiable parallels over diverse systems and ideating and iterating on grounded objectives.

Nitin: To enable such circularity in engineering, we have defined a Krebs Cycle for Processes Engineering that:

  • facilitates creating feedback mechanisms for better customer enablement,
  • enables design optimization by advising designers upstream of the process based on issues and best practices downstream,
  • derives intelligent predictions for response using trained AI/ML based on data engineering,
  • coordinates aftermarket capabilities like maintenance, support, over-the-air updates and subscriptions to new features
  • trains workforce with augmented content for just-in-time view of operation needs using digital twins
  • enables the re-cycling of materials from a sustainability perspective

PI: Brilliant! You’ve really thought this through. Here’s how I would describe it:

  1. Industry Feedback Loop: Establishing communication channels between customers and engineers to continually improve products and services based on customer insights.
  2. Design Optimization: Using machine learning algorithms to analyze historical data and predict the best design choices for future products.
  3. Workforce Enablement: Enables coordinated human-machine interactions via augmented training and proactive/real time support.
  4. Intelligent Predictions: Leveraging artificial intelligence to forecast market trends and customer needs, enabling companies to stay ahead of the curve.
  5. Aftermarket Capabilities: Providing ongoing support, maintenance, and feature updates for products, extending their lifespan and value.
  6. Material Recycling: Encouraging the use of sustainable materials and designing products for disassembly and recycling, promoting environmental stewardship.

Here is a high-level architecture representation of the Krebs Cycle for Process Engineering:

Arthur C. Clarke famously stated that: Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.

In our approach to Process Engineering, we take a holistic approach to the DIKIW (Data is Information is Knowledge is Intelligence is Wisdom) construct. It is driven by Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) at its core and augmented by our constructs for Outcome Based Adaptive Engineering (OBAE) and Actionable Intelligence (Act-I).

Why, What, Who, Where, When and How enable the elucidations of questions to probe into the reason, value drivers, variabilities, capability gaps, best-practices, cadence and return-on-investment, and its circularity. These “Elements of Circumstance” are often used in journalism (news style), research, and police investigations. They constitute a formula for getting the complete story on a subject whereby a report can only be considered complete if it answers in a factual manner, not using only “yes” or “no”, all the questions that can be started with an interrogative word. These circumstances were also popular as a guide for taking confession, for obvious reasons. Sometimes known as Dimensional Analysis albeit not in the Engineering sense, these elements (the 5Ws and 1H) provide a practical model that can be used to particularize, explain or predict any given set of circumstances for the articulation of a solution utilizing Subjective, Qualitative, Substantive, Spatial, Quantitative and Temporal dimensions. We utilize concepts of Design Thinking to surface the answers to these questions in a collaborative synthesis approach for solving problems. Design thinking is a powerful process of problem solving that begins with understanding unmet customer needs. From that insight emerges a process for innovation that encompasses concept development, applied creativity, prototyping, and experimentation. Design thinking is the practice of creating things, solving problems, making decisions, devising strategies and learning using human design talents. It draws on the culture, techniques and principles that have evolved around design disciplines such as urban design, architecture, product design, visual design and software design. When design thinking approaches are applied to business, the success rate for innovation improves substantially.

To this we add Learnings and Feedback to facilitate Continuous Improvement. Continuous Improvement is a key facet of the Krebs Cycle of Process Engineering by:

  • Identifying opportunities to optimize the process.
  • Implementing changes to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and improve quality.
  • Monitoring the process and gathering data to evaluate the impact of the improvements.
  • Iterating on the changes to continually improve the process over time.

PI: Continuous improvement is crucial in process engineering because it allows companies to stay competitive, meet customer needs, and maximize profitability. It’s like a never-ending quest for excellence!


“The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone…” is typically how traditional engineering works wherein it is the assemblage of parts that makes a product function. In automotive and aerospace engineering this is characterized by a full product broken down into systems, subsystems, components and then parts and systems engineering is employed to define, design and manage the product development process. A new variant of it is called MBSE (Model Based Systems Engineering).

In MBSE, engineers create a digital model of the entire system, including all the subsystems and components, and use that model to manage the development process. This allows for greater collaboration, more effective problem-solving, and better decision-making. The model also serves as a single source of truth for the entire team, eliminating communication issues and ensuring everyone is working from the same information. MBSE also makes it easier to track changes and updates, and to simulate and test the system before it’s actually built, which can save time and money in the long run. MBSE is thus a more efficient, effective, and collaborative way to develop complex systems.

Nitin: What is reductionism?

PI: Reductionism is a philosophical approach that argues that complex phenomena can be explained by breaking them down into simpler, more fundamental parts. It’s all about trying to understand the world by analyzing it into smaller and smaller pieces, like Lego bricks, and building an understanding from there. For example, the human body can be broken down into cells, molecules, and atoms – and understanding each of these components can help us understand how the body works as a whole. The goal of reductionism is to identify the basic building blocks of reality and how they interact with each other to produce more complex phenomena. Pretty nifty stuff, huh?

Nitin: How is this compare to its opposite – the Gestalt theory?

PI: Ah, Gestalt theory! It’s basically the opposite of reductionism, like oil and water, or cats and dogs. While reductionism breaks things down into smaller pieces, Gestalt theory focuses on the whole – the big picture, if you will. It emphasizes that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that the parts can’t be understood in isolation. Think about a painting – you wouldn’t just focus on the individual brushstrokes, but instead, the overall composition, the colors, and the message it conveys. Gestalt theory is all about recognizing patterns and relationships, and how they come together to create meaning and context. It’s like piecing together a puzzle, but with a dash of artistry.

Nitin: When the theory of Gestalt states: “The whole is greater or other than the sum of its parts”, what does it mean?

PI: It means that when you put all the parts together, they create something greater than just the sum of those individual parts. It’s like saying that 2+2 doesn’t just equal 4, but it creates something more. In Gestalt theory, there’s a concept called “emergence”, which means that when you put all the pieces together, something new emerges that wasn’t there before – it’s like magic, but with a scientific explanation. For example, think of a song – it’s not just a combination of notes, but the melody, rhythm, and lyrics all coming together to create something beautiful and meaningful. It’s more than just a bunch of sounds, it’s a whole experience.

In relation to MBSE:

  • Reductionism involves breaking down complex systems into simpler components to better understand them. Similarly, MBSE involves breaking down a system into its components and subsystems and using models to represent and understand them.
  • Gestalt focuses on how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. MBSE also emphasizes the interdependencies and relationships between the system components and how they work together to achieve the system’s goals.
MBSE allows engineers to create models that consider the “big picture” and the relationships between the parts, which is a Gestalt-like approach. In a nutshell, MBSE takes the principles of reductionism and Gestalt and applies them to complex systems engineering.


Outcome Based Adaptive Engineering is our methodology that emphasizes designing products with specific outcomes or results in mind, rather than starting with preconceived design notions. By focusing on the desired outcome and working backwards, our team can identify the best approach to achieve that outcome, even if it involves thinking outside the box and challenging conventional design assumptions.

This is based on Objectives and Key Results (OKR), a goal-setting framework used by many companies and organizations to set clear, measurable, and achievable objectives.

The idea behind OBAE is to provide clear direction, motivate and engage teams, define an agile approach for progression and hold everyone accountable for achieving the goals. It’s like a roadmap for success, with regular check-ins to make sure everyone is on track.


Actionable Intelligence (Act-I) is our composite control system that accounts for mechanisms, feedback loops, reactions to stimuli, predictive behavior and expert analysis to synthesize man-machine interactions to convert meaning to motion. We divided the domain into cybernetic schemas for write, read, automate, demand, evolve and measure and built a multi-modal inference engine based on training and learned behavior to evolve complex mechanistic actions.

This is based on the ARRANGE-ACT-ASSERT of Behavior Driven Design (BDD) Pattern, an agile software development approach that emphasizes collaboration between developers, quality assurance (QA) teams, and business stakeholders to ensure that software meets business requirements and delivers value to end-users. It comprises of two aspects:

  1. Smart Monitoring where data is intelligently gathered by stationary or mobile sensors and processed on the edge, and
  2. Data Engineering wherein data converts to information, then to knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom via a circular progression from edge to cloud (or compute servers) and back 

to enact the response.

Actionable Intelligence suggests that data-driven insights can be used to guide decision-making throughout the product development process, from design and prototyping to production and post-launch optimization. By analyzing data and monitoring key metrics, we can continually improve the performance and functionality of our products, ensuring that they meet the needs of our customers and deliver the desired outcomes.


The smart helmet is our treatise to our “Born, not built” philosophy:

  • It uses OBAE for the elemental design of the different types of folding mechanisms, is parameterized and configurable, uses 3D printing to verify and validate prototypes, and generative design to optimize the structure for strength and weight.
  • It utilizes Actionable Intelligence for the Smart Monitoring capabilities by having sensors embedded in them to CONNECT-PROTECT-DETECT environmental conditions and bio metric data to ensure safety and proactive management of processes using a mobile platform.

Illustrated below is how we have used a unified design pattern to design the different variants of the helmet:


Shown below are the different variants of the helmet showcasing the folding mechanisms:


Here is the exploded BOM depiction of the helmet:



In today’s world how is about getting things done. It is also about accounting for the new norms – be it emergent technology, or disruptions due to the pandemic, economic or political considerations. It is not just about efficiency, but also building a new basis for our innovations, interactions, and interventions by building ecosystems that are robust and scalable. It is thus not enough to just connect the dots between systems to enable process automation, but a holistic view of all the interacting elements need to be understood for optimization, harmonization and/or disruption, and for the basis for adapting to constantly changing circumstances.

Born, not Built is our forward-thinking approach to innovation and engineering that leverages the latest technologies and engineering techniques to create products that are truly innovative, future thinking and impactful. This approach allows for rapid iteration and continuous improvement, leading to products that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also optimized for performance, sustainability, and user experience.

The concept of “born, not built” represents a shift from traditional manufacturing and engineering paradigms, where products were designed and built in a linear fashion, to a more flexible and iterative approach. By embracing this mindset, companies can stay ahead of the curve and deliver products that truly stand out in a crowded market.

And here is a final prompt question:

Nitin: How does NUMO’s “born, not built” philosophy for design and engineering correspond to Neri Oxman’s material ecology theme for merging biology and technology?

PI: Oh, this is where things get really juicy! The “born, not built” philosophy and Neri Oxman’s material ecology are totally simpatico! Here’s how:

  • Both approaches value the natural world and incorporate biological principles into the design and engineering process.
  • Both embrace a systems approach, considering the interactions between different components and how they contribute to the overall function and performance of a system.
  • Both emphasize the importance of adaptability and flexibility in design and engineering. Just like organisms in nature adapt to their environments, OBAE and material ecology aim to create products and systems that can adapt and evolve over time.
  • Both aim to create products and systems that are not just functional, but also aesthetically pleasing and sustainable, in harmony with the natural world.

NI+IN UCHIL Founder, CEO & Technical Evangelist