topology optimization

The topology optimization method solves the fundamental engineering problem of distributing a limited amount of material in a design space.

In general, topology optimization programs enable designers to create a robust and lightweight design and minimize material usage. Often, the result is an organic shape, like something one would find in nature. The best manufacturing tool to build a design with these organic shapes is an additive manufacturing machine ( 3D Printer)  

#What is Topology optimization?

Topology optimization is a process that optimizes material layout and structure within a given 3D geometrical design space for a defined set of rules set by the user. The goal is to maximize the system’s performance by mathematically modeling and optimizing for external forces, boundary conditions, and constraints.

Topology optimization uses the finite element method to evaluate the design performance against defined criteria.

Although topology optimization has a wide range of applications across engineering product design, it is currently mostly used at the design stage to optimize its size and shape. This is mainly happening because the free forms that naturally occur through Topology optimization(TO) are often complicated to manufacture using traditional manufacturing methods.

But due to growth and technological advancement in additive manufacturing or so-called 3D printing, the design output by TO can be fed directly into a 3D printer.

Instead of spending time creating a model, you can use the topology-optimized model as a starting point or reference, saving you time while simultaneously improving performance. You can also use topology studies to explore new ideas and varying design options and help to refine your designs by letting you know where to add material and where to take them away.

#Advantages of Topology Optimization

  • Material Reduction

Every mechanical part or component potentially weighs more than it needs to unless it’s been topologically optimized. Lightweight structures not only reduce material costs but also limit manufacturing resource consumption. Generally speaking, lighter moving parts generate less friction and require less energy to be put in motion. Plus, the supply chain is also benefited, as lighter parts are easier and cheaper to transport.

Topology optimization methods dramatically reduce the engineering costs associated with new parts and product development. The automated process can produce considerably better-performing parts in a fraction of the time an experienced design team would be able to. That said, a TO is only a numerical tool that still requires a significant amount of human expertise to use.

  • Lighter and stronger parts

    Perhaps the most significant advantage of using topology optimization is the ability to enhance part performance by reducing its weight and optimizing its strength. 

    By adding or removing the material in places, defined by a set of parameters, TO tools allow engineers to explore endless design options and find the best possible a lightweight, yet resilient, the structure of a given part.

    Lighter parts are sought after by many industries. For example, in aerospace, lightweight components can significantly reduce aircraft fuel consumption, while in motorsports, they can radically improve racecar performance.

    Additionally, the lighter the part, the less material that has been used to produce it, which brings down manufacturing costs.

  • Maximum Performance

The optimal design of a given part is often not intuitive and usually involves complex and organic shapes. TO algorithms don’t consider aspects like aesthetics and violate standard design rules (such as uniform thickness) in favor of performance. TO also makes the use of new manufacturing processes like additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Truly, topology optimization goes hand in hand with 3D printing. The complex geometries resulting from Topology optimization methods are only capable of being produced through additive manufacturing processes. While traditional design practices aren’t able to make the best use of the design freedom provided by these new processes. It follows that with advancements in industrial additive manufacturing processes, topology optimization has been getting more attention.