As a product designer you must take many factors into consideration when designing your product. Not only do you need to get the right design ready fast in order to minimize the delays and cost overruns associated with late-cycle performance and manufacturability issues. Designers also increasingly face the challenges of better understanding design behaviour and evaluating the most suitable manufacturing approach while they design.
Fortunately, CAD-integrated topology optimization tools, such as those included with SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional and SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium virtual testing-software, provide a transformational technology that can help you quickly and easily generate the optimized shape for a particular design.
With the ability to conduct fast topology studies, designers have opportunities to automatically generate the optimal shape for a specific design; to quickly take advantage of new manufacturing techniques; and to ultimately satisfy demands for greater product development automation, innovation, and throughput.
My name is Anders Wentzel and I work as a Technical specialist in PLM Group Denmark.
This blog post was written for you if you wish to:
- Work more efficiently
- Know how to check several designs with just a few click
- Know how you can reduce weight of your design, while not compromising on safety
Minimize material use for your products
As stated earlier there are many factors to take into consideration when designing, and one of them is the amount of material used. A high amount of material used equals cost. This can be due to the general material cost from the supplier, energy/fuel consumption of the finished product related to total weight or difficult production methods.
This is where optimization of your design comes into play, and through SOLIDWORKS Simulation we have some different tools for exactly this: Design studies and Topology studies. These are both taking previous simulation results into account. You can set various constraints and goals like weight reduction, maximum deformation and safety factor.
The difference between the two is mainly that, while Design studies change your existing dimensions of the model, the Topology studies can remove material from areas, independently of your defined dimensions.
Reduce your dimensions with Design studies
Design studies are a great way to reduce existing dimensions like thickness or length in a design, thereby cutting the material needed, while not compromising on the material’s durability in the application.
Take this shelf bracket, for instance. It is modelled like any other 3D part and put through a simulation study to highlight strengths and weaknesses of the design.
It is clear that the applied load of 1500N (roughly 150 kg), doesn’t put us near stresses that would result in material failure (yield of 27,5 MPa), hence this is a great opportunity to optimize the design.
We could just use the trial-and-error approach, changing some dimensions one by one and then run the study in between. But we also have the means to include several viable dimensions and run multiple studies with just a few clicks.
In this example we have set up three dimensions which we make SOLIDWORKS change in steps and added a constraint in the form of maximum stress in the model. This stress (25MPa) is set below the yield strength to ensure the model doesn’t fail under the load. To finish off, we have included the goal to minimize the mass of the model.
In total, these three variables with steps gives 105 different models of the bracket, which we will then proceed to calculate. With these calculations done, it is easy to scroll through the various combinations and find the one that suit your design needs the best – The ones shown in red are those which exceeded our constraint of 25MPa.
Also, because we set up a goal of minimizing mass, SOLIDWORKS will present us with the optimal design which still satisfies our constraint – In this example, combination no. 4
– By clicking it, we are presented with the changed design.
So, just be defining some variables, it is possible to make SOLIDWORKS calculate a lot of different designs, with just a few clicks!
When looking at the total weight reduction we see a decrease of 357,99 – 210,38 = 147,61g.
Reduce mass and get organic shapes with Topology studies
As for topology studies, the end goal is more or less the same: Design your product for manufacturing, while reducing mass. However, when using this approach, the result is often an organic shape which needs to be modeled afterwards to yield a good end product. Since topology study results are organic, it is often obvious to consider 3D printing the parts, if possible.
A topology study is set up by, again, defining some end goals – Mass reduction, stiffness and/or displacement. It is also possible to define some areas of the model that SOLIDWORKS is not allowed to alter, i.e., mounting holes/faces, important dimensions in the design or other significant variables.
Before calculating, you can also define a direction for de-moulding, meaning that it will consider in which direction the part should be able to be removed from a mould, if produced this way. When the calculation is complete, it is possible to review the result. As mentioned, this result is not yet ready for production, and it can be necessary to model the component from scratch afterwards.
It is also possible to manipulate the shape by dragging the sliders shown on the left, to either coarsen or refine the model.
When satisfied, you can export the mesh shape to another part file and start 3D printing, or further work with it.
Here we show a remodeled version of the bracket after completing the topology study.
After modelling the bracket, we put it through our simulation from before to verify that our design still satisfies our design criteria – which it does:
Achieve optimal design without compromise
While these two methods both works towards optimizing your design, they do it in different ways:
Design studies takes your existing dimensions, as many as you like, and alter them to your specifications, and presents the optimal design.
Topology studies takes your design and tries to remove as much material as possible, without compromising the integrity of the model.
Both are viable tools to use in the optimization process and enables designers to meet expectations for more complete and ready designs. Using SOLIDWORKS topology studies, you can create lighter, higher-quality parts more quickly because you will begin working with the optimal concept for your design situation from the very beginning. This will enable you to ensure greater design fidelity by validating component performance and improving design for manufacturability.
See how topology studies are used to optimize a bike
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