Topology Optimization

Topology optimization is a calculation method from the field of structural optimization, with which the optimum shape of a component can be determined, considering the given boundary conditions (loads and restraints). In this way, a component design that is material-reduced but at the same time load-compatible can be derived from the available design space.

Areas of application:
Especially in the field of additive manufacturing, topology optimization is often applied. Since the components are built up layer by layer from a shapeless material, the component design is not restricted by process-related restrictions – additive manufacturing processes accordingly offer the greatest possible freedom with regard to the component design.

However, by specifying specific constraints, topology optimization can also be used to create component designs that are suitable for conventional manufacturing processes – such as machining or injection molding. These offer advantages for very high volumes, especially in comparison to additive manufacturing.

In addition to the development of load-compliant structures, the optimization of dynamic component properties is also one of the areas of application of topology optimization. For example, by adapting the component shape, natural frequencies can be eliminated, which are to be expected during operation of the component.

The typical workflow of a topology optimization is visualized in Figure 1. In preparation, the available space has to be specified and the given boundary conditions – such as loads and restraints – have to be defined. In the actual topology optimization, an optimization problem is solved. This could be formulated, for example, as follows: Minimize the compliance – i.e. maximize the stiffness – while maintaining a weight reduction of 35%.

The result of the topology optimization is an optimized component design in the form of a surface geometry, which in most cases still has to be smoothed for the downstream validation of the component design. In the validation of the design, it is checked whether the component still meets the specified requirements.

Advantages using topology optimization:

The use of topology optimization in product development results in the following advantages:

  • Determination of a component design that is suitable for the load, taking into account the acting loads
  • Increase material efficiency
  • Optimization of product costs
  • Design for additive manufacturing
  • Evaluation of different design variants without costly test series
  • Elimination of natural frequencies during operation of the component

Figure 1: Topology Optimization - Workflow