Since the first industrial revolution, design and manufacturing methods have rapidly evolved to make it faster, cheaper, and more precise. Today, the 4th industrial revolution, or Engineering 4.0 as we are calling it has caused a major leap forward in this evolution. The terms additive and subtractive manufacturing, as well as generative design and topology optimization has made a lot of buzz in the engineering industry, specifically in product design. In the last few releases, SOLIDWORKS has continuously added new tools to go hand-in-hand with these new manufacturing methods.
Specifically, in SOLIDWORKS 2018, Topology study was introduced as a new simulation analysis study type. It helps guide the design process by calculating optimized minimum mass components through material removal and redistribution. In this blog, we will discuss ways to properly setup a topology study analysis to produce results that are suitable for additive manufacturing as well as traditional manufacturing methods.
Additive manufacturing can be defined as technologies that build 3D components one layer at a time where each layer bonds together as the material goes from a melted to solid state. This is essentially the basis of 3D printing which has given product design the freedom for more organic shapes that are not bound by the rules of traditional manufacturing. However, with this freedom and countless design variation comes the question, what is the most optimized shape? Topology Study can help answer this question by generating an initial design simply based on input parameters on a “block shape” part.
This block shape is designed to include the maximum material in the allowable space of the component that surrounds critical features that cannot be removed or reshaped. This gives the solution the most amount of material to work with, removing non critical areas and only keeping material that is needed for structural integrity. Critical features that cannot be removed or reshaped, such as holes and supports, can be retained in the final design by using the Preserved Region control. A preserved area depth option can also be included to give the selected faces a wall thickness.
Another feature to consider for 3D printed parts is the maximum or minimum thickness as the part is made up of layers with equal thicknesses. To ensure the correct dimension, a thickness control can be specified within the Topology Study manufacturing controls. Using this control, a maximum, minimum or thickness range can be set for the resultant topology.
While Topology Study has been a great addition in the design process for additive manufacturing, it can also be effectively used for traditional manufacturing methods such as CNC, Injection Molding, Machining, Stamping, Waterjet Cutting etc. For example, parts that are subjected to CNC machining may have fixed geometry that adheres to the rules of the machining process. It cannot be freeform like 3D printed parts. A great way to retain the original shape of a part is by using the Preserved Region control on boundary faces.
For parts that are being designed for stamping or injection molding, setting up a De-Mold direction is crucial to make sure the optimized part can be manufactured. This geometry control will help prevent the formation of any undercuts and cavities. Most importantly, it also ensures the part can be extracted from a mold.
All in all, Topology Study is a great tool to include in the design process when minimum mass components are the target goal, regardless of the manufacturing process. As manufacturing methods continues to rapidly change, the way we design and validate these designs will also change. Today, a lot of design validation happens in parallel with the design process. The goal in the future is to use analysis tools like Topology Study to help generate designs from the get-go and use current validation methods as a confirmation of strength and have confidence in real life performance of the optimized part.
Liked this blog? Let us know in the comments below or tell us what you would like to learn about next!