Design through analysis: improving product design and automating manufacturability with topology optimization

Written by: SOLIDWORKS | Published: 10/20

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The availability of new manufacturing technologies—combined with demands for greater product development automation, innovation, and throughput—creates both challenges and opportunities for today’s product designers.

Tasked with delivering higher fidelity initial designs in order to minimize the delays and cost overruns associated with late-cycle performance and manufacturability issues, designers increasingly face the challenges of better understanding design behavior 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 analysis software, provide a transformational technology that can help you quickly and easily generate the optimized shape for a particular design based on the requirements of its operating environment and the production technique utilized. 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.


How do you, as a designer, start modeling a new product or component? You might begin with the design for a previous model, a classic engineering shape, or an image in your mind, and then work to improve it. Or, you might use specifications that define the space or envelope in which the design must fit—as well as the constraints and conditions under which it must operate—and then create a design within that space that you believe will function as intended. With any of these approaches, your design decisions are typically based on your experience and knowledge of traditional machining and manufacturing requirements. In short, your design approach is generally framed by your understanding of the manufacturability limitations of conventional production processes like injection molding and casting, or subtractive manufacturing methods like CNC machining and forging.

These manufacturability restrictions (e.g., undercuts, hollow parts, insufficient draft, etc.) don’t apply to today’s additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies, however. With these manufacturing advances, organic shapes that were once thought to be impossible to produce can now be created in a variety of materials via additive manufacturing methods, seemingly liberating designers from the manufacturability constraints of conventional production processes. Yet, conventional subtractive production approaches will continue to be faster, more cost effective, and of higher quality for many types of parts. What designers truly need is a means for automatically generating geometries that take the specific design space, performance requirements, and manufacturability considerations into account. The solution is CAD-integrated topology optimization.

The ability to generate the optimized shape of a part will help you create innovative, validated designs that are free of both performance and manufacturability issues, whether you choose to use additive or subtractive manufacturing. By delivering higher fidelity designs early in the process, topology optimization tools will also let you help your product development organization embrace a concurrent, collaborative approach to design and manufacturing, enhancing your company’s competitiveness.

A CAD-integrated topology optimization solution is more than just another example of how product development is becoming more and more automated. It’s a capability that transforms, extends, and automates your design toolbox, enabling you to more consistently generate innovative part designs, work smarter, select the most effective manufacturing method, and increase product development throughput. This paper explains how.

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