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Topology Optimization Additive Manufacturing Constraints in nTop

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Topology optimization is a crucial step in any DfAM workflow, especially for lightweighting applications. However, not all topology optimization tools are created equal. At nTop, we provide you with complete control over your topology optimization workflows, allowing you to apply your domain expertise and generate parts that meet your specific needs. In this article, we’ll explore the power of nTop’s topology optimization constraints and how they can benefit your additive manufacturing (AM) processes.

The Impact of Overhang Constraints

One of the notable constraints available in nTop is the overhang constraint. By applying this constraint, we can significantly reduce the mass of support structures required to manufacture a part. Let’s take a practical example to illustrate this.

Running topology optimization on the GE bracket with and without the AM overhang constraint, we observed a remarkable difference in the volume and mass of the required support structures. Applying the constraint reduced the mass of support structures from about 130 grams to 45 grams. Additionally, the mass of the part itself decreased from 141 grams to 136 grams.

This reduction in support structure mass not only impacts manufacturing costs but also reduces post-processing time and, in some cases, eliminates the need for support structures altogether. With nTop, you have the ability to automatically reconstruct and smoothen the results of topology optimization and export the final part to a format compatible with traditional CAD systems.

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Advanced Capabilities of nTop

nTop’s topology optimization tools offer several advanced capabilities that allow you to enhance your engineering and manufacturing domain expertise. Here are three notable features:

Define Multiple Support Boundary Regions

By defining multiple support boundary regions, you can protect critical design features or extend the feasible design space. This level of control captures design intent that automated tools often fail to understand. For example, adding support structures to surfaces that interfere with other parts can be beneficial, as these features will be CNC machined afterward for a precise fit. On the other hand, generating self-supporting features in hard-to-reach areas or areas requiring consistent surface roughness can be advantageous.

Freely Define Build Direction

Unlike many other topology optimization tools, nTop allows you to freely define the build direction, giving you the flexibility to analyze every possible part orientation. This comprehensive approach enables you to conduct detailed studies and create robust optimization processes. Combine this capability with nTop Automate, the programmatic command-line interface, to leverage design automation for even more powerful optimization workflows.

Apply a Boundary Penalty

nTop’s boundary penalty feature, in conjunction with additive manufacturing constraints, further enhances your design processes. This parameter allows you to control material distribution within the design space. By adjusting the boundary penalty value, you can influence the algorithm to add or avoid material near boundary surfaces. This flexibility empowers you to generate topology optimized parts with varied cross-sections, adapting to different regions of your design space.

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Looking Ahead

The overhang constraint is just one of the optimization tools available in nTop. We are committed to continuously improving our AM-specific topology optimization capabilities. Our future plans include implementing additional constraints, such as a minimum feature size, to provide you with even greater control over your processes. Furthermore, we aim to expand these capabilities to accommodate a wider range of manufacturing processes.

We are excited to observe how our users will apply these powerful tools. Feel free to share your creations with us on your favorite social channel. Request a demo and speak with our technical sales experts to discover how nTop’s optimization capabilities can be applied to your project. Visit Ratingperson to learn more about our platform.

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