Quick, no-cost topology optimization software released as cloud-based MCAD app

Engineering professor's design software reduces guesswork, tedium in computer-aided engineering.

0 November 4, 2015
by Design Engineering staff

The graphic above shows a component design placed under the stress of an applied load, represented by the arrows. The top image represents the component before optimization, followed by the component optimized by ParetoWorks. (Photo credit: Krishnan Suresh)

The graphic above shows a component design placed under the stress of an applied load, represented by the arrows. The top image represents the component before optimization, followed by the component optimized by ParetoWorks. (Photo credit: Krishnan Suresh)

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers recently released a cloud-based computer-aided engineering software program that optimizes part design by finding topologies that maintain structural integrity but use the least amount of material possible.

“Design optimization lies at the heart of modern engineering,” says UW-Madison Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Krishnan Suresh who developed the software with an engineering team over the past four years. “It is critical in reducing cost, reducing material, reducing weight and increasing quality, and is a driving force behind innovation.”

Formerly available as a free plug-in for SolidWorks called ParetoWorks, the software was recently released as a web-based program at cloudtopopt.com. According to Suresh, the SolidWorks plug-in is used by more than 50 universities and several industrial corporations, while web-based version has attracted more than 500 users so far, many of whom use it to optimize 3D printing projects to save build material.

The free software’s popularity, Suresh says, is due not only to it being as capable as commercial applications of its type (e.g. Altair OptiStruct, Dassault Systemes’ TOSCA) but significantly faster. The software needs only seconds to identify an optimized shape for a component.

Similar to FEA, the online app lets users set material properties, mesh density, boundary conditions (e.g. loads, constraints, etc) and other parameters to define the structural design goal. However, instead of highlighting potentially weak or over engineered areas in an existing design, the software runs multiple analyses, paring away material until an optimized structure is found. Users can upload existing geometry as an .stl or .iges file or create it from scratch using a basic online companion MCAD app, called CADjs. Once optimization is complete, the output can saved and downloaded as an .stl file.

Suresh says the next goal is commercialization. His team is partnered with Jon Eckhardt, a professor at the Wisconsin School of Business and the executive director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at UW-Madison, to create a spinoff company.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first implementation of a full-fledged 3D cloud-based design optimization,” Suresh says. “It’s an accomplishment that even large corporations are struggling to match.”
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