The Topological Optimization Softwares for 3D Printing on the Market
Topological optimization is a mathematical and software method that consists of distributing material in a given volume according to the constraints that will be applied. It is used in digital design and more particularly in the field of additive manufacturing because it allows for the use of even less material while still respecting the desired mechanical properties. In other words, it reduces both manufacturing time and cost. Today, several companies have developed their topological optimization software or at least solutions that offer this functionality. Take a look at which tools are currently available on the 3D printing market for part optimization!
3DXpert is an all-in-one software from 3D Systems. 3DXpert is designed to optimally accompany the additive manufacturing process from design to post-processing. Users can model and optimize innovative assemblies with the software. Parts are consequently made from fewer individual parts, have higher strength, an optimized structure and a lower weight. This increases the efficiency of 3D-printed parts, which is particularly important for the production of patient-specific implants or for parts with complex anatomical geometries. Key benefits of the software include supporting functions for print preparation, print simulation and optimization, workflow automation, and data integrity.
Altair Engineering, a software and cloud solutions provider, has developed several 3D modeling solutions, some of which are specifically designed for additive manufacturing. The company has also developed topological optimization tools such as OptiStruct, now integrated into Altair Inspire. OptiStruct is a CAD modeling software that is widely used in the 3D printing market because it allows users to visualize their parts, apply constraints and loads, simplify certain geometries, etc. The topological optimization function offers several options such as temperature, optimization objectives, gravity or displacement and loading conditions.
Ansys Discovery is a 3D Design software product family offering from American engineering simulation software company, Ansys. Designed as a 3D simulation software, it combines physics simulation, high-fidelity simulation and geometry modelling in one easy-to-use tool and topology optimization is just one of the impressive specs that can be found within. According to the company, the simulation software will allow engineers to quickly prepare models for simulation or to create design.
ParaMatters is a fully autonomous and intuitive generative design, simulation and manufacturing cloud platform that helps with the optimization all steps from design to manufacturing. Their topology optimization solution is CogniCAD. This cloud platform is interesting as it has a number of useful features for 3D design, for example offering a fully automated 1-click design of support structures for SLA and DLP including controlling for overhang angle, typical lattice size and beam width, contact point thickness and more, all with output in STL for AM. It also one of the few offerings to have multi-material topology optimization, critical as additive manufacturing is increasingly moving to use more materials for a single part.
Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) is an American company that has developed several software products for the Internet of Things and augmented reality. It has developed Creo, a CAD solution widely used in the additive manufacturing market since it allows users to design, optimize and validate models before they go to the printer. Several versions exist today; the one we are particularly interested in is the Creo Generative Topology Optimization (GTO) Extension, compatible with Creo 7 and Creo 8. It allows to define the restrictions and requirements of the 3D model while taking into account the materials and manufacturing processes used. Finally, it is an option that improves your productivity since it takes into account all your requirements.
Acquired by Autodesk in 2015, Netfabb is a software solution aimed at preparing the production process. Among its main features you can find the conversion and importation of models coming from different CAD applications, the maximization in the number of parts capable of being printed and, as expected, design optimization for additive manufacturing. Because of the great design freedom offered by this technology, Netfabb had to integrate topological optimization into its software solution. In addition to preparing for the printing process, the program allows to reduce failures during the printing process by predicting how parts might be affected. Netfabb is available in 4 different versions: Standard, Premium, ultimate and Simulation, so its price will vary depending on the version chosen.
Headquartered in New York, nTopology is a company dedicated to developing software solutions that enable the creation of complex geometries through topological optimization and generative design. The program is capable of solving the most advanced engineering and manufacturing problems, as well as generating unique, high-performance parts. It has a wide variety of tools, unique design automation capabilities and complexities for advanced manufacturing. It is certainly a cost-effective option for the demanding additive manufacturing industry, who are constantly looking to lighten parts while reducing production costs.
Siemens has developed an integrated software solution called NX. It allows any user to benefit from all the advantages of additive manufacturing by simplifying the modeling steps. In concrete terms, its tool will allow users to design for 3D printing, prepare their part, visualize it, multiply iterations, etc. Among the functionalities offered, topological optimization is obviously part of what Siemens calls Convergent Modeling. It has developed a solution to allow traditional geometry to converge with mesh models in the same model. The user no longer needs to go through another file format and export it if he wants to optimize his part: everything is done on the same platform. NX is not a topology optimization software per se: it is an all-in-one solution that offers this function for additive manufacturing.
Owned by the multinational Siemens, Solid Edge is one of the solutions par excellence when it comes to creating three-dimensional models. The program was first introduced in 1996 thanks to the company Intergraph, and today it is still one of the most widely used software by experts in the additive manufacturing industry. In this sector, one of Solid Edge’s strengths is generative design, which, combined with topological optimization, helps to make the final parts lighter and require less material. The software can be purchased through 4 types of licenses, depending on the use and features needed for 3D design.
Though the company is now under Altair, we also wanted to mention solidThinking’s topology optimization software due to its popularity over the years, Inspire 2018. Claimed to be one of the industry’s most powerful and easy-to-use Generative Design/topology Optimization solutions by solidThinking, the software has a number of features that help users to quickly create designs that ultimately could lead to reduced costs, development time, material consumption and product weight, all critical for additively manufactured parts. The last release in 2018 included the possibility to generate optimized lattice and mixed solid – lattice structures that could then be exported in an STL file as well as design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) with overhang shape controls.
With Sulis, software manufacturer Gen3D aims to innovate the additive manufacturing process. The DfAM software gives the user immediate feedback on the geometry and supports the definition of the print layout. Various editing tools are available for this purpose, which accelerate the modeling process using click-and-drag. In addition, Sulis allows users to add grid structures to their model and plan them in detail. With its software solutions, the British company wants to enable designers to shorten their lead times and reduce costs. The AM specialist holds a customer base from various industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, and industrial machinery manufacturers.
Tosca is an optimization suite from Dassault Systèmes. It is a powerful structural and flow optimization solution based on FEA and CFD simulations. The company offers two product solutions in this regard: Tosca Structure and Tosca Fluid. Tosca Structure can be used for optimization in the design of lightweight, rigid and durable parts. Thanks to topology optimization, the development process as well as time-to-market can be reduced. This is an advantage that automotive manufacturers, among others, know how to use. The current version of Tosca comes with Python 3.7.1 and has been improved to include automatic creation of stop conditions. The second product, Tosca Fluid, is used for design and non-parametric fluid flow topology for components and systems.
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