Using FEA and Bone-Growth Algorithms to Optimize Designs

Inspire determines near-optimal designs from an operational envelope, loads and boundary conditions

In this interview, Shaun Kroeger, director of partner sales at solidThinking, discusses Inspire. Inspire is an FEA tool for concept creation based on bone-growth algorithms. Given only an operational envelope, loads and boundary conditions, Inspire determines a near-optimal design as a starting point for an engineer’s design iterations.

Shawn Wasserman, simulation editor at ENGINEERING.com: Can you tell us about solidThinking Inspire? (For Kroeger’s interview on solidThinking Evolve, click here.)

Kroeger: Inspire is our concept creation tool that really focuses on coming up with concepts from packaging space, and loading and boundary conditions. Using topology optimization, we simulate what the best possible structure is before you start your detailed design process. Or you can take [the design] directly to a 3D printer and print that.

This is the starting point, and you’ve got basically a design space, right? [Image of motorcycle with a blocky design space.] And then Inspire removes the material until it comes up with an ideal structure. [Image of new motorcycle with organic design.] And so this is structurally efficient, using engineering tools.

I’ve been in the industry quite a while. What I found is, companies get more value from engineering tools the earlier they used them in the design process. And so what Inspire does is it takes engineering tools and puts them in the very front in the concept design phase.

And then you have your finished design. [Image of final motorcycle design.] We did this in Evolve, and we’re actually building this motorcycle right now in our headquarters.

Shawn: Interesting. So you pretty much use simulation, FEA software, in the backend in order to do these simulations and to optimize?

Kroeger: Absolutely. So the underlying software is something called OptiStruct from Altair; solidThinking is a wholly-owned division of Altair Engineering.

What we did is we took this high-end engineering technology and made it simple and easy to use for designers. So that’s really the biggest differentiator, that [Inspire] is extremely intuitive and extremely easy to use. You can start using simulations from the very beginning of your design process.

This is just an example of a 3D printed bracket. [Image of 3D-printed bracket with FEA results painted onto the design.] We did topology optimization and then used some SOLIDWORKS capabilities to create color VRMLs [Virtual Reality Modeling Language] and then printed that directly on a 3D printer. And so it has the stress contours on it. You can visualize how it’s deformed a little bit, and see how the stresses are.

And you can include multiple load cases [in Inspire optimizations], so it’s not just a single-load case, when you’re creating one ideal structure for all the load cases combined.

Shawn: Okay. And does Inspire also connect with SOLIDWORKS?

Kroeger: It uses Parasolid[SD1]  as a communication mechanism so we

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