nTopology Appears to be Filling a Void
Roopinder Tara posted on July 10, 2017 | 1679 views

Covering CAD, CAM and CAE is like the gossip columnist at the old folks home. There’s little that’s going to startle.

In a mature and stable industry, much is taken for granted and earth shattering news is not expected. While itself a revolution when it first came about, CAD has settled down.

It can be a little frustrating when you think there’s still a lot to be done and improve but you encounter the prevailing attitude that things are about as good as they are going to get. Or as they say at the old folks home, “Leave me alone, Sonny. Can’t you see I want some rest here?”

courtesy of ASBMR Bone Curriculum.
Figure 1 -This should not be so hard to model. Section of human femur shows an irregular, space filling structure. Picture courtesy of ASBMR Bone Curriculum.

But I still have a job to do, so I have to ask questions like:

·        Why is CAE still hard to use?

·        Why can’t I push a button to get my part?

·        Why don’t CAD companies use a common data format?

·        Why do we have to make all parts as solid objects?

Figure 2 – Some CAD program can make lattice structures, which are uniformly shaped and unidirectional. Picture courtesy of Gilbert Peters, on SlideShare. https://www.slideshare.net/GilbertPeters/topology-optimisation-for-3d-printing
Figure 2 – Some CAD program can make lattice structures, which are uniformly shaped and unidirectional. Picture courtesy of Gilbert Peters, on SlideShare. https://www.slideshare.net/GilbertPeters/topology-optimisation-for-3d-printing

That last question was posed to several CAD companies. To my mind, a non-solid part is SO desperately needed. Parts can be light and strong even if they are mostly air. Our own bones are not solid, they can be hollow or have a spongy structure. Yet, no CAD company seems to offer this most natural of building techniques. Nor will they say if they if they are working on it, or if they think it’s important to start. A couple of CAD companies offer a limited lattice creation capability. Not even close to what is needed…and I am getting frustrated, once again, at the industry’s complacency.

Then I get a call from Bradley Rothenberg, who I met at COFES. Brad is a co-founder of nTopology, one of several who have received a broadcast email to CAD vendors to discuss if they can handle filling spaces with internal structures with regular and irregular geometry.

“Yeah, we can do that,” he says Brad.

“No, really. Fill a hollow part with a cell structure?” I ask, skeptically.

“Yup, that’s what we do.”

“Closed or open cell?”

“Both.”

Now, this is getting exciting. I press on.

“Like human bones? You know, the spongy looking stuff on the inside the ….”

“Femur?” Brad finishes. “Yeah, there’s a picture of it on our website.”

I can’t get this guy out, one curve ball after another. I wind up my strike-out pitch.

“Can the internal structure grow according to the forces acting on it. Denser under stress, for example?”

“Yes. We do a FEA on the structure to optimize it for loads. The internal structure grows according to the loading,” says Brad, hitting it out of the park. “We really need to give you a demo.”

So, while it remains to be seen if nTopology can live up to all it promises -- and if it is easy to use for the engineer -- for now I am just giddy at the thought that innovation in design and modeling software is still alive and kicking.


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