Topology Optimization for SOLIDWORKS and Process Manufacturing Simulation For SIMULIA
Shawn Wasserman posted on February 10, 2017 |
User votes were locked in a tie when deciding if generative design or the SOLIDWORKS large assembly improvements were the best announcement at SOLIDWORKS World 2017. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

User votes were locked in a tie when deciding if generative design or the SOLIDWORKS large assembly improvements were the best announcement at SOLIDWORKS World 2017. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

SOLIDWORKS World 2017

 (SWW17) saw some big news in simulation thanks to a partnership between Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA, SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing giant, Stratasys.

The partnership looks to improve the use of 3D printing for production environments through computer-aided design and engineering (CAD and CAE).

One of the major aims of this partnership is to link SIMULIA’s simulation portfolio with Stratasys’ fused deposition modeling (FDM) technique. This will help engineers to understand the 3D printing process and better optimize their printed products and prototypes.

In addition, SOLIDWORKS users will also benefit from this partnership with topology optimization and a 3D printing GrabCAD “easy button.” The new features made a big splash with users at SWW17 when they tied for the most popular new feature via live user voting.

Topology Optimization Comes to SOLIDWORKS, CATIA and SIMULIA

This circuit box used for space applications was reduced in weight by 30 percent using SIMULIA design optimization and a Stratasys 3D Printer. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

This circuit box used for space applications was reduced in weight by 30 percent using SIMULIA design optimization and a Stratasys 3D Printer. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

The first new feature spawned from this partnership comes to SOLIDWORKS, CATIA and SIMULIA in the form of topology optimization.

Engineers are often tasked with producing lighter parts. The challenge is ensuring that these parts are still feasible with respect to their loads and manufacturability.

Topology optimization is designed to tackle the first challenge, 3D printing the second. However, if 3D printing isn’t an option, then the topology optimization tool can still take other manufacturing processes into consideration when designing the part.

“Today, software is constrained largely by the manufacturing processes of history,” said Scott Sevcik, head of Aerospace, Defense and Automotive at Stratasys. “Additive manufacturing doesn’t have the toolset required to produce parts that fully take advantage of that design freedom. SIMULIA [SOLIDWORKS and CATIA] now does. SIMULIA can optimize the design of a part to make it as lightweight as possible.”

“We are bringing topology optimization within both CATIA and SOLIDWORKS,” elaborated Sumanth Kumar, vice president of SIMULIA growth at Dassault Systèmes. “The topology optimization is based on one of our acquisitions from four years ago: Tosca. It’s a subtractive technology, so it will start out with a box of material and then remove it based on the constraints, loads and boundary conditions. It’s based on structural analysis, but we have fluid optimization as well, called ‘Tosca Fluid’, that will be available on the 3DEXPERIENCE.”

A bicycle frame rocker before and after the topology optimization tool. The results are overlaid on top of the CAD model so the engineer can modify it easily. Regions in red must be kept while those in blue can be scrapped. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
A bicycle frame rocker before (left) and after (right) the topology optimization tool. The results are overlaid on top of the CAD model so the engineer can modify it easily. Regions in red must be kept while those in blue can be scrapped. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

 Final optimized bike frame rocker based on the topology optimization results image. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Final optimized bike frame rocker based on the topology optimization results image. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

By inputting a part, connections, forces, loads and boundary conditions, the topology optimization tool will give engineers an image depicting which sections of the part can be discarded and which sections are vital to the structure. This will ensure the weight of the part is as low as possible while not compromising on stiffness. The generated shape is independent of how the part was modeled, working completely on the CAD geometry.

For those that are not using 3D Printing, the topology optimization tool can also be used to optimize a part for other specific manufacturing processes. It won’t necessarily be the most lightweight variant of the part, given the production caveats, but it will be close.

The resulting topology image can be overlaid onto the CAD model to make it easier to modify the design. However, there is no way to easily turn the mesh result into a CAD geometry at this time. This is a bit of an oversight, as solidThinking’s Inspire already has this ability. Even though Inspire is targeting a more democratized audience, this is still a significant feature lacking in the new release.

“At this point the Topology Optimization technology is more of an analyst-type tool. What we are planning to do with SOLIDWORKS and CATIA is to bring it down to the designer level,” said Kumar. “It will have the same technology, but the user experience will be much easier. It’s already available for CATIA and will be available later this year for SOLIDWORKS.”

Balancing strength, weight and form is a difficult design challenge even for well-seasoned engineers. Generative design can be used to help optimize the topology and streamline the development cycle. Engineers can also create manufacturing controls, like wall thickness, symmetry and regions that must maintain their shape during the optimization.

 Bassi announces the Topology Optimization tool at SOLIDWORKS World 2017. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Bassi announces the Topology Optimization tool at SOLIDWORKS World 2017. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

“Traditionally, you design a part and throw it over to the simulation division,” said Kumar. “The analysis people look at it and say ‘We need to redesign the part.’ This loop happens many times, and in this day and age we can do better.”

Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO at Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, agrees. He said that in this day and age, “We expect the computing platform to anticipate your design goals. Topology optimization is a technology that creates a close connection between simulation and geometry generation. It will help you anticipate how to optimally reach your engineering goals. The era of design and validate is about to end. We are entering the era of optimize and manufacture. You will be able to optimize your design with reduced weight and optimal structural performance.”

Another tool added to SOLIDWORKS will be a GrabCAD print add-in, which will give users the ability to print and estimate a part within the safety of the CAD environment. This will help streamline the 3D printing process.

“This is a significant simplification in the CAD to print workflow,” said Sevcik. “The add-in will bring GrabCAD directly into SOLIDWORKS. Within SOLIDWORKS you can estimate a print time, identify a printer on your network, lay out a build tray and sent that CAD directly to print. You have a direct connection.”

Dassault also announced the addition of a new simulation tool for complex non-linear analysis called Simulation Engineer. The tool is based on the ABAQUS solver. Although it will be a stand-alone product on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, it will have close ties to SOLIDWORKS and will be rolled out with the next release. Engineers will be able to open their SOLIDWORKS Simulation models in Simulation Engineer and keep all of their models, boundary conditions and loads. 

What Else is in Store for SIMULIA with the Stratasys Partnership?

Strength and fatigue analysis of the circuit box that takes the FDM printing process and printed materials into account. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Strength and fatigue analysis of the circuit box that takes the FDM printing process and printed materials into account. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Thanks to Stratasys, SIMULIA will introduce process manufacturing simulation for 3D Printing. This will be made possible thanks to an integration of the FDM process into the simulation toolkit.

This will allow the software to simulate the printing path of the 3D printer. This enables engineers to better predict the warpage and shrinkage of the part. This information can then be used to predict the part’s properties and performance before it is sent to the printer.

“We can simulate the printed path which includes a structural, thermal and fluid simulation all at once,” explained Kumar. “We want to do that because the biggest problem with 3D printing is that there is a big gap between design and print due to warpage and shrinkage of the part. Being able to predict the printed path we are able to reduce the warpage and shrinkage, closing the gap between the part as printed and as designed.”

In other words, by simulating the part, engineers won’t just be able to predict things like warpage and shrinkage, they will be able to prevent them from occurring. This will lead to the creation of more accurate parts with reduced internal stresses and improved structural properties.

“Engineers are able to analyze the part before they produce them,” said Sevcik. “Engineers are able to understand and have confidence in the properties of that part because it fully represents the process under which the product is being produced.”

SIMULIA isn’t stopping with 3D printing for process manufacturing simulation. It’s also attempting to simulate the whole production floor. This should be a good advantage for those looking to optimize the production throughput of their facilities.

Enough of what will be new to Dassault on the macro scale. Much of the 3D printing process lives in the micro scale, particularly with respect to the print material. As a result, the simulation team knows that engineers will need tools to optimize these 3D printing materials. Though they are not ready yet, expect to see tools that will help engineers design their print material in the near future.

“Dassault Systèmes is working on phase transformation, lattices and composite layer build-up for additive manufacturing,” said Kumar. “We are going to the heart of 3D printing and giving the user the ability to design the material that will be used in the 3D printer.”

With the help of BIOVIA, Dassault is looking to help engineers design the very material they’re using in the 3D printer. Thanks to the molecular simulation capabilities of BIOVIA, engineers will soon be able to go down to the micro scale to optimize how the material will perform in the production process. This material design will start with plastics, but other materials will be added in short order.

“We are tying in the Abaqus technology with the Accelrys technology to connect the macro scale to the micro scale,” Kumar explained. “We are accounting for the microscopic structure but will also be able to build a lattice structure to be able to withstand the loads needed by the part.”

So what do you think are the best improvements to Dassault Systèmes to come out of the Stratasys partnership? Is it topology optimization, GrabCAD for SOLIDWORKS, process manufacturing simulations, or print material design? Please comment below.

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