Topology optimization for additive manufacturing of customized meso-structures using homogenization and parametric smoothing functions
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Topology optimization tools are useful for distributing material in a geometric domain to match targets for mass, displacement, structural stiffness, and other characteristics as closely as possible. Topology optimization tools are especially applicable to additive manufacturing applications, which provide nearly unlimited freedom for customizing the internal and external architecture of a part. Existing topology optimization tools, however, do not take full advantage of the capabilities of additive manufacturing. Prominent tools use micro- or meso-scale voids or artificial materials to parameterize the topology optimization problem, but they use filters, penalization functions, and other schemes to force convergence to regions of fully dense (solid) material and fully void (open) space in the final structure as a means of accommodating conventional manufacturing processes. Since additive manufacturing processes are capable of fabricating intermediate densities (e.g., via porous mesostructures), significant performance advantages could be achieved by preserving and exploiting those features during the topology optimization process. Towards this goal, a topology optimization tool has been created by combining homogenization with parametric smoothing functions. Rectangular mesoscale voids are used to represent material topology. Homogenization is used to analyze its properties. B-spline based parametric smoothing functions are used to control the size of the voids throughout the design domain, thereby smoothing the topology and reducing the number of required design variables relative to homogenization-based approaches. Resulting designs are fabricated with selective laser sintering technology, and their geometric and elastic properties are evaluated experimentally.