Efficient Design Optimization of Variable-Density Cellular Structures for Additive Manufacturing: Theory and Experimental Validation

Author: Lin Cheng, Pu Zhang, Emre Biyikli, Jiaxi Bai, Joshua Robbins, Matthew E. Lynch, Evan J. Butcher, Albert C. To
Rapid Prototyping Journal, 23(4), pp. 660-677, 2017
DOI: 10.1108/RPJ-04-2016-0069 


The purpose of the paper is to propose a homogenization-based topology optimization method to optimize the design of variable-density cellular structure, in order to achieve lightweight design and overcome some of the manufacturability issues in additive manufacturing.

First, homogenization is performed to capture the effective mechanical properties of cellular structures through the scaling law as a function their relative density. Second, the scaling law is used directly in the topology optimization algorithm to compute the optimal density distribution for the part being optimized. Third, a new technique is presented to reconstruct the computer-aided design (CAD) model of the optimal variable-density cellular structure. The proposed method is validated by comparing the results obtained through homogenized model, full-scale simulation and experimentally testing the optimized parts after being additive manufactured.

The test examples demonstrate that the homogenization-based method is efficient, accurate and is able to produce manufacturable designs.

The optimized designs in our examples also show significant increase in stiffness and strength when compared to the original designs with identical overall weight.