Topology Optimization: 6 Benefits and Disadvantages

Industrial product designing is naturally complex. 

A lot of factors together determine whether your final launch is going to be successful or not. From material optimization, space designing to usability, each factor needs to be aligned, increasing the power of the other. 

However, the real challenge lies in developing successful products at scale consistently. The traditional manufacturing process is immensely limited in potential. Not only are the design variations limited, but they consume a long developmental period.

Topology optimization, the cutting-edge generative design technique, redefines this traditional industrial manufacturing process. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, the manufacturing process of product engineering services run with more agility. 

The result? 

You have the most comprehensive array of designs possible at a fraction of a second. The best part? Now you can achieve complex structures that were impossible with traditional manufacturing development methods. But if you are still unsure if this technology is right for your business, we have you covered. 

This post reveals all the top benefits and limitations that this technology has in 2021. Let’s begin. 

Topology Optimization: Six Advantages and Disadvantages 

Topology optimization is all about performance, precision, and speed in the complete product development cycle in the manufacturing industry. In doing so, this technology brings a host of benefits to your business. 

However, being at an early stage of development, it has its limitations. But to realize which ones you should care most about, you would need to take one step back. 

Let’s see how you can define the technology. 

What is Topology Optimization? 

Topology optimization is a form of generative design software that utilizes a mathematical model (algorithm) to design solutions that optimize the material, density, shape, and space. It uses metrics entered manually by the designer like applied load, space constraints, development methodologies, and more. The technology uses 3D modeling to create a design space reiterating it to optimize the design for material costs and performance. 

The design element is hyper-focused on usability and functionality, declining all forms of aesthetics. Usually, the finalized design is manufactured with a 3D printer. Now let’s see how the present developments of this technology affect your business. 

Benefits of Topology Optimization

Topology optimization can create a significant shift in the business landscape in a short time. Let’s have a look at the top ones. 

1. Cost Reduction

One of the biggest roadblocks in the path of product development is the lack of resources. Topology optimization creates more bandwidth for your innovative and creative ideas. This technology reduces product development costs significantly. 

Harnessing the power of AI (artificial intelligence) and cloud computing consulting services, the software lets its users create product designs that optimize the materials required, improving energy efficiency simultaneously. The complex design structures that the machine generates integrates multiple parts into one, reducing the overall production costs. This means with topology optimization software, you can do more with fewer resources.  

2. Short Product Development Cycle

Eradicating the most significant constraint of the traditional model, i.e. human involvement, this technology is designed for scalable product development. 

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the tool generates every possible design for the product quickly. This fast design development helps in rapid prototyping and testing to finalize the designs that your market wants, ensuring more confident design decisions. This makes the complete product development cycle lean, and the final product reaches the market fast. 

3. Weight Reduction

Product weight is one of the biggest challenges of the manufacturing industries. This makes the designers who are skilled at weight optimization highly coveted. 

Topology optimization makes this goal look easy to achieve. The software’s algorithm is designed to try each design probabilities that reduces the overall weight while keeping the density at the minimum. However, reiterating is always possible if the designer is not satisfied with the software’s initial results. This is achieved by utilizing one variable body part and keeping others intact in the product. This means developing lightweight and high-performance products is no longer a mission impossible. 

4. Scalable and Complex Designs 

One of the biggest flaws of traditional manufacturing design development was a limited array of designs. After all, one designer cannot render infinite design options to choose from. But with topology optimization, design variations aren’t limited. More so, now you have complex design shapes to realize that were previously impossible to manufacture. 

Topology optimization uses ML (machine learning) to generate every probable design. The only limitations that the designer decides are materials, space plan, and methodologies of rendering. 

The best part is the quality of designs only gets better with time as your machine starts learning from the historical data of previously fetched designs.

5. Sustainability

Sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing is one of the top priorities of modern manufacturing industries. However, the problem is, finding ways to achieve so is often rocky. Topology optimization ensures you never run out of design ideas that support this goal.

Optimizing your resources creates designs that can be developed from the least amount of raw materials. This often prevents the wastage of unfinished materials, fuel, energy, heat, and other forms of resources. In doing so, it uses structural logic that supports sustainable building systems. The underlying working mechanism of the tool makes it the perfect tool for green-conscious manufacturing industries. 

To have a comprehensive understanding of how the technology fits your business, you need to know both sides of topology optimization. The benefits are one side of the coin. The limitations are the other. 

The Disadvantages of Topology Optimization

Topology optimization is still at the early stages of its development. Although a powerful technology, the tool has limitations. Following are the roadblocks that you can face. 

1. Complex Designs

The complex designs that topology optimization can render are both boon and curse. While they are simplified, scalable solutions for ideation, mass manufacturing is a significant issue. 

You can use additive manufacturing to render flexibility in terms of manufacturing here. However, it is a good idea to check on the bandwidth it can give to your scaled manufacturing before final design selection. This makes preparing a mindset that offers maximum performance a critical element. Designers must take into consideration three critical factors here: function, quality, and efficiency. Together, this can make the best designs of today possible. You can cross hurdles of traditional and topology optimization manufacturing alike. 

2. Initial Costs

When you look at the costs of developing an optimized software, the overall cost of the tool is subjective. It depends on your perspective and what your goal is with the tool. 

If you are an industrial heavy tool manufacturer, installing a topology optimization tool might be your best choice. Although the manufacturing costs can go a little above traditional production method, reducing manpower involved in the design stage can significantly compensate for that. But the most significant area here is the value you get from the investment. If you consider the cost to benefits ratio, the benefits outnumber the cost by exponents consistently.

3. Expensive Manufacturing

The complex designs of a topology optimization rendered software aren’t only difficult to manufacture but also costs more. This can create hiccups in the manufacturing process of many industries. However, you can use injection molds and 3D printers to alleviate problems of mass production. The only criteria are that the material used has to be plastic. 

4. Manual Constraints

Where topology optimization software can give you an unlimited number of design variations, it can be a massive challenge at the same time. This makes putting manual constraints significant to balance out the number of design variations you fetch. 

If your constraints are too high, then the most optimized designs might get compromised, while if it’s too low, then the sheer number of design variations obtained will puzzle you to finalize the product design. This makes the quality of constraint critical for the final design output that your render. 

5. Proper Training 

While the topology optimization tool can do the heavy lifting in the ideation phase of your product manufacturing, the finishing part is entirely upon you. Converting the rendered part into continuous geometries requires smoothening the structures prone to losing performance. This makes the requirement of smoothing algorithms like the marching cube algorithm critical. If the designer is not well trained on how to use the software for best use, you are likely to lose performance instead of gaining. 

6. Limited Use of Raw Materials

The complexity and expense of production of the designs get even more limited by the usage of a few raw materials. Plastic and steel are a few that enjoy maximum flexibility, but if you have to experiment with other compounds, a 3D printer or other additive design technology might fall short.

To Conclude

There is no doubt that topology optimization is the future of the manufacturing industry. This means faster adoption will give you a certain level of a technological edge over your competitors. However, the point of focus here is the ‘future.’ This technology is still in its early stage of development. 

This makes devising a hybrid working mechanism the best for today’s manufacturing problems. While you do that, there are two areas you need to be aware of: your unique product manufacturing landscape and the limitations of the existing mechanisms that the technology can alleviate. 

Planning the integration of the topology optimization tool can create a drastic impact in a short period. So big the question is, did you say yes to topology optimization yet?