Giga-voxel computational morphogenesis for structural design

Niels Aage, Erik Andreassen, Boyan Stefanov Lazarov, Ole Sigmund

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Abstract

In the design of industrial products ranging from hearing aidsto automobiles and aeroplanes, material is distributed so as to maximize the performance and minimize the cost. Historically, human intuition and insight have driven the evolution of mechanical design, recently assisted by computer-aided design approaches. The computer-aided approach known as topology optimization enables unrestricted design freedom and shows great promise with regard to weight savings, but its applicability has so far been limited tothe design of single components or simple structures, owing to the resolution limits of current optimization methods1,2. Here we report a computational morphogenesis tool, implemented on as upercomputer, that produces designs with giga-voxel resolution—more than two orders of magnitude higher than previously reported. Such resolution provides insights into the optimal distribution of material within a structure that were hitherto unachievable owing to the challenges of scaling up existing modelling and optimization frameworks. As an example, we apply the tool to the design of the internal structure of a full-scale aeroplane wing. The optimized full-wing design has unprecedented structural detail at length scales ranging from tens of metres to millimetres and, intriguingly, shows remarkable similarity to naturally occurring bone structures in, for example, bird beaks. We estimate that our optimized design corresponds to a reduction in mass of 2–5 per cent compared to currently used aeroplane wing designs, which translates into are duction in fuel consumption of about 40–200 tonnes per year per aeroplane. Our morphogenesis process is generally applicable, not only to mechanical design, but also to flow systems3, antennas4,nano-optics5 and micro-systems6,7
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature
Volume550
Issue number7674
Pages (from-to)84-86
ISSN0028-0836
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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