September 13, 2019
The design of 3D core structures is a major consideration in the production of highly engineered, lightweight components such as those common in aerospace applications. Core structures serve two critical functions: they provide a solid base for depositing other structural materials, and they serve as a skeletal structure that contributes to the load bearing capacity of the final part.
The complexity of both the manufacturing and in-use forces experienced by the core structures prevents the use of existing computational approaches for shape and topology optimization. Hence, existing approaches to designing core structures either cannot take advantage of the design opportunities enabled by additive manufacturing, or they produce over-engineered solutions using ordinary lattice structures.
The objective of this project was to reduce design times for structurally optimal 3D core structures. The design time aimed to be an order of magnitude reduction from days to hours.
A further objective was the simultaneous reduction in fabrication (print) time and material usage through co-optimization of the design and 3D printing process. A substantial increase in geometric freedom for the target shapes offers the potential for major reductions in life-cycle energy costs for operational vehicles containing the proposed core structures due to reduced weight.