Part 4: Augmenting part design with topology optimization Following the digital thread

Our bell crank has made it into the digital thread, but before we go any further, we want to see if we can make it even better, and lighter.  For that, we will need to use technology called “topology optimization.”



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Episode 3: Creating a smart part and managing its lifecycle

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Episode 5: A digital safety net

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In this episode, we will explore the concept of topology optimization and the role it can play in improving performance.  We will examine how, through topology optimization, parts can be created “like they have never been created in the past,” as noted in the video, and consider the consequences of such creation on industry.


Topology optimization is the use of computational analysis to algorithmically optimize design. Design optimization can lead to significant downstream cost savings for manufacturers in scrap materials and increased design efficiency.

The team will investigate how topology optimization works—considering the materials needed, weight targets, and expected stress loads—to locate material only where required in order to achieve the end performance goals for the part.  To see this in action, Mark gets some help from the team at Siemens PLM Software Mark and Jay Clark walk through the optimization process, step-by-step, to create a new version of the bell crank that is simultaneously lighter, and more capable of handling the stresses it will encounter when it makes its way onto an actual aircraft.  It also looks a lot cooler.  We’ll finish by understanding how integration with the digital thread makes topology optimization easier and faster.

But can we expect this new part to function as expected?  To answer that question, we will have to move to the next stop along the digital thread.

Further references:

Mark Vitale, Brian Tilton, Matt Conner, Aman Shah, “3D opportunity for scan, design, and analyze”, Deloitte Insights, December 2, 2016, accessed January 12, 2018.

Mark Cotteleer, Stuart Trouton, Ed Dobner, “3D opportunity and the digital thread”, Deloitte Insights, March 3, 2016, accessed January 9, 2018.

Siemens, “Engineering Optimization”, accessed January 19, 2018.

Jihong Zhu, Tong Gao, “Topology Optimization in Engineering Structure Design”, Elsevier, 2016, accessed January 19, 2018

Siemens, “Engineering innovation”, accessed June 4, 2018

Siemens, “Predict performance of your 3D geometry-based designs”, accessed June 4, 2018

Engineer's Edge, “Strength of materials basics and equations | Mechanics of material equations”, accessed June 4, 2018