The key to unlocking the user benefits of multifunctional AM lies in the design freedoms that the additive approach engenders; it is this immense design flexibility that gives the potential of multifunctional AM components and structures. Here, the major challenge is to produce a combinatorial design methodology that enables the design of devices / structures that are potentially topologically optimised with integral lattices (for light-weighting) and opto-electrical pathways (for embedded functionality). This combinatorial approach to design presents a radical advance in product design where weight, performance, functionality and aesthetics are combined in one part and manufactured as a single item.
An initial objective of this project is to combine macro-scale functionally graded lattice structures with a topologically optimised overall shape. Over the course of the first year, a dithering based method for spatially varying lattice structural properties has been devised and evaluated. The definition of the lattice was based upon an optimised material distribution result or FEA analysis. In parallel to this, work on generating functionally graded lattice structures using a voxel based method has been carried out.
Further work has been undertaken on the implementation of efficient meshing and analysis techniques that take full advantage of the design freedoms of AM. 2D quadtree decomposition has been implemented for improved efficiency of a topology-optimisation algorithm. The effect of this alternative mesh on the topology has been evaluated. This has facilitated the evaluation of higher resolution test cases for multifunctional design.
Significant progress has also been made towards the development of 3D routing tools to place internal systems within complex AM designs. Initial work has taken a structural health monitoring component as an application and investigations have been carried out into methods to achieve the efficient and appropriate placement of monitoring components, such as strain gauges, and the associated circuit routing. Work has also investigated the effect that this circuit inclusion has on the optimal part structure. A number of 2D test cases have been evaluated by integrating the placement and routing methods with the topology optimisation algorithm. A journal paper is in preparation detailing these methods.
Project Team (Researchers)
Dr David Brackett, Dr Ajit Panesar, Dr Adedeji Aremu
Former Researcher: Dr James Brennan-Craddock