Souped-up software reduces guesswork, tedium in computer-aided engineering
13 October 2015
A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers recently released a new computer-aided engineering software programme, and its users are already calling it a “gift from heaven.”
UW-Madison mechanical engineering Professor Krishnan Suresh led a team that spent four years developing the software, which assists in optimising the design of parts for just about anything — from bicycles and airplanes to bridges and furniture.
The software is intended to help designers quickly identify component shapes — known as topologies — that maintain their structural integrity while using the least amount of material possible. Less material means components are both cheaper to produce and weigh less, major goals of most design engineers across applications.
“Design optimisation lies at the heart of modern engineering,” said Suresh. “It is critical in reducing cost, reducing material, reducing weight and increasing quality, and is a driving force behind innovation.”
The free software is available as a plug-in for the popular computer-aided design programme SolidWorks and as a cloud-based programme accessible over the web. The SolidWorks plug-in, called ParetoWorks, has been available since 2013, and is used by more than 50 universities around the world as well as several industrial corporations. The web-based version, released this year at cloudtopopt.com, already counts more than 500 users, with two or three new users each day.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback,” said Suresh.
According to Suresh, the software is popular because it not only takes the guesswork out of creating ideal component topologies — a feature already available on other commercial software tools — but does so at incredibly fast speeds. The software needs only seconds to identify an optimised shape for a component, which Suresh siad is far and away faster than other available software, all of which is beyond most human capabilities.
“Design optimisation can be very tricky, and difficult for humans to carry out manually,” said Suresh.
Even an exceptionally talented human engineer cannot intuitively come up with some of the material-saving topologies that a robust computer programme is able to identify.
“We believe our tools are more robust, have wider applicability and are significantly faster than competing software and human design.”
The innovative software was largely funded by the National Science Foundation, and more recently by Sandia National Laboratories and the software company Autodesk.
Suresh said the next goal is commercialisation. His team is partnered with Jon Eckhardt, a professor at the Wisconsin School of Business and the executive director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at UW-Madison, and their goal is to create a spinoff company.
According to Suresh the possibilities for commercialisation are bright, as designers in all sorts of fields could benefit from the software. For instance, designers in the 3-D printing industry are quickly adopting the software because it helps reduce expensive printing materials.
Suresh has worked with companies such as Madison-based Design Concepts to continuously improve the product.
“They helped flush out a lot of problems with the software in its early stages.”
Now, the software is sufficiently robust and user-friendly to take to the masses — a major milestone in the world of design optimisation.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first implementation of a full-fledged 3-D cloud-based design optimisation,” Suresh said. “It’s an accomplishment that even large corporations are struggling to match.”http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/10/13/souped-up-software-reduces-guesswork-tedium-in-computer-aided-engineering/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Computer-aided-engineering.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Computer-aided-engineering-300x300.jpgMech3D,computing,software,United States