Introduction: Freeform Candle Holder Using TopOpt 3D

Topology optimization is an incredible new tool for the maker community. By establishing load and boundary conditions, topology optimization tools can build an organic model that is both aesthetically spectacular and structurally optimal. This tutorial will demonstrate how to use TopOpt 3D, an open-source interactive app to redesign household objects. In this example, we’ll design a candle holder using TopOpt, refine the geometry using 3DS Max, and 3D print a full scale model using an ultimaker 2.

Step 1: You’ll Need

1. TopOpt 3D application (available for Mac, PC, Android and iOS)

2. A pencil and paper for making a free body diagram

3. 3DS Max or other mesh editing software

4. Cura (available for Mac and PC)

5. Ultimaker 2 or other 3D printer

Step 2: Free Body Diagram

Find a household item you feel would be fun to redesign, preferably something that supports some weight or withstands some applied force.

Draw a free body diagram with the basic features of the object and the load vectors and boundary conditions.

Step 3: TopOpt Setup: Getting Started

Open the TopOpt 3D application with the default settings.

Under the File>Config tab, select a bounding box that suits the object you want to design. Here I chose 1 x 1 x 1.

Delete the default elements using the Delete tool under the Primitives tab

Press the Pause button

Press the Restart optimization button

Step 4: TopOpt Setup: Placing Your Elements

Head to the Primitives tab and add your elements using the Add primitive, move, rotate and scale tools

Step 5: TopOpt Setup: Setting Your Load and Boundary Conditions

Under the Augment tab, add your loads, fixed boundaries and passive elements by selecting the appropriate tool and clicking on the elements created in step 4.

Step 6: TopOpt Setup: Watch the Magic Happen

Press the Play button and watch the topology grow in realtime.

Tip: You can use the volume slider at the bottom of the screen to adjust the amount of material.

Step 7: Export the Model

Under File>Export, enter your email address and a file name. Choose OBJ as the file type.

Step 8: Refining Your Design

Open the model in 3DS Max and apply a smoothing feature such as TurboSmooth

Make any changes you see fit. In this case, I added cylindrical holes for the candles because it was easier to do here than in the TopOpt app.

Export the model to STL format.

Step 9: Print Setup

Import the model in Cura and chose your print settings. I used PLA material at the default high resolution, medium density setting. You may need to enable supports if there are overhangs like in my model.

Save the gcode file to an SD card.

Step 10: Printing!

Get your printer set up and start your print!