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!