Topology Optimization Leads to a Prize-Winning Cast Part

28th January 2016

A joint project between the Precision Casting Centre foundry and voxeljet has received the coveted “Component of the Year” flagship award from the British Cast Metals Federation (CFM). The project involved an optimized aluminum Wheel Upright that is five times stiffer than before, while maintaining the same weight. Prior to carrying out the 3D print run, voxeljet and its partners optimized the topology and ran both a life cycle analysis and a casting simulation.

The project began with the need to significantly increase the rigidity of the Wheel Upright without changing the weight or materials used. With the help of cutting-edge simulation tools and using the full range of structural design freedom offered by 3D printing technology, the partners produced a Wheel Upright that is up to five times more rigid than its predecessor. Kevin Smith, Sales Director with voxeljet UK, describes the benefits as follows:

“The design freedom of additive manufacturing processes, combined with simulation, allows us to come up with a new generation of designs that overcome the earlier conventional design limitations.” It was voxeljet’s 3D printing process that made it possible to implement cast part geometries with this level of complexity. “Because of this, the CMF jurors had a hard time at first believing that this complex Wheel Upright was an aluminum investment-cast part,” Smith adds. This project is an impressive demonstration of the potential that exists with regard to boosting performance and/or reducing weight.

Another reason why the project received the award was that the component had been produced particularly economically by combining voxeljet’s 3D printing process with traditional investment casting. In the jury’s view, the project proved that this manufacturing process can revolutionize the production of complex cast parts with entirely new designs and offers many benefits for manufacturers and customers alike.

The Wheel Upright described above was optimized as a joint project between Altair, Click2Cast, HBM nCode and voxeljet. The engineers could take full advantage of component design freedom, thanks to the 3D printing technology and the simulation-driven design. Various software programs were used for the simulations. Inspire, which is based on Altair’s OptiStruct optimization solver, was used for optimizing the topology. The component fatigue was simulated with nCode Designlife, and the Click2Cast software was used to simulate the casting process.

Coinciding with voxeljet’s success at the CMF Awards, the company has launched an on-demand service center for industrial 3D printing applications in the UK. The substantial capacities of three high-speed, large-format printing systems, each of which has a build volume of 1,000 x 600 x 500 mm, make it possible to produce precise investment casting molds and models in just a few days. James Reeves, Managing Director of voxeljet UK, comments: “Our 3D printing systems are the biggest and fastest available today for investment casting. They enable us to respond quickly, implement short processing times and still remain cost-efficient.

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