Optimization Shines at the SMDI Steel Wheel Design Competition

12th March 2014 by Tony Norton

Last year Altair ProductDesign worked with the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) to design a steel wheel that was equivalent in mass and performance to a baseline production cast aluminum wheel, but with a 30% cost reduction. So last week I was excited to be invited to Lawrence Technological University (LTU) to view and judge the entrants in this year’s Steel Wheel Design competition sponsored by the SMDI Wheels Task Force and Michelin.

Each student presented renderings of a steel wheel design to the judging panel and described how their wheel demonstrated material celebration, communicated environmental benefits and performance, innovation and a concept that complements the vehicle’s aesthetics.

Topology optimization with Altair OptiStruct (a technology that creates an optimal material distribution for a set of loads and constraints within a design space) was used to generate efficient potential design directions in the Altair/SMDI study. The LTU students used these topology results, and additional results created using solidThinking Inspire, as the inspiration for the broad range of designs and spoke patterns they presented in the competition.

It was great to see how the students embraced the technology so creatively and with so much aesthetic differentiation in their designs. Three transportation design students at Lawrence Technological University won scholarships for their designs including the overall winner Elizaveta Bondarenko.

Elizaveta and the other competitors showed how topology optimization creates a better understanding of product structure at the concept stage and can be used as a common language between design and engineering. Her design, in particular, shows how an elegant and brand appropriate design can be interpreted from early simulation results driven by product performance requirements.


The winning entry by Elizaveta Bondarenko


About the LTU Bachelor of Science in Transportation Design program
Located in the heart of the American automobile industry, Lawrence Tech was founded in 1932 on the site where Henry Ford made automotive history by perfecting the moving assembly line. Looking to the future, and with industry support, Lawrence Tech has created a unique transportation design program that allows you to blend your creative design talent with a comprehensive understanding of automotive technology. This union of design and technology offers you the kind of experience that automotive design graduates from other programs can take years to acquire on the job. It can give you the edge in competing for top-level design positions.

Built around the University’s signature “theory and practice” approach to learning, the Bachelor of Science in Transportation Design combines in-depth conceptual investigation with extensive exposure to practising designers and engineers. You will participate in real-world automotive-based projects and will regularly present your designs to industry professionals. You will acquire more practical experience through an internship and practicum before graduation.