Within the release of Autodesk Inventor 2016 R2 is the Shape Generator tool for the design of efficient, light weight structural systems based on typical boundary conditions and loads that you specify. Although this technology is currently not within the traditional structural design products from Autodesk such as Autodesk Robot and Autodesk Advance Steel it is worth noting that manufacturers of mass produced structural systems can benefit from the optimisation of traditional products.
In this simple example shown above I have taken a simple bracket fabricated from 6mm thick steel plate with a simple gusset plate added for stiffness. The bracket needs to be designed to take a load of 500KN/m² with a safety factor of 1.2. The first step is to model the bracket with its basic form with all fixing positions.
The next stage is to launch the Shape Generator. Within the Shape Generator toolset you then add your Boundary Conditions (Constraints) and desired loads. You will also notice that an option is present to preserve regions. This tool will enable you to select regions where fixings will occur such as bolts and plated connections. Inventor will then take this into account during the optimisation process and preserve these vital areas.
Once this is done you then run the Generate Shape command. Inventor will then optimise the shape based on the Shape Generator Settings. In the below example we have set a material reduction of 30%.
Note that the result now shows the original mass and the new mass based on the optimisation. The resolution of the mesh can also be refined within the Shape Generator settings dialog box.
The next stage is to promote the shape to the part modelling environment where you sketch and model a refined and logical shape based on the mesh. The below image shows the promoted mesh over the original Inventor part. Bear in mind that with the affordability of LASER cutting for mass production this form of optimisation becomes a necessity based on higher material costs and customer expectations.
Below is the finished part.
You can then check the new bracket with the original loads and boundary conditions. In this example the bracket now shows a safety factor of 1.1, this could further be refined by changing some of the fillet radii on the profiles.
A very interesting process and surely the future?