Adam Robertson (left) of the Precision Casting Centre and Kevin Smith, Sales Director of voxeljet UK, with the "Component of the Year“ award presented by the Cast Metals Federation.
I was asked the question at CES whether I knew what topological optimisation was, working in the 3D printing industry it would be difficult not to. It has been one of the industry's top terms for some time now, wth good reason. The fact that complexity comes at no extra cost means that we can make parts faster, stronger and lighter by concentrating on specific areas of pressure when designing a part.
It is this optimisation process that has led to a project by 3D printing company, voxeljet and the Precision Casting Centre foundry winning the coveted "Component of the Year" flagship award from the British Cast Metals Federation (CM). The project involved an optimised aluminium wheel upright that is five times stiffer than its traditionally manufactured counterpart, while maintaining the same weight.
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 part good enough to impress the CMF judges.
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.
The Wheel Upright
Comparison between the original Wheel Upright (left) and the optimised one (right).
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 revolutionise the production of complex cast parts with entirely new designs and offers many benefits for manufacturers and customers alike.
Note: 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 optimisation solver, was used for optimising 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."
Photo 1 ("CMF Award"): Adam Robertson (left) of the Precision Casting Centre and Kevin Smith, Sales Director of voxeljet UK, with the "Component of the Year“ award presented by the Cast Metals Federation.
Photo 2 ("Optimization"): Comparison between the original Wheel Upright (left) and the optimized one (right).