Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beyond Lisbon...Denmark!

While I was attending the engineering conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Laura did most of the sightseeing. She'll be writing about that as soon as she gets everything settled in Gainesville.

In the meantime, I'm going to skip ahead another week. After returning from Lisbon, I was back in Delft for a day before heading on Tuesday, June 9th to Denmark Technical University (DTU) in the greater Copenhagen area for a graduate course. The course stretched over the weekend, at which time Laura joined me for some sightseeing in Copenhagen.

But before showing our pictures from the wonderful city of Copenhagen, the topic of the course I took - topology optimization - is sufficiently cool and accessible that I'm going to tell you what it is.

In the design of structures, a common goal is to produce a structure that will carry a given load without material failure or excessive deflection. You might have some kind of design domain (the light blue/purple area below) and know where you want to connect the structure to something else (the green triangles) and where the load will be (the red arrow). A solid block (like the light blue/purple) might suffice, but that's heavy and wasteful. So the question a designer needs to answer is, "Where should the holes go?"

Well, the TopOpt group at DTU, to put it simply, is the world's leading authority on how to use computer algorithms to figure out where the holes should go. In the animation below, you can actually see the algorithm progressively remove material until the final best (or optimal) part is produced! If you missed the animation, click on the image and you can watch it again. (If you're using Firefox, you may then need to hold 'Shift' while clicking the 'Refresh' button.)

The TopOpt Group at DTU offers some very nice web tools (which I used to produce the pictures above), so you can try it for yourself. It was a real pleasure to learn about this topic from all of the very nice people at DTU!

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