By Gus Petrikas
Autodesk has introduced a brand new feature in their Autodesk Inventor 2016 R2 Update - the Shape Generator.
The tool has created some buzz on the internet prior its release. It was said that it will change the way we design, engineer and manufacture products.
I decided to give the Shape Generator a go as soon as I was able to get my hands on it.
The part that I am going to be modifying is a simple bracket, made from a single piece of sheet metal.
Nothing too fancy, as you can see, just because I wanted to let the software do all the work. The bracket is mounted at the bottom, with a 1000N force acting on the top hole (left to right).
Here are the results of the quick simulation I ran on the part:
Mass: 0.262 kg
Displacement at the centre of the top hole: 2.352mm
After running the Shape Generator, Inventor has created a mesh (in yellow), which is a rough estimation of what the shape should look like after the optimization.
I have done my bit and made changes to my original part by getting rid of excess material. I tried my best to keep the shape as simple as possible, but also to keep the generated mesh within the model.
I ran the simulation again and the results were surprising, to say the least:
Mass: 0.167kg (0.096kg less)
Displacement at the centre of the top hole: 2.521mm (0.17mm)
Now this might look like a lot of effort for just a little bit of gain, but when we convert the numbers to something more comprehensive:
That's 36% reduction in mass for 7% more deflection. That's more than a third off the total mass of the original part! Also, that requires 36% less material to make than the part at the top of this article.
Now if you choose to do less weight-saving, your deflection will decrease, as it will add more material to counter the forces, and all these settings are adjustable before the simulation/generation is run.
All-in-all, I think that the Shape Generator is one of those tools you must have in your toolbox. And it is so easy to use, it feels like cheating.
It definitely is a step towards a lighter, cleaner, more efficient future.