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Conceptual design of a support arm

(written by Jacob T., student at Altair; reviewed by Prakash P. and Rahul P.)

Re-design a simple support arm by employing topology optimization available with solidThinking Inspire 9.0.

Note that all model assumptions such as original design space, loads, materials etc. are purely conceptual.

At first, start solidThinking Inspire and change the unit system by entering the Preferences Panel (Edit > Preferences) to cm Kg N Pa.

Begin with a sketch on the XY plane. Therefore click on the circle symbol as shown below. This action switches the screen to the sketching mode, recognizable on the grid in the background.

Draw three-fourth of the circle as shown on the right. First click on the origin for centre of the arc, then choose the start and end points exactly at grid points as shown below Be sure to enter the same values (radius: 5cm; angle: -270)

Notice: You can use the grid lines for start and end points.

Use the line-tool to close the circle.

You can quit the sketching mode by a right mouse click. As sT Inspire realizes that sketching mode is finished, it switches into the Push/Pull-tool automatically. Either click the side face and enter the thickness 2 cm or click (and hold) the left mouse button and push the face until it assumes the desired thickness.

Now click the Line symbol at the toolbar and select the side face to enter the sketching mode again.

Next, we will draw the arm of the support. Attention: Click on the small symbol named Sketch on a New Part before you draw your first line. Otherwise the new sketch would be merged to the old one. As we only want the upper part to be Design space, this would not be our aim.

(length: 20 cm)

(length: 20 cm)

Go on drawing two straight lines as shown in the two images. Click on the start point and end point and enter the desired dimensions as shown above. To make sure that these two lines are perpendicular to the highlighted edge (see image below)

a new line (as we did to close the circle before) needs to be created

Right click on the two lines which are supposed to be perpendicular to each other and select the corresponding icon (shown below).

Now select (ctrl +click on both lines, then right click) the two opposing lines to make them parallel as shown below

Pick the Arc Tangent To End symbol to continue/extend the lines tangentially. Notice: It will be enough to take over the contour approximately.

Radius: 24 cm; Angle 45 Remember to right click after each step and start fresh. Close the end as shown below.

Radius: 15 cm; Angle: 45

Pull/extrude the new area as shown above.

Click on line and select the top face and click on new part as before, Now draw a line as we did to close the end to start our next part,

Draw two lines to continue the arm with 15 cm length, Make the lines parallel and perpendicular.

Close the ends and then push pull. 7

Start with a continuation line (like the one we used to close the rectangle before) and then draw a 2 cm line that is collinear to the starting line) When making the lines collinear make sure to select the longer line first and the shorter line next. Create the following shape with the following dimensions.

Push pull again, you will now have a geometry like this.

Click on Boolean + symbol and combine all the parts except the circular part. 8

So now you have two parts

Select the symbol named Materials. The Parts and Materials window opens, in that all the parts and there properties are listed, including the allocated materials. Select the different parts and select any materials you like. Here we (arbitrarily) use Aluminium for both.

Notice: It is also possible to create your own material. To do so, switch to the slider My Materials, click on the New icon and enter the different physical properties, such as E-Modulus, Poissons ratio, Density and Yield Stress.


Select the arm part and click with the right mouse button on it. Enable the checkbox named Design space. The upper part should now appear in a dark red color.

Notice: Any optimization of volume or mass needs a definition of the design space, that is to say the free space in which the optimizer is allowed to remove material. In this case the circle part at the bottom is mandatory. Hence it must not be defined as Design Space. Usually you define the loads and constraints next.

However, we forgot to cut out the hole for our constraint. As solidThinking Inspire allows editing of the volumes at any time, no harm was done. Just click the Circle By Center And Point tool and pick the side 10

face of the first part. Draw the circle as shown in the image on the right and leave the sketching mode.

Now pick the face of the hole and pull/push until the hole has vanished.

The model should now look like this.

Loads and Constraints

Next, constraints will be defined.

Pick the icon named Apply Supports and select the cylindrical hole we just created.


The surface will be marked as fixed bearing

Notice: You can change the kind of bearing inside the pop-up panel.

Click the icon titled Apply Forces and select the faces as shown in the images. Do not forget to type in the magnitude 100 N, 50 N and 20 N. Also check the force direction.

There is the possibility to organize the loads and constraints in multiple load cases. Click the icon named List Load Cases.... The first load case was created automatically and includes all defined forces and constraints. The different entities can be turned off via the checkboxes. 12

Additional load cases can be added by activating the + symbol as indicated below. The variuos load cases can thenbe considered in the optimization run.

At this point the optimization set-up is complete and the optimization run can (or could) be started. Optionally (and additionally) to ease manufacturing symmetry conditions may be defined. To define/request symmetry pick the icon entitled Symmetry and unselect all symmetry planes which are not needed. Here, the symmetry plane is the XY-plane.

In addition, draw direction constraints may be defined (also to ease manufacturing). Choose the icon named Draw Direction and click on Single Draw in the submenue. Then select the model (=arm). The draw direction will be automatically displayed. 13

Finally, we start the optimization run. Click on the symbol named Run Optimization

The Run Optimization panel opens up which allows defining optimization settings as shown in the image below.


Minimize volume with maximal stiffness

Maximize/Minimize frequency

Minimum/Maximum mesh size

Apply gravity

Included Load Cases

After launching the optimization, the optimization run status is displayed (green bar).

Notice: Enlarge the minimum thickness value if there is a warning that calculation may run more than 60 minutes.


After the optimization is completed, a green flag is shown.

Click on it to load and view the optimization results.

Clicking on the optimized arm opens another pop-up window which allows to view the optimization results of different optimization runs (here only a single run named Part 2 40% (1) is available). By moving the slider, material may be added/removed (which corresponds to a personal interpretation of the result).


How to go on from here?

A right-click opens the dialog window, select Save to Evolve,

The following message should be displayed:

Next we start the program solidThinking Evolve.


By clicking on the green check the model will be imported/retrieved to solidThinking Evolve.


Use the modeling tools to retrace the arm support according to your interpretation and understanding taking into account manufacturing aspects.