Optimization is too often used as a marketing buzz-word in the engineering field, typically referring to manual user iteration of finite element analysis. At Luxon Engineering, we refer to optimization in the true sense - an automated decision making technique to drive a design to its optimal configuration. Computerized routines are utilized to guide a design toward its goal subject to various design constraints. These computerized routines monitor the goal progress and adjust the optimization variables automatically every iteration until the solution converges on a truly optimized design. For example, a typical structural optimization minimizes mass subject to stiffness and strength constraints by altering material layout in a given region. Another example is minimization of the cost of a heatsink extrusion for a required heat rejection value by altering fin thickness, length, angle, number, spacing, etc.
There is a clear advantage to gaining insight on the design of your product early in the product development process when there is still plenty of design freedom. For traditional, or even analysis based development paths, much of the design knowledge is not acquired until late in the development cycle, when there is little design freedom left and high costs have already been incurred. With an optimization path though, particularly with a conceptual optimization approach, knowledge is gained much earlier in the development timeline. In short, utilizing optimization saves time, cost, and results in a better product.
Coupling optimization algorithms to our powerful analysis capabilities can be a huge asset to your development process. Structural optimization types include topology (pictured - material layout), topography (sheet-metal beading), size and shape (dimensional changes), and composite (core and ply order and thickness, ply orientation). Fluid flow and thermal optimization are also available by coupling optimization to CFD and heat transfer analysis. In all optimization runs, appropriate manufacturing constraints are available to ensure a manufacturable design.