nTopology blazing a trail through 3D printing world


One of the vital spectacular options of the nTopology design utility is that it requires considerably much less computing energy. In keeping with the corporate’s – and its companions’ – calculations, file sizes might be 99 p.c smaller in contrast with conventional 3D design software program. 

Conventional, long-established software program for 3D design tends to be very memory-hungry and may severely stress out processors. nTop, alternatively, can present the identical performance if used on a laptop computer as conventional 3D design purposes would if run on a supercomputer – as a result of nTop was particularly designed for at the moment’s 3D printing and design necessities.

The best way nTop does that is tough to elucidate for a non-technical journalist, however basically, the nTop software program does away with things like extrusion, which is a elementary idea and requirement in conventional 3D design purposes.

Extrusion might be accomplished by clicking and dragging a face or fringe of a drawing. So, for instance, say should you draw a sq. on the display screen in a conventional design app, you might click on and drag the face and it’ll grow to be a dice.

Sounds easy, however say if the item you’re designing integrates a number of shapes and faces, you might find yourself with a protracted checklist of elements and dozens of extrusions, all of which require reminiscence area and processing energy.

nTop’s method is totally completely different and was constructed from the bottom as much as swimsuit the wants of the 3D design and printing business, particularly with regard to generative design aspect, which is an enormous a part of the software program.

And though nTop has all the required performance to allow full end-to-end design initiatives, it additionally integrates with all main conventional and long-established CAD design software program purposes.

That’s the extent of our technical information, so with the intention to give readers a deeper understanding, we thought we’d interview somebody from nTop, and publish an extract right here.

Though he has since moved on from nTop, Duann Scott was vice chairman at nTopology on the time of this interview, and explains intimately concerning the software program and offers an outline of the 3D design and print sector as an entire, in addition to associated industries.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: Inform us a bit of bit about nTopology itself for the corporate. 

nTop’s Duann Scott: nTopology is a design engineering software program. The corporate was based in New York Metropolis in, I feel, 2015. We have now a unique method to creating geometry. It’s not conventional CAD, it’s a unique course of whereby you it’s a computational design software.

We assist engineers and designers resolve issues that conventional CAD can not resolve because of geometry points in current CAD. We will do very very advanced issues very simply and we are able to automate processes. So, usually folks aren’t designing a single half however they’re designing a course of, and the output is elements in the long run.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: What’s your overview of the adjustments which are taking place within the manufacturing sector because of the emergence of 3D printing? 

nTop: Additive manufacturing began off as speedy prototyping. Initially, it was simply plastic elements to make prototypes to see how issues look and match and work. Then, the business moved on to issues like jigs and fixtures. Now, as these the processes have developed, persons are designing end-use elements.

And, notably in steel 3D printing, the fabric palette has opened up massively prior to now 5 to 10 years. We’re on the level now the place you may manufacture tremendous alloys and copper, chrome steel, titanium, and different very excessive worth supplies.

A part of the rationale for the progress is as a result of 3D printing has been pushed by the aerospace and medical industries. So the machines have developed to some extent the place you are able to do very advanced componentry, very advanced designs with very effective particulars and effective options.

Nonetheless, the software program that folks have been utilizing to design for it was designed for conventional subtractive manufacturing, for tooling, for molding, for stamping, and the software program couldn’t create the complexity that the machines might make.

So that is how nTopology was actually born. It was to unlock that potential of the manufacturing processes by utilizing a unique manner of approaching geometry. It’s actually crucial to revamp for these processes as a result of the the price of machines and supplies remains to be fairly excessive. so to actually get the worth, you need to design for the method.

It is because should you take an current machining design and put right into a 3D printer, it’s not going to be value efficient. However should you take that design and optimize it for a number of necessities – whether or not or not it’s the manufacturing course of, thermal course of, for gentle weighting, for different features round acoustics – you are able to do this concurrently after which additionally consolidate a number of elements right into a single part and actually drive worth from the three 0printer.

In order that’s the place we are actually. Folks perceive that this multi-discipline design course of is crucial for extracting the worth from 3D printing.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: In different phrases, 3D printers are so superior {that a} new design software program utility and method was required. I perceive. So give us an instance of how historically easy elements might be designed with extra complexity. A part of a robotic arm, for instance – just like the one pictured on the nTop web site. 

nTop: We’ve seen some constructed like this robotic arm half, however they’re largely in R&D or for bespoke robots.

So what’s taking place right here on this design is that the wireframe of this part is the unique physique designed in CAD from the meeting for the robotic – the standard design of such a part, principally.

We’ve taken that part and we’ve utilized simulation – stresses and constraints on the part. And the place the stress is, we run simulation on that, and what it’s actually displaying is the load path of the stress.

The simulation reveals the robotic shifting and lifting issues and orienting itself, and we are able to see the stress because it strikes by the part. This helps us uncover the locations the place we don’t have to have mass. If we don’t want it, we take away the mass, so you find yourself with a extra light-weight half.

We will then go do and a secondary course of and we are able to then run the simulation once more, and we are able to then shell the elements to make it hole, so once more we scale back extra mass out of the half, and likewise scale back the manufacturing time.

We run a simulation once more and the place we discover stress we modify the thickness of that shell, so the half is thicker the place it must be and thinner the place it doesn’t.

So it begins to kind of mimic the pure means of how a bone is perhaps generated within the human physique. So a human bone regularly modifies itself based mostly on the stresses which are positioned on it.

Then we are able to go in and do a lattice infill to make it extra manufacturable in that you simply wouldn’t want help constructions inside.

In order that’s kind of the method we take. It’s actually topology optimization. When you concentrate on generative design, what you’re doing is you’re producing a number of outputs and evaluating them to one another.

So we’d run a script such as you may run in a single day, after which within the morning, while you come again to work, you might need a thousand variants of this design . You’ll be able to evaluate them to one another based mostly on the mass, their efficiency, or another standards you might need.

In order that’s kind of the method.

We’ve accomplished this for actual at Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory, the place they designed some robotic arms. It was truly a totally articulated robotic that had the entire wiring and some other parts constructed inside the half as properly, so that you wouldn’t have any uncovered and cables or wiring – it was all actually self-contained,

I feel the robotic was for an underwater utility.

So you are able to do very advanced issues with this course of and with prime quality supplies.

The opposite factor we’re doing now as properly with companions is just not essentially printing the ultimate half however printing both a sand mildew to forged the half or printing sacrificial parts for funding casting.

So you might print it in a decrease value polymer after which coat it with a ceramic after which pour steel into it so you could have the identical identified course of that’s been round for hundreds of years in the long run, however simply we we’re sending the design otherwise there.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: I might think about steel elements are both tough or time-consuming for 3D printers to provide. Are there various supplies which are simply as robust – new alloys and and possibly completely different plastics and issues like that that may do the identical job as metals? 

nTop: The fee within the steel printing is within the amortization of the machine value, which might be costly. However the precise high quality of the supplies is excellent.

As i stated earlier than, what we’re seeing folks begin to do is to print polymer elements and forged them, or to print sand molds. That could be a low-cost manner of doing it and there’s additionally some processes the place there’s prime quality polymers and likewise carbon fiber layouts on elements as properly to make them stiff and powerful.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: What proportion of the potential market has 3D printing captured? I imply how extensively used is 3D printing now in comparison with how extensively it might be utilized in future? 

nTop: I’d say it’s a tiny proportion in the mean time. As I discussed earlier than, what’s main the business is aerospace and medical. So in medical and dental, it’s just about like should you aren’t adopting additive manufacturing then you definitely’re falling behind.

Spinal implants, knee reconstructions, bone plates and different elements are all very a lot main the best way as a result of they’re small, they’re costly, they usually’re customized to every buyer. The customization is crucial to just be sure you don’t put the identical implant into an eight-year-old baby as you’d a forty-year-old man who’s 240 kilos.

So that you all the time modify the design for that individual particular person, and in dental everybody’s enamel is completely different so a variety of scanning to fabricate is happening, and that’s entering into each steel and polymer.

So medical and dental are actually main it. The adoption’s actually robust, and we begin to see it increasing as folks study extra concerning the course of. And the price of the machine and supplies has been coming down through the years.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: You additionally talked about aerospace earlier than. How about automotive? 

nTop: Completely, yeah, we do have clients doing electrical automobiles. For area and flying, I don’t suppose I can point out their names however, yeah, each ounce of weight that you simply save reduces the burden of the construction required to hold hundreds and likewise the battery energy to to run it. So each every thing you try this reduces weight will increase vary and so lightweighting is crucial actually.

One in all our clients – Cobra Aero – began off designing the engine head for the only cylinder engine that they run for the UAVs (unmanned aerial automobiles) that they make.

Cobra began off with us simply making an attempt to consolidate elements: so, taking three elements and mixing them into one. From there, we additionally labored with them to light-weight the pinnacle of the engine utilizing lattice constructions. And in addition cooling the part utilizing lattice constructions.

We did this all based mostly on simulation. So we are able to take the stress map from the engine, the warmth from the engine, and we’ll use that to change the lattice constructions to optimize it and and make it far more environment friendly, manner lighter, and use fewer parts.

Like combining three parts into one so there’s no meeting, there’s no fasteners, there’s no gaskets – it’s much less upkeep as properly, and we are able to additionally do issues like attenuate the acoustics to cut back the sound, which is crucial for a drone that’s making an attempt to not be seen.

Lattice constructions can help you to change the habits of a cloth with out altering materials. It’s used rather a lot in additive manufacturing, Designing utilizing lattice constructions means you can also make a part crumple in a sure manner, or soak up vitality, or scale back its mass, or change the best way it flexes.

We use it in polymers. You see it in padding and seating for automobiles, and likewise an American soccer helmet we designed.

The helmet was designed for NFL gamers. There’s quite a lot of helmet corporations utilizing this design now. However we received a grant from the NFL to develop helmets to cease concussions utilizing lattice constructions to assist soak up vitality and cease the twisting of the pinnacle throughout impression.

So you may actually change the best way your materials behaves utilizing a lattice construction and that’s what we name the meta supplies or architected supplies.

RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com: So that you present software program and associated consulting. Is your software program out there by the cloud?

nTop: We’re purely a software program firm. We developed the software program from the bottom up. Current CAD methods are based mostly on taking drafting or drawing and placing it into a pc, and have been largely developed within the Eighties.

The kernel underlying all of that, the best way the geometry is created, is a b-rep (boundary illustration), and since it’s developed so way back, it was developed for single threaded computer systems, and there’s inherent points in complexity, which was by no means ever conceived of when doing geometries this advanced with a CAD system.

What we do is completely different. We have now a unique manner of making geometry. It’s principally a mathematic equation and all we’re doing actually is utilizing a formulation to outline a product, so we are able to do one thing very advanced, and the file measurement for this in nTop would in all probability be 160 kilobytes, whereas should you tried to do that in a conventional CAD, it might be a number of gigabytes.

You couldn’t do something in actual time like this in a conventional CAD system.

Ours is a purely a mathematic equation which describes geometry. We even have what we name discipline pushed design, which is the place we are able to use any information to drive the best way a geometry behaves, whether or not or not it’s simulation information or empirical testing information or simply different geometry to assist outline the best way the geometry behaves.

So, for instance, we designed a prosthesis the place we’re including a floor construction to make it stronger. You’ll be able to see it on our web site.

Additionally, you may see on our web site , you see a coach design. You’ll see a stress map from any person placing weight on their foot . We modify the lattice density based mostly on the the power going into the the shoe sole, so we are able to make it denser to soak up extra vitality the place there’s extra stress, and make it sparser the place there’s no stress.

So we are able to make it lighter. We see folks doing this to optimize a shoe for somebody with diabetes. In the event that they’ve received some points with their ft, we might help relieve ache and make a customized shoe resolve particularly for them.

That is all potential as a result of the underlying geometry complexity is just not an issue for nTop.

Typically, the elements are so advanced that, if you’re utilizing conventional CAD, you may want to make use of different software program for downstream processes, whether or not or not it’s simulation, or for manufacturing. The CAD app can’t deal with it by itself.

We have now our personal inside performance for simulation and for manufacturing. We frequently ship manufacturing information direct to the 3D printing machines as a result of any software program which is kind of in between us and the machine can sluggish issues down.

Our software program is totally native. We don’t run on the cloud but. It is because most of our clients are  in aerospace and protection and medical – they usually’re probably not, normally, able to have their designs up on the cloud. There’s too many safety points.

We will conceivably make nTop out there as a cloud app, and we do have folks operating it in servers. However, because it stands, the software program is native, and since we’ve optimized for multi-core CPUs and GPUs, engineers simply run our utility on a laptop computer.

They’re not operating a supercomputer to make and simulate these actually advanced designs as a result of nTop is so environment friendly in the best way that it describes that changed geometry.

Watch the whole interview on YouTube or under. 

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