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Topology optimization using the discrete element method. Part 1: Methodology, validation, and geometric nonlinearity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Eric Masoero, Professor Peter Gosling



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022, The Author(s). Structural Topology optimization is attracting increasing attention as a complement to additive manufacturing techniques. The optimization algorithms usually employ continuum-based Finite Element analyses, but some important materials and processes are better described by discrete models, for example granular materials, powder-based 3D printing, or structural collapse. To address these systems, we adapt the established framework of SIMP Topology optimization to address a system modelled with the Discrete Element Method. We consider a typical problem of stiffness maximization for which we define objective function and related sensitivity for the Discrete Element framework. The method is validated for simply supported beams discretized as interacting particles, whose predicted optimum solutions match those from a classical continuum-based algorithm. A parametric study then highlights the effects of mesh dependence and filtering. An advantage of the Discrete Element Method is that geometric nonlinearity is captured without additional complexity; this is illustrated when changing the beam supports from rollers to hinges, which indeed generates different optimum structures. The proposed Discrete Element Topology Optimization method enables future incorporation of nonlinear interactions, as well as discontinuous processes such as during fracture or collapse.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Shaughnessy C, Masoero E, Gosling PD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Meccanica

Year: 2022

Volume: 57

Pages: 1213-1231

Print publication date: 01/06/2022

Online publication date: 08/04/2022

Acceptance date: 08/02/2022

Date deposited: 19/04/2022

ISSN (print): 0025-6455

ISSN (electronic): 1572-9648

Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media BV


DOI: 10.1007/s11012-022-01493-w


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