LimitState releases FORM 3.0 design optimization software

The picture shows a satellite hinge design being optimized in FORM 3.0, with a screenshot of the optimized file and a render of the final optimized part

LimitState—a UK-based provider of analysis and design software for engineers—has released FORM 3.0, the latest version of its design optimization software.

FORM is said to be different from other design optimization software because it employs layout and geometry optimization technology as oppose to the most common topology optimization technology. Layout and geometry optimization technology is claimed to: reduce the time taken to achieve a viable optimized component design from weeks to hours; and allow for the realization of designs that are more lightweight.

Topology optimization technology, and hence most optimization software, produces a voxel mesh or 3D bitmap that cannot be edited or analysed, so to make changes the model must be re-made using the mesh as a guide. FORM produces a normal CAD model that can be immediately edited and analysed or exported as standard files to FEA or other CAD tools. This means that the time taken to achieve a finished design ready for manufacture is significantly reduced.

FORM launched last year and marries LimitState’s layout and geometry optimization technology and the design technology of ANSYS SpaceClaim. As the name FORM 3.0 implies, this is the third release of the software.

In response to feedback from engineers at aerospace and automotive companies, FORM 3.0 introduces a number of analysis and editing developments, namely: integration with ANSYS Mechanical; easier member and joint editing; member buckling analysis; an advanced support type tool; new elastic frame validation tools; and a library of standard materials.

Integration with ANSYS Mechanical
FORM 3.0 integrates with the mechanical engineering software ANSYS Mechanical, allowing for in-depth analysis and validation of optimized designs. To carry out an analysis in ANSYS Mechanical, there is no need for users to export the model or to perform any remodeling beforehand. Furthermore, any edits made to the model in FORM 3.0 are immediately reflected in ANSYS Mechanical.

Easier member and joint editing
The software allows for easier editing of members and joints, thus addressing one of the users’ most common requests.

Member buckling analysis
FORM 3.0 analyses member buckling during optimization, resizing members and/or moving joints in order to prevent buckling. Furthermore, the global stability of a component after optimization can be checked 10 times more quickly than previously—identifying both individual member and global buckling modes—without having to export it to finite element analysis (FEA) software.

Advanced support type tool
The software features an advanced support type tool that allows users to enforce their own specified limits on reaction forces using a local coordinate system. This is especially useful for optimization tasks where interaction between the component and adjoining elements is crucial, for example, brackets for aircraft or satellite applications. The tool can also be used to specify remote supports, for example, where a component is rotating around a fixed point.

New elastic frame validation tools
FORM 3.0 incorporates two new elastic frame validation tools that enable engineers to perform frequency and bending stress analyses. The frequency tool provides information on the modes of vibration, which is useful when optimizing the components of a vibrating engine or machine. The bending stress tool displays peak stresses graphically and provides a means of ensuring that stresses do not exceed the limiting material stress.

Library of standard materials
The software includes a library of standard materials to make setting up a model both quicker and easier.

Prof. Matthew Gilbert, managing director of LimitState and a member of the University of Sheffield's Centre for Advanced Additive Manufacturing, said: ‘LimitState FORM is the only optimization tool which can rapidly generate a model that can be worked on immediately with standard CAD tools. LimitState has a track record of transferring cutting edge optimization technology from academia into industry-leading engineering software. FORM allows engineers to take full advantage of the design freedoms associated with additive manufacturing.’

Dr. Chris Smith of the Mercury Centre further commented: ‘With LimitState FORM, we are able produce optimized truss designs in a fast workflow. As an advanced manufacturing research center, this tool helps us deliver better technical solutions to meet the design challenges of our clients.’

FORM 3.0 is available as either a standalone software or as a plugin for the 3D modeling software ANSYS SpaceClaim.

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