Currently, most CAD software uses a handful of basic shapes to represent the surface of 3D objects. This has been satisfactory, but only in a self-restricted way at most. When we have tools to generate optimal geometries, we often run into trouble interpreting it using this traditional CAD representation. The picture below shows an attempt to recreate a topology optimization result by a CAD designer (project led by Julian Norato, now professor at the UCONN). Hopefully, this gives a sense of how difficult it is to replicate exactly the topology optimization result using current CAD. This is not an isolated case but actually pretty typical during topology optimization result interpretation. Why don’t we represent the geometry in the most flexible form, using the triangulated mesh, as it is in the original topology optimization result?

topopt_result proe

An analogy for 3D would be to represent a picture using basic shapes and splines. Common software that does this includes Microsoft Power Point and Adobe Illustrator. However, the representation that gives the ultimate freedom for the image is the raster format. Yes, manipulating pixels are more difficult than manipulating vectorized shapes. But there is the Photoshop and other photo editing software that can do a great job in editing raster images. Similarly, why not representing 3D object in the “raster” format and using a Photoshop like software to manipulate the 3D geometry? This will allow the ultimate freedom for design creation. This is especially valuable in creating optimized designs because optimal and natural designs rarely follow basic shapes.

What do you think? Please leave your comments.

Ps. TopShape has functionalities to manipulate triangulated surfaces but it is far from complete.