For my Master’s thesis at the Delft University of Technology I worked on a fluid-inspired topology optimization method called the ‘Moving Node Approach’ (MNA). In this method, we seek the optimal shape of a structure under applied boundary and loading conditions and specific constraints. For instance, we would like to determine the stiffest structure under force loading given a constraint on the mass.
In the MNA, the structure is represented by a fixed number of particles which can ‘flow’ through the design space, guiding the particles towards configurations that are more optimal (movie). By changing the shape of the particles we can reduce the number of design variables and make the optimization more efficient. By using particles that resemble structural elements such as beams (movie), we limit ourselves in the topology optimization to optimized solutions that require less interpretation for actual fabrication of the structures.
Overvelde, J.T.B., (2012). The Moving Node Approach in Topology Optimization – An Exploration to a Flow-inspired Meshless Method-based Topology Optimization Method. Master’s Thesis – Delft University of Technology. [pdf]