Demi Fang

Flow-informed topology design

An alternate geometric method to facilitate designing with “force flow”.

Principles and precedents in efficient structural design demonstrate the advantage of designing topologies that align well with an underlying vector field, such as principal stress or principal bending moment (Allen and Zalewski 2010; Gatti Wool Factory, 1953, by Pier Luigi Nervi).

While there now exist methods and mature research fields for generating topologies from those underlying vector fields, an alternate approach is proposed where the designer receives visual feedback on a topology’s geometric conformity with the vector field of interest during the design process.

The calculation of a conformity heuristic is proposed.

The conformity heuristic is compared to the actual structural performance of topologies in a variety of structural design problems. The results demonstrate a general correlation between the conformity heuristic and structural efficiency.

Presented use cases demonstrate the value of the conformity heuristic over finite element analysis in evaluating intermediate design steps. The interactive and visual feedback provided by conformity make it a valuable new concept to harness the structural intuition of designing with force flow in early-stage conceptual design.

Parts of the algorithm and visualization were developed as a final project for GSD6338 Introduction to Computational Design, Fall 2020, taught by Jose Luis Garcia del Castillo Lopez.

Related publications:

Fang, Demi, and Caitlin Mueller. 2021. “Flow-Informed Topology Design: Evaluating the Conformity of Structural Topologies with Vector Fields.” In Proceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium. Surrey, UK.