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A PLAtform for Topology Optimisation incorporating Novel, Large-Scale, Free Material Optimisation and Mixed Integer Programming Methods

Final Report Summary - PLATO-N (A PLAtform for Topology Optimisation incorporating Novel, Large-Scale, Free Material Optimisation and Mixed Integer Programming Methods)

Developing safe and minimum weight structures is the driving factor in aircraft structural design. Usually weight reduction programmes have to be launched deep into the detailed design phase, and are characterised by local, manual modifications to the design, applying more expensive materials or adjustments to the manufacturing process.

An improved overall arrangement of materials provides the largest potential for saving structural weight in airframe design. Tools for topology optimisation support these early, important decisions by suggesting optimal material distributions. Current commercial design tools do not allow the full potential of composite materials to be exploited in airframe design. This requires new tools that are targeted at the specific requirements within aerospace structural design.

PLATO-N aimed to help enable the operational integration of optimisation assistance as a standard procedure in the conceptual design process for the European aerospace industry. PLATO-N was validated against real case studies and was implemented as a suite of software programmes, integrated in a common environment, and its improvement in performance was benchmarked against state-of-the art commercial products.

The core of the project, which binds the pieces together in terms of operational software, is the software platform PLATO. It provides a library of common sub-routines, manages the dataflow between the modules and provides a graphical user interface. As well as the platform, an example library, called PLATOlib, of industrial and academic benchmark examples was generated. Software development encompassed the development of fast sub-algorithms for optimisation methods, inclusion of these in the overall optimisation methods and the integration of these with the finite element analysis (FEM), was a major requirement.

A central aspect of the software system called PLATO-N is the interpretation and visualisation of topology optimisation results in order to derive the design concepts. Likewise it was considered important to provide benchmark examples and an example library.

The main innovations and products are:
- PLATO: a generic software platform for topology optimisation, which is specific for aeronautics applications;
- PLATOlib: a sample case library, which can be used as a benchmarking library for the topology optimisation community including challenging applications from industrial design problems;
- PLATO-N: a high-performance software system integrating the implementations of algorithms and methods developed in the project.

Benefits from the multidisciplinary research approach are expected at all levels:
- The research community will profit from the ‘technology pull’ applied by the aeronautic industry.
- It will improve the awareness of entities outside the research community of the potential of topology optimisation.
- PLATO-N greatly extends the scope of topology optimisation and expands both its applicability and acceptance in the European aerospace industry. It provides a means for shortening development times and reinforces the competitiveness of the European airframe manufacturers on the global market.
- The European aeronautic industry will be more capable of responding to the growing demand of the European society for a more effective and sustainable air transport system, by being able to design and manufacture conventional and novel aircraft configurations at a reduced cost, with lower operating costs and reduced environmental impact.

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