Flanders Make

Multi-Material Topology Optimization with Manufacturability Constraints

Flanders Make

Flanders Make is the strategic research centre for the manufacturing industry. Our mission is to strengthen the long-term international competitiveness of the Flemish manufacturing industry. That’s why we work together with SMEs and large companies on pre-competitive, industry-driven technological research, resulting in concrete product and production innovation in the vehicle industry, the manufacturing industry, and production environments.

Goal of the master thesis

This Master thesis proposal fits in the ongoing research at Flanders Make to substantially reduce the time required to achieve the final manufacturable geometrical CAD design of a new mechanical component, by including and exploiting manufacturing information within the design process (both in late and early design phases). The target is to ensure a continuous evaluation of the manufacturability by integrating Design for Manufacturing (DfM) rules within the design process in a generic way, so that is applicable for a broad variety of forming and manufacturing processes. This will help to reduce the number of “back-and-forth” design iterations that are needed to conceive a final design that can be manufactured.

The implementation of DfM rules will be combined with use of the prototype software tool for multi-material Topology Optimization (TO) that has recently been developed in Flanders Make. This tool is fully developed in MATLAB and consists of an user-friendly GUI, where all the necessary modules required to run a FE simulation and/or a (multi-material) topology optimization are included. These include the definition of: candidate (multiple) materials, non-optimizable design areas, loads and boundary constraints, objective function and design constraints of the optimization problem, joining cost of dissimilar materials or multi-material design rules.

The expected impact is to reduce the lead-time of the design of a new product by forcing design and manufacturing assessment to become two concurrent events. This will translate into a more efficient and lean design process, faster time-to-market and cost reductions.

The goal of this Master thesis is to combine in a single Use Case both (a) Topology Optimization with DfM rules and (b) multi-material Topology Optimization. Individually, both these TO capabilities are available at Flanders Make, with continuous/ongoing developments. The combination of both TO capabilities within a single, industrially relevant Use Case, forms the novel aspect within this thesis proposal.

The Use Case consists of the housing for a gearbox designed and optimized for e-powertrain automotive application. Weight saving in automotive is a global R&D topic in the past and the coming decades. A significant weight saving of this component can be gained by replacing a traditionally all-aluminium housing, produced by casting, with a bi-material component consisting of an aluminium insert that is fixed by mechanical interlocks within a polymer, produced with injection (insert) moulding. The major stiffness is provided by the aluminium (at the expense of additional weight), while the polymer ensures leak-tightness and provides additional stiffness in more sub-critically loaded regions. For future industrial uptake however, feasible and cost-effective manufacturability will be essential; this thesis will contribute to this requirement.

Profile student

  • Bachelor degree in mechanical engineering / materials engineering;
  • Required skills
    • Knowledge of finite element modelling and basis understanding of Topology is highly recommended.
  • Desired skills
    • Some experience in design for manufacturing of injection molding and/or casting, is a benefit.
  • Passionate by research and new technologies with focus on applications for machines or production systems.
  • This assignment can only be executed by a thesis student from a Belgian university.

Practical Data

This assignment is a master thesis topic to be executed by a thesis student from a Belgian university.


  • Locatie: Gaston Geenslaan 8, 3001 Leuven


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