ParaMatters, one of the newest players in design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) software, might also be one of the most exciting. Founded by Michael Bogomolny, the two-year-old company promises to revolutionize design-to-manufacturing processes with its advanced design and topology optimization software.
This past January, ParaMatters officially introduced CogniCAD, a cloud-based, cognitive design platform geared towards optimizing and lightweighting structures for additive manufacturing. With applications in the aerospace, automotive and medical industries—to name only a few—ParaMatters’ platform aims to close the gaps that exist in DfAM by offering a smart, autonomous solution for topology optimization, lattice structures and more.
We recently spoke to ParaMatters Founder and CTO Michael Bogomolny who shared his vision for DfAM and talked about what ParaMatters is capable of and where it is headed in the near future.
Autonomous design solution
Describing current challenges with existing AM-friendly design platforms, Bogomolny references the fact that most CAD programs are very labour intensive and require users to manually “draw” objects, which can be massively time consuming. With CogniCAD, however, the aim is to provide an autonomous design solution, wherein the user can input a CAD file, define material properties, loading conditions and design goals and have their optimized structure generated automatically.
In other words, while an engineer would typically have to sit down and come up with designs which would then have to be analyzed and simulated, ParaMatters simplifies the process drastically by using advanced algorithms to generate watertight, smooth, optimized and fully 3D printable designs.
“Today, some CAE and CAD software tools offer topology optimization,” Bogomolny explained. “The result of the topology optimization these tools provide is just a hint of how a design might look like, and a user has to reconstruct geometry manually based on the hint. Once the geometry has been manually reconstructed additional analysis and enhancements are required. The technology developed by ParaMatters eliminates all manual and tedious tasks and automatically generates superior designs.”
As we talk, Bogomolny loads up a CAD file of a bracket to demonstrate how CogniCAD works. Once the assembly of parts it uploaded, he navigates a simple menu located on the right-hand side of the screen. Going step-by-step, Bogomolny chooses his desired printing material—aluminum—from a drop-down menu comprising of metals and polymers. He then demarcates which elements of the bracket are to be optimized and which must stay as they are.
Next, he inputs static load cases for the part—explaining that a newer version of the software supports both static and vibration load cases—and selects boundary conditions. Finally, he selects 19% material usage before clicking the generate button. In the version of CogniCAD we are using, Bogomolny says that users still have to play with the percentage of material they want to use. For instance, if our 19% part was generated but did not fulfill the required minimal compliance, a new percentage would have to be input and the object regenerated.
In a new version of the program, however, users will simply have to request the most minimal weight for a given part that stays within certain stress, deformation and natural frequency constraints. “We will embed for minimal mass under stress, vibration and other constraints directly into the GUI,” he says. “This formulation is going to solve most challenging engineering design problems.”
“Our solution is going to be the most advanced on the market. If you look at typical software solutions, creating a design that is ready for printing requires a lot of manual work. Aside from running the design, you also have to adjust thresholds manually and reconstruct the geometry to ensure a watertight, smooth structure. After all that, you still have to go back to analyze the design again.”
“Our solution is totally different. You define the problem as it is and you get a watertight, smooth STL file which is ready for printing. It shortens the whole design process from days to hours,” Bogomolny says. (At this point in our talk, Bogomolny shows me that our own example file is already 39% rendered.)
Though the CogniCAD version currently available to users is still “basic,” ParaMatters does offer a number of advanced capabilities through its DfAM service. Down the line, Bogomolny implies that CogniCAD will eventually integrate all these unique tools.
The first capability offered through ParaMatters’ service is topology optimization (mentioned above), which consists of defining design goals as well as load and boundary conditions and having an optimized part automatically generated.
The second capability is the Meta-Materials Compiler, which is an optimized lattice design tool. Bogomolny explains what sets ParaMatters’ tools apart from others on the market. “Lattices have become very popular, but if you ask stress engineers if they use them, they will probably say no, because for the same amount of material as a lattice you can usually create more topologically optimized structures.”
“At ParaMatters, we do something different; our Meta-Material technology designs lattice for given properties. A user defines homogenized lattice properties and our software automatically generates lattice satisfying the pre-defined properties. For example, we took properties of human bones and we were able to reproduce these using a lattice microstructure which is now embedded into dental implants. In other words, we now have dental implants with prescribed properties.”
ParaMatters also offers what it calls a Meso-Structural Designer capability which combines topology optimization and optimal porosity to mimic organic microstructures. “Looking at bone very closely, you can see that the microstructure changes throughout the bone to align with the load directions,” he elaborates. “We have developed technology that can match this map, which has been of great interest to medical and automotive customers.”
The newest capability developed by ParaMatters—which the AM market will have to catch up to—is a multi-material design tool capable of generating optimal, well-distributed structures. In a case study about the innovative tool, ParaMatters demonstrates that multi-material parts can even be generated with smart distribution to lessen stress gradients at the materials’ interface. “I’m not aware of anyone on the market who can do multi-material topology optimization today,” said Bogomolny. “We definitely saw an interest from some companies in this field, including Digital Alloys and HP.”
Ready to print
At this point, a notification alerts us that the generated bracket file is complete. Bogomolny explains that he put through a low resolution design to save on time but that even their low-resolution is half a million elements. “Our high resolution is about 10 million elements and has 30 million degrees of freedom,” he explains. “Most software doesn’t use more than 100 thousand elements, but high resolution does offer a lot of benefits as it allows for more optimal and more lightweight structures.”
The 3D model in front of us is a smooth and watertight design. Dragging the mouse over the part, we see detailed stress values, and a colour map indicates stress concentrations. Bogomolny says that the model is fully 3D printable and ready to be exported to a slicing software for 3D printing.