Improved ways for
By Anne Kirsten Frederiksen and Lena Kristina Carlberg
A group of researchers from DTU Mechanical Engineering has
recently obtained a new world record of giga scale resolution in
the process of designing an aircraft wing. Now, the researchers
want to go even further and develop a new paradigm for
mechanical design of big, complex structures.
Giga scale resolution is a new world record
Professor Ole Sigmund and Associate Professor Niels Aage are the
mainstay of the project NextTop that produced the giga scale resolution
They have worked with topology optimization for a long time. The
technique is by now well-known and used all over the world in a variety
of disciplines including mechanics and thermodynamics. Topology
optimization is a mathematical method that optimizes material layout
within a given design domain.
“Over the past years we have developed, as part of the project NextTop,
a new model for calculating the optimal design of complex structures
made by different kinds of materials. To demonstrate the model, we
chose to design a wing structure for a Boeing 777, which contains more
than 1 billion elements”, says Professor Ole Sigmund.
Lower weight and environmental impact
The researchers were offered the opportunity to test their new
calculation method on a European super computer through a grant
provided by PRACE, Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe.
The resolution of the Danish researchers’ new model is about 200
times higher than current state-of the art techniques – and the 8,000
involved computer cores needed several days to calculate a new design
“To demonstrate the model, we chose to design
a wing structure for a Boeing 777, which
contains more than 1 billion elements”
for the wing. When the calculations were finished, the result revealed
a brand new design with unconventional curved details and a world
record giga resolution.
“Our approach is described in a paper recently published in Nature,
one of the world’s leading scientific journals. The method makes it
possible to take a look at the design of the wing as a whole and at the
same time see the smallest details of the many tiny elements of the
wing. You can compare it with the experience of moving from the big
and clumsy LEGO DUPLO bricks to the finer and more intricate detailed
standard LEGO bricks. This made a world of difference regarding
accuracy and the possibility of working at different scales,” says Niels
The method revealed an optimized design of an aircraft wing with
curved ribs instead of the straight ribs known from present wings. At
the same time, the model found an advantage in adding fine supporting
struts. The new design led to a wing of less weight and consequently a
reduction of fuel consumption and carbon emissions during flights.
18 Improved ways for designing big, complex structures