Course Title: Structural Optimization and 3D Printing

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Structural Optimization and 3D Printing

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


172H School of Engineering


Sem 2 2020,
Sem 2 2021,
Sem 2 2022,
Sem 2 2023

Course Coordinator: Dr Jianhu Shen

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 0421

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 10.12.15

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Assumed Knowledge:
Successful completion of CIVE1179 Steel Structures 1, CIVE1177 Concrete Structures 1, CIVE1143 Analysis of Complex Structures. 

Course Description

Structural design concepts involved in modern high profile facilities arise many challenges and often conflicting requirements, i.e., they must be stronger, lighter, safer, quieter. To meet those requirements, an optimized structural design is essential. With the rapid development on 3D printing, the complexity of the structure is not a liability but a bless. A fundamental knowledge relating to structural optimization and 3D printing will be a key foundation for future civil engineer.

This course provides an overview of the theoretical concepts behind general constrained optimization and recent development on 3D printing in mechanical and civil engineering. Emphasis will be on applications in structural optimization using finite element models with a focus on topology optimization using evolutional structural optimization (ESO) as well as bi-directional evolutional structural optimization (BESO). Methods are outlined with minimum mathematics and are illustrated by practical examples and its software implementations. Several cases studies will be demonstrated and a scaled optimization model will be constructed using 3D printing method.

The finite element modelling (FEM) tools and Optimization software will be used for hands-on exercises during approximately half of the time. Participants are invited to bring a portable computer to use during the hands-on exercises.


Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

This course contributes to the following Program Learning Outcomes for BH077 Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure)(Honours):

1.3. In-depth specialist bodies of knowledge within the civil engineering discipline.

This course contributes to the following Program Learning Outcomes:

1.5. Knowledge of contextual factors impacting the engineering discipline.

1.6. Demonstrable ability of the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of contemporary engineering practice in the specific discipline

2.1. Application of established engineering methods to complex engineering solving.

2.2. Fluent application of engineering techniques, tools and resources.

2.3. Application of systematic engineering synthesis and design processes.

2.4. Application of systematic approaches to the conduct and management of engineering projects.

3.1. Ethical conduct and professional accountability

3.2. Effective oral and written communication in professional and lay domains.

3.3. Creative, innovative and pro-active demeanour.

3.4. Orderly management of self, and professional conduct

On completion of this course you should be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of various methods for structural optimization and establish in-depth understanding of ESO and BESO method.
  2. Contextualise the idea of an optimized design fostering creative and responsive solutions to a given situation.
  3. Simplify a complex structure into a number of idealised substructures with appropriate loading and boundary conditions.
  4. Identify a structural domain to optimize a structural member and a sub-structure for an existing structure.
  5. Model structures for analysis and optimisation using Finite Element Methods and data transfer in fabrication using 3D printing.
  6. Gain an understanding of current 3D printing technology on it merits and current limitations.

Overview of Learning Activities

A modular blended learning model comprising lecture/tutorials/workshop sessions and comprehensive design activity will be employed in the course.

You are expected to review various optimized structure built in the past, visiting display models in AMP and discuss the project with group members, families and friends.

You will be working within a team to finish a group project. The project is guided and supervised by tutors with structural and computational knowledge. You will undertake “well defined responsibilities” to achieve a common objective for the team – to improve the structural efficiency by simulating real life structural response and optimize its strength and serviceability and realising your design by 3D printing.  

The lecture will be pre-recorded and available online. The tutorial sessions will be partly interactive with face-to-face and online sessions available. Some model building work will take place in Advanced Manufacturing Precinct and be available through an online virtual portal.  

Design workshops are meant to share information on recent development of structural optimization and 3D printing so that peer-learning enhances the optimization skill development.

2 hours/week tutorials and 2 computer lab sessions over 12 weeks. In addition, you are expected to spend around minimum 4 hours/week of your own time on research, design project assignment and self-learning structural modelling and simulating using computer software.

Overview of Learning Resources

Pre-recorded lecture videos and computer lab notes and Procedures Manual and other design guidance will be provided on Canvas.

Reference book: 

Evolutionary Topology Optimization of Continuum Structures: Methods and Applications by Xiaodong Huang, Mike Xie ISBN: 978-0-470-74653-0

Overview of Assessment

☒This course has no hurdle requirements.

☐ All hurdle requirements for this course are indicated clearly in the assessment regime that follows, against the relevant assessment task(s) and all have been approved by the College Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor (Leaning & Teaching).

Assessment tasks

Assessment Task 1: Optimizing a simple structure from scratch using BESO or SIMP
Weighting 30%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1 to 4

Assessment Task 2: Optimizing a reinforcement structural member for an existing building using software
Weighting 30%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1 to 5.

Assessment Task 3: Group project: Replacing an existing structure with an optimized topology
Weighting 40%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1 to 6