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AE Presents: "Structural Design in Motion: Computational Synthesis of Kinetic Structures Using Topology Optimization"

You're invited to attend the talk 


"Structural Design in Motion: Computational Synthesis of Kinetic Structures Using Topology Optimization"




Prof. Kai James

Assistant Professor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Thursday, November 14
3 - 4 PM
Guggenheim 442


About the Talk
Topology optimization is a powerful and well-established tool for generating optimal structural designs.  Unlike the sizing and shape optimization approaches that preceded it, this method simultaneously optimizes both the shape and topology of the structure, thus creating the potential to algorithmically generate novel design concepts and configurations with minimal input from human designers.  This capability makes topology optimization a potential key ingredient in the quest to achieve automated design of complex mechanical systems.

This talk will discuss our ongoing efforts to expand the capability of the topology optimization method to enable computational synthesis of kinetic structures.  This unique class of structures is designed to exhibit precisely tailored motion, while maintaining structural integrity.  The talk will present our general methodology and results from several example problems including optimal design of a bi-stable airfoil, multimaterial design of self-actuating mechanisms containing shape memory polymers, and topology optimization of multi-body mechanisms.  The talk will conclude with a discussion of ongoing and future research projects in which we explore the use of topology optimization for the design of soft robots and compound machines.​


About the Speaker
Kai James is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Principal Investigator of the Computational Design Innovation Lab at UIUC.  From 2012 to 2015, he was a postdoc in the Computational Mechanics Group at Columbia University, and he earned his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Toronto in 2012.  His research focuses on computational solid mechanics and computational design optimization with an emphasis on problems involving various sources of nonlinearity, such as viscoelastic creep, superelasticity, and large deformations. 

He is especially interested in developing novel algorithms that leverage high-fidelity computational models and topology optimization methods for conceptual design and synthesis of complex engineering structures.  Some of his major research projects include aerostructural optimization of transonic aircraft wings, structural design optimization of a cardiovascular stent, optimal design of a bi-stable airfoil, and computational synthesis of multi-body systems.  Dr. James is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award (2018), and has also received several teaching honors including being named “Teacher of the Year” by the UIUC chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2017.

Event Details


  • Thursday, November 14, 2019
    3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location: Guggenheim 442

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