Additive manufacturing of stiff and strong structures by leveraging printing-induced strength anisotropy in topology optimization

Rahul Dev Kundu, Xiaojia Shelly Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anisotropy in additive manufacturing (AM), particularly in the material extrusion process, plays a crucial role in determining the actual structural performance, including the stiffness and strength of the printed parts. Unless accounted for, anisotropy can compromise the objective performance of topology-optimized structures and allow premature failures for stress-sensitive design domains. This study harnesses process-induced anisotropy in material extrusion-based 3D printing to design and fabricate stiff, strong, and lightweight structures using a two-step framework. First, an AM-oriented anisotropic strength-based topology optimization formulation optimizes the structural geometry and infill orientations, while assuming both anisotropic (i.e., transversely isotropic) and isotropic infill types as candidate material phases. The dissimilar stiffness and strength interpolation schemes in the formulation allow for the optimized allocation of anisotropic and isotropic material phases in the design domain while satisfying their respective Tsai–Wu and von Mises stress constraints. Second, a suitable fabrication methodology realizes anisotropic and isotropic material phases with appropriate infill density, controlled print path (i.e., infill directions), and strong interfaces of dissimilar material phases. Experimental investigations show up to 37% improved stiffness and 100% improved strength per mass for the optimized and fabricated structures. The anisotropic strength-based optimization improves load-carrying capacity by simultaneous infill alignment along the stress paths and topological adaptation in response to high stress concentration. The adopted interface fabrication methodology strengthens comparatively weaker anisotropic joints with minimal additional material usage and multi-axial infill patterns. Furthermore, numerically predicted failure locations agree with experimental observations. The demonstrated framework is general and can potentially be adopted for other additive manufacturing processes that exhibit anisotropy, such as fiber composites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103730
JournalAdditive Manufacturing
StatePublished - Aug 5 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • AM-oriented topology optimization
  • Anisotropic strength
  • Infill optimization
  • Material extrusion 3D printing
  • Process-induced anisotropy
  • Tsai–Wu criterion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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