Topology optimization is a framework for finding the optimal layout of material within a given region of space. In material distribution topology optimization, a material indicator function determines the material state at each point within the design domain. It is well known that naive formulations of continuous material distribution topology optimization problems often lack solutions. To obtain numerical solutions, the continuous problem is approximated by a finite-dimensional problem. The finite-dimensional approximation is typically obtained by partitioning the design domain into a finite number of elements and assigning to each element a design variable that determines the material state of that element. Although the finite-dimensional problem generally is solvable, a sequence of solutions corresponding to ever finer partitions of the design domain may not converge; that is, the optimized designs may exhibit mesh-dependence. Filtering procedures are amongst the most popular methods used to handle the existence issue related to the continuous problem as well as the mesh-dependence related to the finite-dimensional approximation. Over the years, a variety of filters for topology optimization have been presented.
To harmonize the use and analysis of filters within the field of topology optimization, we introduce the class of fW-mean filters that is based on the weighted quasi-arithmetic mean, also known as the weighted generalized f-mean, over some neighborhoods. We also define the class of generalized fW-mean filters that contains the vast majority of filters for topology optimization. In particular, the class of generalized fW-mean filters includes the fW-mean filters, as well as the projected fW-mean filters that are formed by adding a projection step to the fW-mean filters.
If the design variables are located in a regular grid, uniform weights are used within each neighborhood, and equal sized polytope shaped neighborhoods are used, then a cascade of generalized fW-mean filters can be applied with a computational complexity that is linear in the number of design variables. Detailed algorithms for octagonal shaped neighborhoods in 2D and rhombicuboctahedron shaped neighborhoods in 3D are provided. The theoretically obtained computational complexity of the algorithm for octagonal shaped neighborhoods in 2D has been numerically verified. By using the same type of algorithm as for filtering, the additional computational complexity for computing derivatives needed in gradient based optimization is also linear in the number of design variables.
To exemplify the use of generalized fW-mean filters in topology optimization, we consider minimization of compliance (maximization of global stiffness) of linearly elastic continuum bodies. We establish the existence of solutions to a version of the continuous minimal compliance problem when a cascade of projected continuous fW-mean filters is included in the formulation. Bourdin's classical existence result for the linear density filter is a partial case of this general theorem for projected continuous fW-mean filters. Inspired by the works of Svanberg & Svärd and Sigmund, we introduce the harmonic open-close filter, which is a cascade of four fW-mean filters. We present large-scale numerical experiments indicating that, for minimal compliance problems, the harmonic open-close filter produces almost binary designs, provides independent size control on both material and void regions, and yields mesh-independent designs.