Additive Manufacturing

Analysis Driven Design

Ted Blacker holding AM created mounting plate
Sandia's PLATO software created the unique shape of the mounting plate held by PLATO Project Manager Ted Blacker and graphically displayed behind him. The input to the PLATO design software was the allowable space that the part could occupy (in this case a simple block), the desired weight, and the functions it was expected to perform (resist bending with a specified loading). PLATO designs are ready to print without further post processing.


CAD-CAM design software doesn't take advantage of the revolutionary geometric design freedom that AM enables. An essential part of Sandia's AM advancements is a new computational tool, PLATO, that promises to fundamentally change our approach to design. PLATO creates shapes by optimally placing material only where needed. PLATO uses an algorithm that accounts for requirements such as mechanical loads, thermal loads, and material properties, etc., and optimizes design for the specified conditions. PLATO inverts the traditional design process by using engineering analyses to create a computer-optimized design, rather than simply validating a human-created design.

PLATO is a released product, currently being used by designers at Sandia and other government organizations.

PLATO's Unique Capabilities

PLATO differs from other topology optimization tools because it draws on a large suite of sophisticated engineering codes developed by Sandia over many decades as the lead engineering code development lab for DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA.

Create designs that are robust to real-world environments by including uncertainties in load magnitudes, load angles, materials properties, etc.

GPU-enabled solver technology can produce designs in seconds on a laptop. In this near real-time example, the design is completed in approximately 26 seconds.

Use an unlimited number of different materials in a single design. In this example, the light blue material is very stiff, green has moderate stiffness and dark blue is the least stiff.

Produce refined, "ready-to-print" designs that don't require time consuming and expensive post processing.

Generate unique conformal lattices for light-weight metamaterials

New minimal surface cells provide excellent stiffness and optimal performance from a strength-to-weight perspective. In this gyroid example, two interwoven but separate channels would work well as a heat exchanger.

AM lattice structure

This novel lattice structure has multiple vibratory modes that absorb rather than transmit vibrational energy. Applications could include protecting a sensitive component from external shock.

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Partnering with PLATO

The PLATO team actively encourages other researchers to capitalize on our work. We are providing open source for the core functionality of PLATO, which we call PLATO engine. Simply go to and search for "platoengine". Feel free to contact us directly for assistance in enabling your research using this platform. The GPU-enabled solver technology is available as part of this repository.

Licensing PLATO

PLATO is available as a released product for government agencies and government contractors under a no-fee Government Use license.

Sandia is seeking a partner to commercialize and distribute PLATO.

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