The popularity of sheet metal in modern engineering artifacts is due to the fact that it is both inexpensive as a raw material and inexpensive to form into components. In comparison to forging or machining components, sheet metal can produce lightweight and inexpensive design solutions. The main shortcomings of sheet metal are that resulting components have a limited rigidity and the feasibility of the parts is constrained by the inherent two-dimensionality of the initial sheet. Furthermore, design and manufacturing engineers are challenged by finding a shape that satisfies all spatial constraints and by deciding the optimal sequence of operations for making this product that minimizes both time and associated manufacturing costs. In the past two years, we have been working towards an automated tool that creates candidate sheet metal topologies and optimizes them for spatial constraints as well as time and cost objectives. While we have yet to complete this goal, we have to date developed a representation capable of creating a wide variety of sheet metal topologies (see DETC2002/DAC-34087) and have recently created a thorough evaluation method which is presented in this paper along with some preliminary results.

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