Optimizing additive manufacturing for 3-D printing stronger, lighter parts (Video)

Method for 3-D printing lighter, stronger parts saves resources and promises reduced weight in critical applications like vehicles
Screen capture Erva Ulu, James McCann, Levent Burak Kara at Carnegie Mellon

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, has promise to revolutionize how we build cars, homes and just about every product in our lives. Now the quest for ever lighter structures without losing critical engineering strengths promises to make 3D printing even more resource- (and cost-) effective, as well as to offer new pathways to reducing weight in electric vehicles, an important factor in improving vehicle range.

Carnegie Mellon engineering students describe a method for reducing weight without losing strength in 3-D printing (additive manufacturing) in a recent paper, Lightweight structure design under force location uncertainty. The method allows for optimization of products even when the exact forces to which they will be subject cannot be known (imagine all the different ways you put weight on a chair for example).

The video below describes the concept and demonstrates some of the cases in which 50-90% weight reduction has been proven to have no adverse effect on the product resistance to breakage under force.

The reduction in materials required should make 3D printing cheaper, which could help spread adoption. More importantly, it offers a new technique for achieving lighter designs, without losing product strength. Whether designing equipment to take humans to Mars or promoting the revolution against fossil fuels, the results of this research will surely influence the manufacturing of the future.

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