Toronto’s Autodesk Research to partner with Lawrence Livermore on meta-material design

Research partnership looks to create superior sports helmet by pairing 3D printing and generative design software.

0 August 20, 2015
by Design Engineering staff

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineers Eric Duoss (left) and Tom Wilson use an additive manufacturing process called direct ink writing to develop an engineered “foam” cushion. (Photo by George Kitrinos/LLNL)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineers Eric Duoss (left) and Tom Wilson use an additive manufacturing process called direct ink writing to develop an engineered “foam” cushion. (Photo by George Kitrinos/LLNL)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announced that it will partner with Autodesk Research to investigate the use of 3D printing in creating new meta-materials; that is, artificial materials that are built from variable geometric microstructures. When combined in various complex configurations using additive manufacturing, these microstructures allow designers to create objects with wholly unique properties (e.g. an object with specifically tuned zones of stiffness, energy absorption, weight, etc. or structurally resilient objects that are also incredibly light.)

Under an 18-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), the California-based federal research facility will work with researchers at Autodesk’s Toronto-based in-house research wing to put the CAD giant’s generative design software to the task of finding new microstructures and arranging them into new configurations.

As an initial test case, LLNL and Autodesk say they will work the design of a next-generation protective helmet. Mark Davis, Autodesk’s senior director of design research, says helmet design is an excellent example of a design problem with multiple objectives, such as the constraints of desired weight, cost, durability, material thickness and response to compression.

Applying Autodesk’s goal-oriented design software, LLNL and Autodesk researchers expect to generate and analyze the performance of very large sets – thousands to tens of thousands – of different structural configurations of material microarchitectures.

“Giving the software goals and constraints as input, then allowing the computer to synthesize form and optimize across multiple materials, will lead to the discovery of unexpected, high-performing designs that would not have otherwise been pursued,” Davis said.

In addition the generative design software, advanced additive manufacturing techniques are expected to allow the LLNL/Autodesk researchers to produce complex material microstructures that will dissipate energy better than what is currently possible with traditionally manufactured helmet pads such as foams and pads.

As yet, the research partners say they haven’t decided which kind of sports helmets to create — football, baseball, biking and skiing are all possibilities – but they believe the collaboration could lead to new design methodologies with helmets as just one example.

“The difference in the design method we are proposing versus historically is that many of the previous manufacturing constraints can be eliminated,” said LLNL’s Eric Duoss, a materials engineer and the co-principal investigator for the CRADA with Lab computational engineer Dan White. “Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity for unprecedented breakthroughs in new structures and new material properties for a wide range of applications.”

“One of the important things we hope to gain from this CRADA,” he added, “is to know what a great helmet design looks like, and we aim to build and test components of those helmet designs.
www.llnl.gov
www.autodeskresearch.com


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