Apr 29, 2016 | By Tess

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been a proponent for the potentials of 3D printing technologies within the context of military development. As we recently wrote about, the agency recently unveiled the functional 3D printed prototype of its VTol X-Plane made in collaboration with Aurora Flight Sciences. Now, the military agency has also placed its focus on another area of research, of using 3D design and additive manufacturing technologies to develop new ways to create advanced materials.

Last week, DARPA announced the launch of its TRAnsformative DESign (TRADES) program, which will focus on the research and development of new mathematics and algorithms that could potentially help to advance material design by taking advantage of the design optimization afforded by new materials and fabrication methods, such as 3D printing. Now, the agency has also announced a proposer’s day, which will be aimed at informing potential partners of a forthcoming broad agency announcement involving human-machine teaming and the TRADES program.

The program is an effort to reinvigorate and modernize the platforms on which current material designs are based. According to DARPA, current methods of material manufacturing do not fully take into account the design potentials and capabilities of such technologies as additive manufacturing or microfiber technologies. And as advanced materials are becoming increasingly based on counterintuitive properties (i.e. very strong and very light), these advanced technologies could be the optimal way of both rethinking design properties to achieve the best results as well as manufacturing them.

Jan Vandenbrande, DARPA program manager, explains, “The structural and functional complexities introduced by today’s advanced materials and manufacturing methods have exceeded our capacity to simultaneously optimize all the variables involved. We have reached the fundamental limits of what our computer-aided design tools and processes can handle, and need revolutionary new tools that can take requirements from a human designer and propose radically new concepts, shapes and structures that would likely never be conceived by even our best design programs today, much less by a human alone.”

He continues, “Much of today’s design is really re-design based on useful but very old ideas. The design for building aircraft fuselages today, for example, is based on a spar-and-rib concept that dates back to design ideas from four thousand years ago when ancient ships such as the Royal Barge of Khufu used this basic design concept for its hull. TRADES could revolutionize such well-worn designs.”

As DARPA’s statement explains, such processes as designing structures with components that vary in functional or physical properties, like an aircraft skin for instance, is an extremely difficult and complicated process using the available programs and tools. Having the correct tools then, could not only facilitate the process but could reduce the number of defects, problems and steps in the design and manufacturing processes.

The proposer’s day will  be held on May 13th, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. There, DARPA is hoping to receive proposals that present innovative ideas and concepts for building new design tools. The proposer’s day is not only looking for participants from the fields of CAD modeling and physical modeling, but also such sectors as diverse as animation, materials science, applied math, artificial intelligence, and data analytics.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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