Dec 12, 2017 | By Tess

3D printed lattices have all sorts of amazing applications, and they are increasingly being used in the production of bespoke medical implants, lightweight industrial parts, and more.

Now, a team of researchers from TU Delft in the Netherlands have developed a new method for creating three-dimensional lattice structures, which relies on complex folding techniques rather than 3D printing. The team says its innovative method could offer 3D lattice structures many more functionalities than their solid 3D printed counterparts.

The research group, which was led by Professor Amir Zadpoor, says that the new method for producing 3D lattice structures was inspired by origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into complex shapes.

Examples of ​3D printed lattices

Unlike traditional origami, however, the folded 3D structures start off as flat shapes patterned using an advanced electro beam nanolithography technology and can subsequently be folded into three-dimensional shapes with complex internal shapes—similar to 3D printed lattices, but apparently with easier access to the internal surfaces.

This improved level of access reportedly offers a greater functionality for the lattices, which can be designed to fulfill certain properties and act as metamaterials. The folded 3D structures could have applications in the creation of flexible electronics, in creating new metamaterials, and in developing medical implants with tissue regeneration properties.

“…Our access to the internal surface areas of 3D printed lattice structures is very limited,” said Zadpoor. “Combining free-form surface ornaments with lattice forms seemed therefore impossible. But inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding (origami), we have found a way that allows for that combination.”

“We have proposed the unusual approach of 'folding' lattice structures from initially flat states. That approach provides us with full access to the entire surface of what will eventually become our lattice structure. We could then use the currently available techniques to ornament the surface.”

Zadpoor adds that the research team has divided its folded 3D lattices into three different categories, each of which has a distinct folding strategy. Not unlike 4D printing practices, some of the folded lattice structures integrate “self-folding mechanisms” which allow the flat patterned material to fold into its lattice structure automatically when exposed to a certain element like a change in temperature, for example.

The research also shows how “free-form 3D ornaments could be applied on the surface of flat sheets with a resolution of a few nanometers.” The research study was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Credit: Janbaz et al., Sci. Adv. 2017;3: eaao1595

 

 

Posted in 3D Design

 

 

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