Jun 13, 2016 | By Alec

Researchers from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi have just filed a remarkable 3D printing patent for a new method for 3D printing ultra-strong lightweight ‘architectured foam’ structures that can be made from a variety of metals, plastics and composite materials. Thanks to unique cellular geometries, these 3D printed structures have the potential to make machines used in aerospace, medical, and automotive industries far lighter and stronger. The new structures can even be programmed to exhibit excellent thermal, electrical or mechanical properties, paving the way for a large number of applications.

This remarkable breakthrough has been realized by a research team led by Dr. Rashid Abu Al-Rub, the institute’s Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. The team’s study has already been featured in five peer-reviewed journals, including Composites Science and Technology, and is now ready for a patent application. What’s more, its developers went as far as arguing that their 3D printed structures can make any industry that relies on strong, lightweight and conductive materials more efficient, including the energy, water, and oil and gas industries.

As Professor Abu Al-Rub explained, the key to their remarkable foam structures is their internal 3D printed geometry, “or what we refer to as internal architecture," Dr. Abu Al-Rub said. Similar to the Eiffel Tower’s clever lattice of steel beams and struts that provides strength and balance, these cellular structures achieve strength through their geometric internal structures, which consist of more than 90 percent air. “We are not creating new materials. Rather, we are re-architecting a given material, such as steel or plastic, by manipulating its internal geometry so that we can deliver the desired properties, whether stiffness, electrical conductivity, or porosity, to the material,” the professor explained. They have already used a computer model to generate thousands of different foam structures, each with unique geometric properties.

Thanks to their accompanying computer model, the platform is also easy in use. Researchers simply select the desired properties for the foam, such as enhanced thermal or electrical properties, stiffness or a desired weight. The algorithm subsequently selects the most suitable geometry, which is fabricated on a 3D printer. The 3D printed results can subsequently be used to enhance the properties of existing materials, or as standalone foam structures.

Even the porosity of a structure can be manipulated through the computer model, making it a perfect option for controlling the flow distribution of gasses and liquids. This should, the researchers expect, make it a perfect option for oil and gas operations, seawater desalination, and wastewater treatment. “The foam structures could be used to maximize gas flow, and increase the conversion efficiency of catalytic converters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from car engines,” PhD student Oraib Al-Ketan added.

Of course the architectures made with these foams are extremely complex, and are thus difficult to manufacture. 3D printing is already changing geometry conventions, but this foam 3D printing technique takes that even further. 3D printed at anywhere from nano-scale, at a hundred-thousand times thinner than a human hair, to macro-scale (measured in millimeters), anything is possible. “We have introduced a paradigm shift in how materials are being designed. Currently, people design materials based on a material’s existing chemistry, structure and its corresponding properties. Our vision for material design instead looks first at the desired properties you are targeting in a material for a product application and then applies our proprietary design methods to optimize the structure and its’ internal geometry so that it will give you those desired properties,” Dr. Abu Al-Rub argued.

This new technology is obviously very timely, and the Masdar Institute’s Vice President for Research Dr. Steve Griffiths believes it will have a huge impact on numerous industries. “The foam structures have the potential to become a platform technology, driving innovations across key industries and markets,” he explained. “This project demonstrates how Masdar Institute’s strong advanced materials research capabilities support disruptive technology-based innovations in the Institute’s core research areas of water and energy while benefiting other sectors of importance to the UAE.” The Institute is currently looking at commercialization options, initially within the United Arab Emirates.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Charly wrote at 9/16/2016 10:12:41 PM:

Hello, could you specify when you have filled the patent application? Thanks in advance.

Oraib wrote at 7/31/2016 3:59:22 PM:

Dear All let me clarify some thing. what has been patented is not the architected cellular materials , nor the fact that it can be 3D printed. the patent actually deals with an application where architected 3D printed cellular materials designed using mathematical functions is used as a catalytic carrier for reducing (converting ) emissions resulting from a combustion process. the new catalytic carriers have properties ( reduced back pressure, enhanced turbulence, increased surface area, interpenetrating volumes ..etc) that qualify them to be more efficient than the currently used ones. At the time of writing the article we were protective, and could not share much info. and it was harder to explain this to non-technical reporter. no we haven't been living under a rock, and it wasn't done to please any supervisor or sponsors. I believe you should dig deeper before through your comments in such an under estimating way.

Andy wrote at 6/15/2016 11:01:44 AM:

Have these guys been living under a rock?

Bob the Builder wrote at 6/15/2016 10:55:26 AM:

This is nothing new. Its already been done...many, many years ago..and its a commercially available software....http://withinlab.com/ I suspect that this was a sponsored project by the Abu Dhabi establishment and it has been hyped-up to please their superiors, in the pretence of innovation !

3der wrote at 6/15/2016 12:14:18 AM:

Lan, the page doesnt exist

Joe wrote at 6/14/2016 6:36:56 PM:

Yes, not new. There in a decade-old field known as Architected Materials that does this, including 3D printing them for the past several years.

Ian wrote at 6/14/2016 5:01:11 AM:

Hello, this is not new and probably not patent worthy. see : http://empoweredplastic.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/todays-result-3d-cellular-fill-patterns.html And: http://garyhodgson.com/reprap/2012/01/thoughts-on-fill-algorithms/

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