Jan 21, 2019 | By Cameron

Ceramic is one of the hardest materials, which is why it often finds its way into body armor; it works by being so hard that it shatters incoming projectiles, reducing their kinetic mass and penetrability. Ceramic is also incredibly brittle, meaning ceramic armor plates usually break when they’re hit with a projectile and become less effective with each shot. But brittleness can be affected with geometry as certain shapes and compositions are more durable than others, and material scientists at the United States Army Research Laboratory are aiming to 3D print ceramic armor inspired by the abalone shell.

Joshua Pelz, ACerS member and materials science and engineering doctoral candidate at the University of California, San Diego designed the custom auger-based extruder for research on 3D printing antennas with gradients, but his project took a turn when he started working with ceramic compounds found in armor. “I started working on this project to create next-generation antennas with graded structures,” stated Pelz in a press release. “[I] then transitioned into using armor ceramic materials such as boron carbide and silicon carbide and trying to produce parts that had a gradient or internal structures impossible to produce with traditional ceramic forming techniques.”

Pelz modified a Lulzbot TAZ 3D printer for his ceramic printing. The auger is wired to what was the fan speed controller and allows for mixing any ratio of two different slurries. Variations of custom formulas can easily be tested with the system, and the Army is obviously enthusiastic about the research as ceramic armor has greatly reduced casualties since its introduction.

By modeling armor after abalone shells, the armor will theoretically be more durable as well as more comfortable to wear as it would more naturally wrap around the contours of the human body. Expect to see 3D printed armor prototypes soon.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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