New, 3-D printer technology being developed by research engineers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Purdue University can aid Soldiers in remote locations to spot and fix damaged aircraft and ground vehicle parts. By combining finite-element analysis and structural optimization software, new possibilities in armor production and repair are enabled.
The researchers found that improvements in energy absorption and dissipation, productivity and maintenance costs could be realized. They use finite-element analysis software ABAQUS with Python, an open-source code used to optimize logical structures. Logical structures are tailor-made so as to allow for superior energy damping, load transfer, high stiffness, etc. Rather than simply using more material to improve component reliability, they use smarter design.
For armor applications, they suggest topologically interlocked structures (TISs). The software is used to assist designers with modeling the new generation of 3-D, additively manufactured TISs.
As described by Ed Habtour, a research engineer with ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate, “The benefit for the Soldier is an after-effect. The TIS would provide an excellent energy absorption and dissipation mechanism for future vehicles using additive manufacturing. Subsequently, the Soldier can print these structures in the field using additive manufacturing by simply downloading the model generated by the designer/vendor.”