…I began designing new meshes using this approach, connecting arrays of nodes not by the minimal connective path, but by a more circuitous path to allow for more deformation. I continued to use hexagonal arrays of connective elements because the resulting meshes have higher connective element to node ratios, resulting in higher loading of connective elements when a given node is subjected to a load. Using rectilinear or triangular arrays of nodes reduces the load per connective element, resulting in less deformation and an overall stiffer structure.
Immediately upon removing the first prototype from the build platform of my machine, I was struck by the behavior of the structure. I had modeled the first prototype to have a wall thickness of one extrusion width, 0.4mm, which, coupled with the above design intent, resulted in a surprisingly flexible, deformable, and elastic sample given that the material was PLA (traditionally a brittle and rigid polymer). I revised and refined my design until some samples pushed the XY spatial resolution of the Replicator 2 that I was printing on. Handling samples of these structures, I began to notice something about the way that they flexed and bent under in hands– my first description of the behavior was that the structure was able to assume different surface areas on its two sides, allowing it to stretch and bend in a way different from materials like cardboard, wood, or steel. This property, it turns out, has a name: synclastic. A material is said to be synclastic if it can assume compound curvature: bending in two (orthogonal) directions, creating concavity on the same side of the bending surface, without buckling or folding. A material that is not synclastic is anti-clastic, and anti-clastic materials comprise the vast majority of materials with which we interact on a daily basis: paper, fabric, sheet metal, etc.
…These are just the beginning: the core ideas behind mesostructured material are applicable in 3D polyhedral matrices as well as 2d polygonal meshes. I intend to explore both further during my residency at Autodesk and am constructing a machine specifically for fabricating these structures. Several other groups are also exploring 3D printed mesostructures using SLS and other technologies , including Betatype and Carolyn Seepersad at UT Austin.
Source files for my meostructures can be found here.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!