NASA has awarded a $127,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant to PADT and Arizona State University (ASU) to accelerate biomimicry research, the study of 3D printing objects that resemble strong and light structures found in nature such as honeycombs or bamboo.
Nature is able to create strong, lightweight, and flexible structures that can not be created using traditional ways of manufacturing like machining, molding, or forming. These strong and light structures are very beneficial for objects that need to be launched into space. That is why NASA just awarded PADT and Arizona State University, a Phase 1 STTR grant to explore how to make just this type of geometry.
The research is critically important to major sectors in Arizona such as aerospace because it enables strong and incredibly light parts for use in the development of air and space crafts.
“We’re honored to continue advanced research on biomimicry with our good friends and partners at ASU,” said Rey Chu, principal and co-founder, PADT. “With our combined expertise in 3D printing and computer modeling, we feel that our research will provide a breakthrough in the way that we design objects for NASA, and our broad range of product manufacturing clients.”
Recently, PADT partnered with Lockheed Martin and Stratasys to help NASA develop over 100 3D printed parts for its manned-spaceflight to Mars, the Orion Mission. Specific NASA applications of the research include the design and manufacturing of high-performance materials for use in heat exchanges, lightweight structures and space debris resistant skins. If the first phase is successful, the partners will be eligible for a second, larger grant from NASA.
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Studies of biomimicry and 3D printing are usually fascinating source of inspiration. So far, there has been a number of studies and research projects combining generative and parametric design with 3D printing and sometimes even biological matter, to study the properties and behaviour of material under various conditions. So far my favourite has been the use of 3D printed graft for muscle tissue – apparently, it is one of the few examples when visible layers very desirable – the muscle cells grow in strands and really like to follow the lines created by layers.