A Khalifa University team project has leveraged the innovative potential 3D printers to create gyroid-structured composite materials that are far stronger than their basic components, potentially offering industry a new way to produce ultra-light and ultra-strong structures with customized mechanical properties.
A gyroid is a surface with a very complicated shape containing no straight lines, forming a three-dimensional pattern that can repeat forever. Gyroids are often found in nature, like on butterfly wing scales and in the structure of pinecones, where they provide a unique combination of strength and lightness. Leveraging the ability of 3D printers to create complex structures made of multiple materials, a team led by Dr. Rashid Abu Al-Rub, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Khalifa University, was able to design and create their own gyroids out of chosen soft and hard materials.
“This is a new field of research made possible by the emergence of 3D printing techniques and their ability to fabricate complex materials without the need for expensive tooling or post-processing. This project capitalizes on the topology-property relationship of materials where properties can be engineered through changing their topological aspects rather than their chemical or microstructural composition,” Dr. Abu Al-Rub explained.
The project team included also PhD student Oraib Al-Ketan, MSc student Ayesha Al-Qubaisi and an undergraduate student intern from UAE University Ahmed Soliman. A paper on their gyroid research was published in Advanced Engineering Materials.
The team used Polyjet 3D printing technology to fabricate novel lightweight cellular co-continuous composites, which refers to separating the space of the 3D printed structure into two continuous solid domains, where each domain is made from a different material. Polyjet’s innovative additive manufacturing technology allows for the simultaneous printing of two or more materials with distinctive properties.
Also, the unique materials used in the gyroid project – a shell-core cellular composite – allowed for enhanced toughness, making it particularly suitable for mechanical energy absorption applications such as resistance to impact loading or blast.
“These new types of lightweight and damage-tolerant composites can have applications to several industries such as impact and blast resistant materials, composite materials for soft robotic applications, and lightweight aerospace and automotive composites structures,” Al-Ketan explained.
This research project has the potential to contribute to the development of advanced and sustainable materials for industries targeted for the UAE’s future knowledge economy. The new lightweight and tough composite structures it produces can potentially replace existing heavier and less efficient materials in a number of components in defense, automotive, and aerospace sectors, leading to reductions in energy usage and structural systems with long service life.