ARL, Pur­due Univer­sity re­search of 3-D print­ing to fix dam­aged on-the-spot in com­bat zones


New tech­nol­ogy be­ing de­vel­oped by re­search engi­neers at the US Army Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory and Pur­due Univer­sity will soon help just about any sol­dier de­ployed in far-off lo­ca­tions to im­me­di­ately spot and fix dam­aged air­craft and ground ve­hi­cle parts.

Re­searchers found that com­bin­ing the gen­eral pur­pose, fini­teele­ment anal­y­sis soft­ware ABAQUS with Python, an open-source code used to op­ti­mise log­i­cal struc­tures such as topo­log­i­cally in­ter­locked struc­tures, im­proves en­ergy ab­sorp­tion and dis­si­pa­tion, pro­duc­tiv­ity and lower main­te­nance costs.

The com­bi­na­tion of ABAQUS and Python pro­vides an au­to­mated process for auto-gen­er­a­tion of the ge­ome­tries, mod­els, ma­te­ri­als as­sign­ments and code ex­e­cu­tion, said Ed Hab­tour, a re­search en­gi­neer with ARL’s Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy Direc­torate at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground.

He said the code is de­vel­oped to as­sist de­sign­ers with tools to model the new gen­er­a­tion of 3-D ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tured and TISs struc­tures.

“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, Hab­tour said. “Sub­se­quently, the sol­dier can print th­ese struc­tures in the field us­ing ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing by sim­ply down­load­ing the model gen­er­ated by the de­signer/ven­dor.”

The re­search team de­vel­oped log­i­cal struc­tures from the mini-com­po­si­tion of te­tra­he­dron-shaped cells in ex­ist­ing ma­te­ri­al­san ap­proach ARL re­search engi­neers say is a vast de­par­ture from the mil­i­tary’s ten­dency to build new ma­te­ri­als to meet ex­ist­ing prob­lems.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, ev­ery time the US Army en­coun­ters a prob­lem in the field the de­fault has been to de­velop new and ex­otic ma­te­ri­als. Us­ing log­i­cal struc­tures can be ef­fec­tive in solv­ing some crit­i­cal and chal­leng­ing prob­lems, like the costly and time-con­sum­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process that all new ma­te­ri­als must face,” Hab­tour said.

This log­i­cal struc­ture is based on prin­ci­ples of seg­men­ta­tion and assem­bly, where the struc­ture is seg­mented into in­de­pen­dent unit ele­ments then re­con­fig­ured/as­sem­bled log­i­cally and in­ter­locked in an op­ti­mal ori­en­ta­tion to en­hance the over­all properties of the struc­ture, Hab­tour ex­plained.

The re­searchers are fo­cus­ing on topo­log­i­cally in­ter­locked struc­tures us­ing VTD’s 3-D ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing ap­proach to build 2-D and 3-D struc­tures based on cells in the shape of Pla­tonic solids.

Hab­tour said new struc­tures cre­ated from this process are de­signed to be adap­tive and con­fig­urable to the harsh con­di­tions like ran­dom and har­monic vi­bra­tions, ther­mal loads, repet­i­tive shocks due to road bumps, crash and acous­tic at­ten­u­a­tion. An added bonus he said is that th­ese struc­tures are con­fig­ured to pre­vent crack prop­a­ga­tion.

“Some­time in the near fu­ture, soldiers would be able to fabri­cate and re­pair th­ese seg­mented struc­tures very eas­ily in the front lines or For­ward Op­er­at­ing Bases, so in­stead of mov­ing dam­aged ground or air ve­hi­cles to a main base camp for re­pair, an in-field re­pair ap­proach would es­sen­tially mean ve­hi­cles would be fixed and ac­ces­si­ble to warfight­ers much faster at lower costs,” said Hab­tour. “We want to change the con­ven­tional think­ing by tak­ing ad­van­tage of ex­cit­ing ma­te­ri­als and ma­nip­u­lat­ing the struc­ture based on the prin­ci­ple of seg­men­ta­tion and assem­bly.”

ARL is work­ing closely with pro­ject man­agers at the US Army Avi­a­tion and Mis­sile Re­search De­vel­op­ment and En­gi­neer­ing Cen­ter. Dis­cus­sions are al­ready un­der way to tran­si­tion this work to AMRDEC and Tank Au­to­mo­tive Re­search, De­vel­op­ment and En­gi­neer­ing Cen­ter de­vel­op­men­tal pro­grammes.

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