Our research mission is to leverage space (3D) and composition (X) to design and manufacture multi-functional materials and structures that utilize mass one to two orders of magnitude more efficiently than current state-of-the-art solutions. To realize this mission, we are currently focusing on three themes, and in particular on exploring ideas that lie at their intersections.
1. ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is the primary method by which we realize, study and validate design concepts. The technology is especially suited to our mission of improving material and structural performance by orders of magnitude since it is both the method of creating parts for experimentation, and of the realization of functional end-use application as well. Our lab utilizes 3D printers that are capable of printing a range of metal, polymer and composite materials, and include maturing technologies such as Laser powder bed fusion (metals and nylons), material extrusion (thermoplastics, fiber composites) and material jetting (photopolymers, ABS). Most of our current research in AM is focused on Metal AM, primarily the laser powder bed fusion process.
2. CELLULAR MATERIALS
There are many strategies to increasing the performance of structures. The main focus in our group in this space is on cellular materials. These include 2-dimensional structures like honeycombs, as well as 3D lattices and surface based cellular structures such as gyroids. Within the cellular materials space, we are specifically interested in two sub-domains: the design of these structures for multi-functionality, as well as the development of predictive models for mechanical behavior and integrity.
3. BIOMIMETIC DESIGN
Any effort that seeks to improve the performance and utilization of materials and structures would do well to emulate nature, which is abundant with examples of efficient multi-functional performance. Our group currently focuses on the conscious emulation of form in nature, along with studying the structure and function associated with the form itself. Currently, we are focused on how nature uses cellular materials to achieve one or more functional objectives and how the underlying design principles may be abstracted for study, validation and implementation with AM, with honeybee and wasp nests as a primary natural model.