Next-generation materials

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Lawrence Livermore teams up with Autodesk to investigate material advancements for 3D printing.

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Labora­tory (LLNL) and Autodesk Inc. are exploring how design software can accelerate 3D printing advanced materials.

Under an 18-month cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA), LLNL researchers will use Autodesk software for generative design as it studies how new material microstructures, arranged in complex configurations and printed with additive manufacturing techniques, will produce objects with physical properties that were never before possible.

LLNL researchers will use several additive manufacturing, material modeling, and architected design – arranging materials at the micro- and nano-scale through computational design.

Next-generation protective helmets are selected for this technology collaboration, in a study to improve design performance.

“As an organization that is pushing the limits on generative design and high-performance computing, Autodesk is an ideal collaborator,” says Anantha Krishnan, LLNL’s associate director for engineering. “Autodesk can help us examine how our foundational research in architected materials and new additive manufacturing technology might transfer into a variety of domains.”

Mark Davis, Autodesk’s senior director of design research, calls helmets an excellent example of a design problem with multiple objectives – weight, cost, durability, material thickness, and response to compression.

“Giving the software goals and constraints as input, then allowing the computer to synthesize form and optimize across multiple materials, will lead to the discovery of unexpected, high-performing designs that would not have otherwise been pursued,” Davis adds.

Patrick Dempsey, LLNL’s director of strategic engagements, notes, “Livermore is excited about combining its knowledge in materials and microstructures with the capabilities of a global leader in design software to demonstrate the ability of additive manufacturing to create new products.”

Through the application of goal-oriented design software tools, LLNL and Autodesk expect to generate and analyze the performance of very large sets – thousands to tens of thousands – of different structural configurations of material microarchitectures.

In addition to benefiting from the use of computer software, helmet design also stands to receive considerable advantages from additive manufacturing.

Helmet internal structures not only need to be lightweight, but also must absorb impact and dissipate energy predictably.

Advanced additive manufacturing is expected to allow the LLNL/Autodesk researchers to produce complex material microstructures that will dissipate energy better than traditionally manufactured foam helmet pads.

LLNL’s Eric Duoss, a materials engineer and the co-principal investigator for the CRADA with lab computational engineer Dan White, believes the agreement could lead to new design methodologies.

“Many of the previous manufacturing constraints can be eliminated,” Duoss states. “Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity for unprecedented breakthroughs in new structures and new material properties.”

It has yet to be determined what kinds of helmets will be designed under the CRADA, but football, baseball, biking, and skiing helmets are possible, according to Duoss.

“One of the important things we hope to gain from this CRADA is to know what a great helmet design looks like, and we aim to build and test components of those helmet designs,” he says.


Autodesk Inc.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory