Finding the Strongest Shapes with 3D Printing

Heinrich Jaeger, a professor at the University of Chicago, and his research group examine materials and phenomena that appear simple at the surface, but which reveal great complexity upon close examination. One such phenomenon is jamming, in which aggregates of randomly placed particles transition from fluid-like to solid-like behavior. Jamming lends itself especially to soft robotics. Jaeger and graduate student Marc Miskin have used computer simulations and experiments to analyze how the properties of a jammed material can be tuned by changing the shape of the constituent particles. Miskin employed a computer algorithm and once an optimal shape was identified, he manufactured a large number of copies with the lab's 3D printer for testing in a viselike squeezing apparatus.