Human Bone Inspires New Way to Strengthen 3D-Printed Objects

The way “beams” in human bone material handle a lifetime’s worth of wear and tear could lead to longer lasting 3D-printed lightweight materials, according to research at Purdue University . When the Purdue engineers mimicked this beam material and made it about 30% thicker, they could make an artificial material last up to 100 times longer. Bones get their durability from a spongy structure called trabeculae, which is a network of interconnected vertical plate-like struts and horizontal rod-like struts acting as columns and beams. The Purdue researchers designed a material with the same amount of rod- and plate-like structures as trabeculae and arranged them in a periodic pattern. Applying loads to the bone-inspired 3D-printed polymers confirmed that the thicker the horizontal struts, the longer the polymer would last as it took on load. Because thickening the struts did not significantly increase the mass of the polymer, the researchers believe this design would be useful for creating more resilient lightweight 3D-printed materials.