The structure of a material defines its properties. The Faculty of Transportation Sciences at Czech Technical University conducts advanced research in this area and holds high ambitions: To significantly improve production processes in automotive, aviation, or space exploration. Imagine you need to build a car body or a space suit that need to withstand an impact of a certain force and deform in a certain way. Thanks to this research, you’ll soon be able to achieve that just by setting parameters, and the AI will generate recommended materials and structures with properties exactly matching your needs. However, this kind of research requires data, loads of data – that you need to gather through practical experiments. And this is where 3D printing steps in!
Professor Ondřej Jiroušek is in charge of this research and he showed us how it’s done: during the experiments they use 3D-printed objects of different structures generated by an AI. They look almost like decorative models from Printables 3D design contests, but in fact, they are a bit more sophisticated.
“Each sample has different properties and each structure behaves differently,” explains prof. Jiroušek. He shows us a 3D-printed sample that looks like a hockey puck – but with a visible peculiar infill pattern. “It looks almost like a honeycomb but it’s designed to distribute pressure force in a certain way.”
Experiments take place in a special laboratory for dynamic testing of materials and structures, called Dynlab. It’s full of all kinds of scientific equipment, but the most eye-catching one is surely the Split-Hopkinson pressure bar, used literally for shooting at the 3D printed objects. You place the object between two bars and then you launch a projectile from an air cannon. The striking mechanism hits the first bar which then hits the object and deforms it. It’s not only a fun experiment but also the slow-mo shots of the impact are very cool.
We saw different results on different samples – from a relatively shallow hole to a cracked and deformed object.
“The goal of these experiments is to map and understand the behavior of different structures under certain scenarios. The results of the experiment can be translated to numbers and we can make mathematical models. The research should lead to developing new kinds of protective wear or structures that protect against impact,” says prof. Jiroušek. A new research project in cooperation with North Carolina State University is also being prepared, exploring the possibilites of using artificial intelligence during the design process.
The FDM and SLA 3D printing technologies significantly help researchers with their tasks. You can find Original Prusa 3D printers in their labs – namely, MK3S+ and MINI+. Both teachers and students also use their 3D printers for making practical accessories for their research or to repair or improve their equipment.
And students can’t get enough of 3D printing.
“3D printing is very beneficial for the students and it’s also very easy to get into and fun to use. And that’s the best combination,” says prof. Jiroušek with a smile.