Marine animals inspire new approaches to structural topology optimization


IMAGE: Glaucio Paulino and Emily Sanders, Georgia Institute of Technology scientists, are co-authors on the paper.
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Credit: Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech

A mollusk and shrimp are 2 not likely marine animals that are playing a really crucial function in engineering. The bodies of both animals highlight how natural functions, like the structures of their bones and shells, can be obtained to improve the efficiency of crafted structures and products, like bridges and planes. This phenomenon, called biomimetics, is assisting advance structural topology research study, where the microscale includes discovered in natural systems are being imitated.

In a current paper released by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), a new technique to structural topology optimization is described that merges both style and production to produce unique microstructures, with prospective applications varying from improved facial implants for cranial restoration to enhanced methods to get products into space for planetary expedition.

“With traditional structural topology optimization, we use algorithms to determine the ideal layout of a structure – one that maximizes structural efficiency and requires fewer material resources,” stated Emily Sanders, a Ph.D. trainee in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, and co-author of the paper. “Our new research takes that a step further by introducing structural hierarchy, microarchitectures, and spatially-varying mechanical properties to enable different types of functionality like those observed in the cuttlefish and mantis shrimp.”

The residential or commercial properties of both animals motivated the new structure for creating hierarchical, spatially-varying microstructures and needed the scientists to develop on existing innovations utilized to produce 3D-printed structures.

“In our recent work, we’ve developed technology that includes new algorithms and computations that are the enablers of a hierarchical microstructure,” stated Glaucio Paulino, Raymond Allen Jones chair and teacher in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, co-author of the paper and current conscript to the National Academy of Engineering. “We can then input that information into 3D printers and create structures with tremendous amounts of details. After studying the porous, layered cuttlefish bone that has extremely adaptive properties, we’ve been able to apply that to new structures and materials like the ones shown in our paper.”

For Paulino and his group, he hopes this new research study will be used to his earlier operate in cranial restoration on cancer clients and those who have actually had enormous facial injuries and bone loss.

“Now, we can 3D print craniofacial implants that have been designed using topology optimization and provide the framework for tissue re-growth,” stated Paulino. “Ideally when combined with the spatially-varying microarchitectures we’ve recently developed, the implants would more closely mimic the porous nature of the human bone and would promote the growth of the bone itself inside the scaffold. As the bone grows, the scaffold biodegrades, and if everything goes well, in the end the scaffold is gone, and the patient has new bones in the right places.”

Design and Manufacturing

As Sanders describes it, there are 2 elements being examined in this paper that advance the research study of topology optimization: style and production. The very first objective is to style an ideal macro geometry and at the exact same time, efficiently disperse spatially-varying micro geometries within, in order to satisfy efficiency goals. In this paper, the scientists were trying to find maximally stiff parts with minimal volume, similar to the mantis shrimp hammer claw and they accomplished a high level of intricacy that simulates nature at both scales.

The 2nd objective belongs to the production required to produce the structures. With additive production – or 3D printing – scientists can produce structures with complicated geometries. But with the research study group’s intro of spatially-varying microstructures, the printing ends up being significantly hard.

“The more complex 3D data that we would have to send to the printer is so enormous that it’s prohibitive,” stated Sanders. “So, we had to find a new way to communicate that information to the printer. Now, we communicate only 2D information, embedding the microstructures directly in 2D slices of the structure. At the end, the printer combines the slices to get the structure. It’s much more efficient.”

“What Emily did with manufacturing closes the loop,” stated Paulino. “We deliver on the design, mathematics, and algorithms. And we connect topology optimization with the additive manufacturing at both macro and micro levels.”

Future Applications

When thinking about the future of the improvements made to structural topology optimization in this paper, Paulino and Sanders both see applications in biomaterials, in addition to magnetic residential or commercial properties developed for space expedition.

For Paulino’s work that continues in cranial restoration, he pictures interdisciplinary cooperations in between engineering, chemistry and biology to establish biocompatible products and architectures for medical usage.

“We’re not there yet, but this work is a step in the right direction,” stated Paulino. “Eventually, we’ll be able to print biocompatible materials. This research with spatially-varying microarchitectures should enable the optimal design and manufacturing for biomaterial applications.”

Regarding space expedition, the research study might affect the development of artificial structures and systems with performance, like magnetic product assemblages that might be activated as needed by ways of used electromagnetic fields.

“An important aspect of this work is that it opened up our design space so that we can have spatially-varying properties, which enables us to do things we couldn’t before,” stated Sanders.

Paulino goes on to describe that with space travel, each pound of product sent out into space has a huge expense, so the quantity of product and volume caused space objectives is really minimal.

“The way I see our manufacturing working in space is you print in place, potentially using printing materials from the foreign planet itself,” stated Paulino. “You can bring the additive printing capabilities to Mars and print structures with the properties you need when you get there. You print only what you need versus bringing everything you think you might need. In space, you want everything you do to be optimized.”

Inspired by animals and how they operate in nature, Paulino and his group have actually progressed topology optimization when again, this time with the new style and production of spatially-varying, hierarchical structures. And, quickly, useful applications in biomedicine and space expedition make certain to follow.


The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a leading 10 public research study university establishing leaders who advance technology and enhance the human condition.

The Institute provides company, computing, style, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its almost 40,000 trainees, representing 50 states and 149 nations, research study at the primary school in Atlanta, at schools in France and China, and through range and online knowing.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of financial advancement for Georgia, the Southeast, and the country, carrying out more than $1 billion in research study each year for federal government, market, and society.

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Writer: Georgia Parmelee

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