#463: Meshaping

Finite element methods are commonly used in engineering design. You create a CAD drawing of your component, automatically divide it up into a mesh of a million tetrahedra, apply some realistic loading boundary conditions and material properties and finally compute a detailed stress map within the design. If you are nearing yield stress anywhere, it’s time to think again either about geometry or material spec.

Today’s invention is simply then to use the 3-D mesh of tetrahedra as a specification from which to actually build your design. I’d like to see this happen using a rapid prototyping system. Each tetra could be ‘printed’ as a net of four triangles, joined along three edges. As each is produced, it would be automatically folded and the six free edges bonded into the 3-D ‘pyramid’. The system would spit these physical elements out in the correct sequence (and orientation) for them to be bonded together to create the overall design.


This would already have been shown to withstand the required in-service stresses. It would represent a huge material saving, compared to using bulk material, and although the final shape would still have a rougher ‘crystalline’ outer surface, this would be a structure with low form drag and a genuine wow factor in the marketplace (think Ducati frame taken to extremes).

One Comment:

  1. A new approach is to make all structural stuff from a single element: a spring and damper combination in which both rates are locally controlled by a processor (linked eg to a load cell or accelerometer).

    Need a bicycle’s suspension to be suddenly retuned when going over some rough ground? Want to make a turn when the frontwheel is rigidly attached to the frame? In both cases, the processors would sense the forces applied and allow elements to change rates so that some areas flex and others stiffen.

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