Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Pablo Zavatteri takes his cues from nature. His team is researching the mantis shrimp, which breaks open the shells of its prey with its strong hammer-like appendage called a dactyl club, achieving an acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet and very high force. With 3D printing, Zavatteri determined the structural design of the mantis shrimp’s club could be applied to products that absorb energy or mitigate damage, such as helmets or earthquake protection.
“We found it’s a composite material similar to material used for cars and airplanes, but the architecture is very different,” Zavatteri said. The team found the architecture contains fibers that are arranged in a helicoidal structure. However, each layer follows a wavy surface making it very difficult to reproduce with any other fabrication technique, except 3D printing. “We tried to understand why nature came up with these designs, which we are testing with 3D printed prototypes. We call these biomimetic composites, and while this is an ongoing investigation, we have already identified many different applications.”
The common denominator of all three professor’s research is 3D printing. For professors and students at Purdue, 3D printing aids in the learning and research process, whether it’s testing hypotheses or determining the feasibility of designs, the benefits of applied research are clear.
“The opportunity to actually make things with a 3D printer, we all see long-term research opportunities in this,” said Siegmund.