DARPA has announced the launch of its Transformative Design (TRADES) Program to combine the counterintuitive properties of advanced materials with additive manufacturing techniques.
The objective is to fully utilize properties such as the extreme strength and super lightness of advanced materials and fashion these novel materials into shapes at a reasonable cost using additive manufacturing techniques.
At present, design technologies are not capable of bringing to fruition the enormous level of physical detail and complexity made possible with cutting-edge manufacturing capabilities and materials.
Currently existing design tools cannot take full advantage of the unique properties and processing requirements of advanced materials, such as carbon fiber composites, which have their own shaping requirements. The research will develop new mathematics and algorithms that can more fully take advantage of the almost boundless design space that has been enabled by new materials and fabrication methods.
For example, the relevant components of a phased array radar, and an aircraft skin vary significantly in their physical or functional properties and thus have to be designed separately and then joined, to make a single structure. In this case, TRADES aims at embedding the radar directly into the vehicle skin itself – potentially reducing cost, size and weight of future military systems.
Jan Vandenbrande, DARPA program manager said “The structural and functional complexities introduced by today’s advanced materials and manufacturing methods have exceeded our capacity to simultaneously optimize all the variables involved. We have reached the fundamental limits of what our computer-aided design tools and processes can handle, and need revolutionary new tools that can take requirements from a human designer and propose radically new concepts, shapes and structures that would likely never be conceived by even our best design programs today, much less by a human alone.”
DARPA will also receive proposals with novel concepts to build future design tools from a diverse technical community beyond the classic computer-aided design and physical modeling communities.
Image Credits: DARPA