U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) scientists have turned to nature for designing stronger 3D printed armor ceramics.
The researchers ensure future American soldiers will be better protected in combat by stronger and lighter body armor thanks to this innovative work.
“My project is to design a system that can 3D print armor ceramics that will allow production of parts with graded structures similar to an abalone structure in nature that will improve the ceramic armor’s toughness and survivability with lower weight,” said University of California San Diego (UCSD) materials science and engineering doctoral candidate, Joshua Pelz.
Pelz spend the summer working with Army scientists at ARL’s Rodman Materials Science Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to design and build a unique 3D printer.
The doctoral student used his computer programming skills to hack into the 3D printer, tricking it into using its own fan controls to manipulate the ratio of materials being printed.
He then designed a custom auger and print head and even used the same 3D printer to create those parts.
The printer features two syringes containing distinct, viscous ceramic slurries that are connected to a custom-made auger and print head.
“Josh found a way to implement our ideas into that machine, take apart machine, take out the polymer FDM heads that are built into it, start to look at how to design the machine to incorporate our ceramic slurries and print those slurries into the head but then he had to do a lot of really basic work looking at how to actually hack the machine,” said Dr. Lionel Vargas-Gonzalez, ARL’s Ceramics Synthesis and Processing team-lead. “We’ve got people like Josh who were very gifted and talented and can bring all that kind of capability and use a lot to our advantage it’s a huge benefit for us.”
“I think that the main thing that sets my design apart from other additive manufacturing and specifically direct ink writing setups is that I can extrude multiple materials out of a single nozzle and I can also extrude any ratio of this material,” Pelz said.
The doctoral student hopes to take his work back to the university this fall where he will continue to collaborate with Army researchers on the project.
Image and content: David McNally/ARL