Morphogenesis and mechanostabilization of complex natural and 3D printed shapes

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Science Advances  15 May 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 4, e1400052
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400052


The natural selection and the evolutionary optimization of complex shapes in nature are closely related to their functions. Mechanostabilization of shape of biological structure via morphogenesis has several beautiful examples. With the help of simple mechanics-based modeling and experiments, we show an important causality between natural shape selection as evolutionary outcome and the mechanostabilization of seashells. The effect of biological growth on the mechanostabilization process is identified with examples of two natural shapes of seashells, one having a diametrically converging localization of stresses and the other having a helicoidally concentric localization of stresses. We demonstrate how the evolved shape enables predictable protection of soft body parts of the species. The effect of bioavailability of natural material is found to be a secondary factor compared to shape selectivity, where material microstructure only acts as a constraint to evolutionary optimization. This is confirmed by comparing the mechanostabilization behavior of three-dimensionally printed synthetic polymer structural shapes with that of natural seashells consisting of ceramic and protein. This study also highlights interesting possibilities in achieving a new design of structures made of ordinary materials which have bio-inspired optimization objectives.

  • Shape of Natural materials
  • FEM
  • 3D printing
  • Mechanical testing

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