Stiff isotropic lattices beyond the Maxwell criterion

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Science Advances  27 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw1937
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1937


Materials with a stochastic microstructure, like foams, typically exhibit low mechanical stiffness, whereas lattices with a designed microarchitecture often show notably improved stiffness. These periodic architected materials have previously been designed by rule, using the Maxwell criterion to ensure that their deformation is dominated by the stretching of their struts. Classical designs following this rule tend to be anisotropic, with stiffness depending on the load orientation, but recently, isotropic designs have been reported by superimposing complementary anisotropic lattices. We have designed stiff isotropic lattices de novo with topology optimization, an approach based on continuum finite element analysis. Here, we present results of experiments on these lattices, fabricated by additive manufacturing, that validate predictions of their performance and demonstrate that they are as efficient as those designed by rule, despite appearing to violate the Maxwell criterion. These findings highlight the enhanced potential of topology optimization to design materials with unprecedented properties.

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