A Unit Cell Approach for Lightweight Structure and Compliant Mechanism

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Wang, Hongqing Vincent
Rosen, David W.
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Cellular structures are present from the atomic level all the way up to patterns found in human skeleton. They are prevailing structures in the nature and known for their excellent mechanical, thermal, and acoustic properties. Two typical types of cellular structures, lightweight structures and compliant mechanisms, are investigated. Lightweight structures are rigid and designed to reduce weight, while increasing strength and stiffness. Compliant mechanisms are designed to transform motions and forces. Most available artificial lightweight structures are patterns of primitives. However, the performance of lightweight structures can be enhanced by using adaptive cellular structures with conformal strut orientations and sizes, like the trabeculae in femoral bone. Bending, torsion, and nonlinear behaviors of compliant mechanisms have not been sufficiently studied. In order to design adaptive cellular structures, a new unit cell, the unit truss is proposed. The unit truss approach facilitates the design of adaptive cellular structures for enhanced mechanical properties via geometric modeling, finite element analysis, shape optimization, and additive fabrication. Four research questions, which address representation, structural analysis, design synthesis, and manufacturing respectively, are raised and answered. Unit truss enables representation and mechanics analysis for adaptive cellular structures. A synthesis method using engineering optimization algorithms is developed to systematically design adaptive cellular structure. Two examples, graded cellular structure for prosthesis and compliant mechanism for morphing wings, are studied to test the unit truss approach.
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