3D Printed Fractal Cubes Could Be Five Times Better for Military Armor

Tiny, 3D printed cubes of plastic, with intricate fractal voids built into them, have proven to be effective at dissipating shockwaves, potentially leading to new types of lightweight armor and structural materials effective against explosions and impacts.

The researchers tested their fractal structures by firing an impactor into them at approximately 670 miles per hour. The structured cubes dissipated the shocks five times better than solid cubes of the same material.

Although effective, it’s not clear that the fractal structure is the best shock-dissipating design. The researchers are investigating other void- or interface-based patterns in search of ideal structures to dissipate shocks. New optimization algorithms will guide their work to structures outside of those that consist of regular, repeating structures. Potential applications might include structural supports and protective layers for vehicles, helmets, or other human-wearable protection.

SOURCES- Los Alamos National Lab
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

15 thoughts on “3D Printed Fractal Cubes Could Be Five Times Better for Military Armor”

  1. Doesn’t have to be magnetic. Anything that is conductive will experience a counteracting force going thru an intense magnetic field. Also if the barrier itself contains an intense magnetic fields it will resist strong any deformation.

    I was also talking about electric discharges that would act to disrupt the penetrator. Maybe tiny shape charges that would explode in front of the penetrator projecting their blasts to intersect the penetrator.

  2. Except… bullets are made of Copper and lead… and magnets have no effect on them, whatsoever.

  3. So a cross biomimicing compression interlocking vertebrae and filling the open gaps with some sort of fluid, or a more general case of free floating cubic octet unit cells in a shear thinning fluid?

  4. In a perfect situation sure. However, in actual combat it is rare to have armor hit in the same place in battle. Repairs could be initiated between battles to replace spent armor – like they do with reactive armor tiles. Any armor will become weaker when hit in the same location.

  5. That’s fine for the first shot, but doesn’t take repeated abuse. The ideal solution is a material that can withstand and dissipate shock over and over, IMO.

  6. They’d probably need to do telepresence during the experiment? Evacuate the lab and use HV rounds remotely or automatically, then come in and view the carnage.

    I agree that it’s probably better to start with low velocity rounds personally and then “graduate” to HV once the low-end is sufficiently explored.

  7. As you say it is difficult to maintain safety for HV rounds indoors, but similarly it is difficult to retain lab conditions outdoors.

    I imagine that it does present something of a conundrum for researchers and that some compromise is necessary.

  8. I spent some time in the 80’s designing an anti-intrusion beam for a door. My experience is that efficient distribution of material for stiffness and strength to weight, and energy dissipation, are incompatible goals. Efficient stiff structures fail abruptly, because they’ve got nothing to spare once they’re deformed past their operating margins. The first point to fail causes the entire structure to fail like the proverbial one horse shay. If you want a structure to dissipate energy, it has to have a lot of material NOT contributing to stiffness that only comes under load as the structure deforms.

    That said, as Asteroza remarks, dissipating shockwaves might be a special case. You want each unit of material to dissipate energy WITHOUT transmitting to the next unit enough force to help propagate the shockwave. For that purpose you probably don’t want a continuous decline in stiffness during deformation, you want local failure as soon as some threshold deformation is exceeded. You don’t want tough, you want crunchy. Like a super-strong pork rind.

    I wonder if they can combine this with thixiotropic materials, to produce a shockwave dissipating material that’s flexible until hit?

  9. Hrm, since they were testing against shockwave damage, which would be a special case for stress types, there might be a difference since you are taking hits from an external 2D interface surface.

  10. I think a magnetic or electric reactive armor might work. A projectile penetrating the armor would cause a short circuit at the site of penetration. It would kind of work like those reactive armor panels. It would be powered by banks of capacitors.

  11. I know that cubic octet trusses are excellent at stiffness and strength to weight, but is there evidence that they are the best at energy absorption during failure due to impact?

  12. The researchers tested their fractal structures by firing an impactor into them at approximately 670 miles per hour.

    I’m assuming they aren’t allowed actual high velocity projectiles in their lab, because that is barely moving by the standards of any form of real anti-armour impactor.

  13. Seems kinda dumb to not be using unit cell cubic octet truss fractals, but might be a limitation of their fabrication technique…

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