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Tuneable Materiality through Additive Fabrication

“…There exists an increasing need for extending conventional CAD/CAM systems beyond geometry to consider material attributes (e.g., material composition and microstructure) inside heterogeneous objects. Heterogeneous objects are mainly classified as multi-materials, which have distinct material regions, and Functionally Graded Materials (FGMs), which possess continuous material variation along with the geometry. In particular, modern FGMs are required in a variety of structural materials, such as high efficiency components, direct metal tools, biomaterials and many more. For these applications, composition control is necessary to achieve multiple functionalities (e.g., improving thermo-mechanical performance, reducing interfacial stresses between dissimilar materials).” (Lee 2006)

Additive fabrication emerges as an increasingly maturing manufacturing, prototyping and tooling technology that allows the production of complex parts in significant sizes with a fully functioning materiality. The advantages that are inherent in layered fabrication technologies become subsequently more visible through the technological developments that focus on increased build sizes, improvement of material properties and multi material printing options among others.

I will recapitulate three known advantages to conventional manufacturing methods that are given to all additive fabrication techniques that I consider relevant in their potential to promote a new typology of artifacts generated from additive fabrication processes.

· The generation of data is inherently based on a sliced process of 3D information; the production tolerances that can be achieved remain invariant towards the complexity of the sliced object.

· The manufacturing constraints are vehemently smaller and allow the production of geometrically complex objects that are impossible to realize in conventional manufacturing processes.

· The creation of data is based on CAD tools. The outcome of additive fabrication is therefore tightly connected with the abilities of the employed software packages. Recent developments in computational geometry allow for a finer tuning of geometrical content that e.g. embeds a local adjustment of discrete entities to a desired performance profile.

It is believed that a future application of additive fabrication technologies can gain importance in the production pipeline through a focus on these inherent benefits that are connected to the technology, rather than in an attempt of competitive replacement of well tested existing manufacturing methods as e.g. vacuum forming, milling, casting and molding etc. The inroads into a fully integrated manufacturing practice are constructed through a concentration on solutions that are unsolvable in other technologies.[1] The recent technological developments of additive fabrication that connect manufacturing and computational possibilities are in that sense far more than “just another production method”. But where could these beneficial applications be located?

The presented research objective is to develop digitally controlled structural and material systems with local variations that are complicated to create with conventional manufacturing technologies to develop a set of proof-of–concept scenarios for future research.

[1] The layered disposition of material that produces critical material characteristics as anistrophic structural behavior and is considered a weakness of the technology is now exploited to develop epitaxial metallic structures (Bourell, Ming og Rosen 2009) that actively take advantage of this z-directional build process.