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Computational Design Innovation Laboratory

Faculty Researchers Location Phone Website
Kai A. James 5A Talbot Lab    

The Computational Design Innovation Laboratory (CDI Lab) seeks to create novel algorithms and computational tools for the design and synthesis of complex mechanical systems. In pursuit of this goal, much of our research effort focuses on fabricating and testing our designs using the latest additive manufacturing technology. We emphasize a multidisciplinary approach to design that recognizes the inherent interdependence of design and manufacturing, and we create designs that optimally leverage the unique capabilities of the additive manufacturing process. Our laboratory features a state-of-the-art Stratasys Objet260 Connex3 3D printer, which can print up to three materials within a single part. This manufacturing capability has featured heavily in a variety of our research projects including the design of functionally grade compliant mechanisms, computational synthesis of a bi-stable airfoil, and the design & fabrication of polymorphic mechanisms using shape-memory polymers.

Facility and Equipment Description

Stratasys Object260 Connex3 Multimaterial 3D Printer

This polymer-based 3D printer can print parts containing up to 3 materials, ranging from rubbery elastomers to ABS plastic-like materials. It can also be used to generate functionally graded material and digital materials with user-specified material properties. The printer uses Polyjet technology in which a liquid resin is polymerized via UV light, which enables a resolution of up to 600 dpi.

Stratasys Object260 Connex3 Multimaterial 3d Printer
Stratasys Object260 Connex3 Multimaterial 3d Printer

Research Highlights

Bistable Morphing Airfoil Design

rendering of 3d CAD model and images of 3d printed prototypes
rendering of 3d CAD model and images of 3d printed prototypes

In this project we developed a computational design algorithm that could autonomously synthesize the internal structure of a morphing airfoil. The algorithm was tasked with optimally distributing material within the interior of the airfoil, to create a structure that had two distinct equilibrium configurations. In this case, the two stable configurations correspond to two pitching angles at the trailing edge of the airfoil. Using this design framework, we can create airfoils that exhibit optimal aerodynamic performance under multiple flight conditions. The figure shows a 3D printed prototype of a single airfoil in its two equilibrium states.

Functionally Graded Compliant Mechanisms

We implemented a series design algorithms for synthesizing designs of heterogeneous compliant mechanisms, containing multiple design materials. This class of mechanisms has no moving parts, and instead achieves motion through elastic deflections concentrated at designated hinge locations. The video shows the gripping action of a 3D printed compliant gripper mechanism.