Metamaterial Mechanisms

Research Scientist

Metamaterials are a new class of material engineered to incorporate behavior into their structure. However, designing metamaterials is complex, and no system currently exists to help engineers create them. I worked on a research project at the Hasso Plattner Institute exploring this area.

Pliers generated using our metamaterial design software

Our goal was to build CAD software that could blend mechanical functionality into the structure of a printed part. I identified the mechanical metamaterials approach, did a deep dive into the literature to understand the space, and presented a review to the group.

Resulting stress distribution from (a) rotation and (b) tension as simulated by the CAD editor

Design + Prototyping
I generated a range of prototype designs for infill structures that could be tuned to provide a range of mechanical behavior, and modified a 3D printer to extrude soft filament, enabling rapid prototyping of a variety of soft structures.
In addition, I provided the mathematical model that defined some of the behavior of the CAD editor.

(a) This door latch is implemented as a metamaterial mechanism: it consists of a single block of material based on a regular grid of cells that together implement a handle, latch, and springs. (b) Turning the handle causes the central hinge array to deform and pull the latch inwards. (c) screenshot from the CAD editor used for its design.

I designed tests and fixturing to characterize the mechanical behavior of prototypes using an Instron mechanical tester. I used the resulting data to build first order models to drive simulation.
The resulting work was published at the ACM Conference on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) in 2016, and has resulted in over 100 citations as of September 2020.