Lobsters inspire researchers in 3D printing

The humble lobster has inspired researchers in 3D printing recently with its naturally durable protective outer shell. The aquatic species has been studied by researchers who are interested in developing special 3D printing patterns to form more complex and innovative architectural structures. 

The researchers are at RMIT University, a public research university based in Melbourne, Australia. Their study of the lobster was focused on creating bio-mimicking spiral patterns inspired by the lobster’s hard but flexible natural shell. The experimental study hopes to improve the overall durability of 3D printed concrete as the outcome of their research. This would allow for more creative architectural designs as it would enable the strength of the building to be specifically directed to where it was needed most in the support structure. 

The natural strength of the lobster’s shell was inspiration for the researchers who sought to copy the shell’s twisting patterns. Steel fibres were then used to enhance a specialised concrete mix, which subsequently resulted in a material that proved stronger than traditional concrete mix. 

Jonathan Tran is the lead researcher for the project who spoke of the benefits of technological development: “Our study explores how different printing patterns affect the structural integrity of 3D printed concrete, and for the first time reveals the benefits of a bio-inspired approach in 3DCP.” He went on to explain how “We know that natural materials like lobster exoskeletons have evolved into high-performance structures over millions of years, so by mimicking their key advantages we can follow where nature has already innovated.”

The new developments from Tran and his team will hopefully be a boost for the construction industry in terms of efficiency and design. With this new lobster inspired material and printing technique, they hope to revolutionise the possibilities for printing layers, both unidirectionally and in parallel lines.

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