If you’re familiar with the world of 3D printing at all, you know that this technology has been used for several years to create unique materials for a very wide range of applications, from aerospace to the medical industry. Researchers have now developed yet another material that might be able to reduce the chance of head injuries to football players.
The New Material
Boeing pioneered the use of a 3D printed microlattice material not too long ago. Researchers at General Motors and Purdue University took that material and research, and they built on it to create something different – a unique honeycomb material that can be scaled to virtually any size needed.
It offers extremely high energy absorption, as well.
Technically dubbed a “phase transforming cellular material”, the new substance could see use in a very wide range of applications, but particularly in sports helmets like those worn by football players. With more and more understanding of how even seemingly minor head injuries can lead to long-term damage, it’s more important than ever before to ensure that players are as safe as possible (at all ages and skill levels).
In fact, the developers intend to use it for both helmet and padding construction. It might also pull triple or even quadruple duty as a reinforcement in buildings.
“The main advantage is that not only can it be used as an energy absorbing material, but unlike many other materials designed for that purpose, the PXCMs would be reusable because there is no irreversible deformation,” stated the associate professor at the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Pablo Zavattieri.
However, don’t look for this new material to hit the market just yet. There is still a lot of work left to be done before they’re ready for primetime.
“The ability to realize the energy absorption offered by PXCMs at various length scales makes it possible for engineers to integrate energy absorption as a secondary function into structures that are already in use. It is currently in the realm of fundamental materials research and shows a lot of promise, but it not yet ready for commercial applications,” explained Nilesh D. Mankame from the Smart Materials and Structures Group at GM.
Researchers are confident that this new material will see widespread use and adoption well beyond the realm of sports. It could play a significant role in earthquake protection for buildings, as well as in any other application where bi-stable or meta-stable materials are needed.
It represents a huge advance over conventional materials currently being used. Mankame added, “Many emerging materials like aluminum, magnesium and fiber-reinforced composites that play an increasingly important ole in the transportation, defense and construction industries suffer from low intrinsic energy dissipation. The energy absorption capability of structures made of such abase materials can be increased by incorporating PXCMs into the structures.”