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The investigation of a method to generate conformal lattice structures for additive manufacturing

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posted on 2011-11-28, 14:17 authored by James Brennan-Craddock
Additive manufacturing (AM) allows a geometric complexity in products not seen in conventional manufacturing. This geometric freedom facilitates the design and fabrication of conformal hierarchical structures. Entire parts or regions of a part can be populated with lattice structure, designed to exhibit properties that differ from the solid material used in fabrication. Current computer aided design (CAD) software used to design products is not suitable for the generation of lattice structure models. Although conceptually simple, the memory requirements to store a virtual CAD model of a lattice structure are prohibitively high. Conventional CAD software defines geometry through boundary representation (B-rep); shapes are described by the connectivity of faces, edges and vertices. While useful for representing accurate models of complex shape, the sheer quantity of individual surfaces required to represent each of the relatively simple individual struts that comprise a lattice structure ensure that memory limitations are soon reached. Additionally, the conventional data flow from CAD to manufactured part is arduous, involving several conversions between file formats. As well as a lengthy process, each conversion risks the generation of geometric errors that must be fixed before manufacture. A method was developed to specifically generate large arrays of lattice structures, based on a general voxel modelling method identified in the literature review. The method is much less sensitive to geometric complexity than conventional methods and thus facilitates the design of considerably more complex structures. The ability to grade structure designs across regions of a part (termed functional grading ) was also investigated, as well as a method to retain connectivity between boundary struts of a conformal structure. In addition, the method streamlines the data flow from design to manufacture: earlier steps of the data conversion process are bypassed entirely. The effect of the modelling method on surface roughness of parts produced was investigated, as voxel models define boundaries with discrete, stepped blocks. It was concluded that the effect of this stepping on surface roughness was minimal. This thesis concludes with suggestions for further work to improve the efficiency, capability and usability of the conformal structure method developed in this work.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© James Brennan-Craddock

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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