We often get asked two questions:
- What’s a mechanical metamaterial?
- That’s cool, but how do you make it?
What’s a mechanical metamaterial?
To answer the first question, a mechanical metamaterial is a geometrically-enhanced structural material that has multiple beneficial characteristics. What makes a mechanical metamaterial different from a product made with a conventional material alone (like a metal, composite, or polymer) is that the geometry – not the material itself – mostly defines its characteristics.
Simplified, a metamaterial can be explained with this equation:
So you can have a mechanical metamaterial made from a conventional material that best suits your needs – like a polymer – that’s both lightweight and strong because of the combination of material and geometry.
Mechanical metamaterials can replace conventional materials in just about any situation, making them the smarter choice due to their customization, increased efficiency, and better performance.
How we make mechanical metamaterials
There are three general stages in our creation process: skunkworks, customizing, and production.
Step 1: Skunkworks
What’s a skunkworks, you ask? According to Wikipedia, a skunkworks is a “project developed by a relatively small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation. The term originated with Lockheed’s World War II Skunk Works project.”
We’re funded through government grants including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and NASA to develop new mechanical metamaterials. The R&D work we do then translates into tangible applications, like lightweight semi-trailer paneling, impact mitigation for urban air mobility vehicles, and better performing parts in extreme downhole environments.
The skunkworks part of making mechanical metamaterials is a continuous cycle of computational design using proprietary and market software, creating prototypes, and then testing them to validate our assumptions.
Step 2: Customizing
The customizing step in our process is where our customers come in. We discuss their specific technical requirements based on the needs of their project, decide on the best base metamaterial for the job (e.g. MetaCORE, MetaCORE-LD, or MetaTHERM), and then choose which additional characteristics need to be applied.
An example might be a packaging company that wants a safer way to ship temperature sensitive cargo, like food or vaccines. We’d likely recommend MetaCORE-LD as the base metamaterial as it’s a panelized product, and add additional characteristics like thermal insulation and improved shearing resistance. A box made out of optimized MetaCORE-LD would be a light, safe, and efficient way to transport these sensitive goods.
Once we’ve decided on any additional required characteristics, our team gets busy modifying the base design to meet these requirements. We’ll validate our prototypes exactly the same way we develop our base metamaterials, with the end product being a manufacturing file that’s ready for production.
Step 3: Production
This is where things get exciting. After all the designing and testing, the final product is made.
Mechanical metamaterials offer some great benefits over conventional materials. For starters, they can be made out of existing raw materials with no costly chemical or molecular engineering involved, which passes cost savings onto our customers.
Using commonly found existing materials means that customers can seamlessly integrate our solutions into their supply chains. And using mechanical metamaterials doesn’t tie you down to a single manufacturing method. You can use anything from pattern transfer to milling, molding to injection – even 3D printing – whatever method you prefer, you’re good.
Hopefully this infographic helps clarify what we do and how we make mechanical metamaterials. If you’re interested in working with us, our team is excited to hear from you. Call us at 1-866-778-6415, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our contact form to get in touch.