Additive Manufacturing (AM), has emerged as a revolutionary technology, transforming industries from healthcare to aerospace by allowing for intricate designs that are difficult or impossible to achieve through traditional manufacturing methods. One such innovative design that has gained prominence in recent years is the lattice structure, a geometric arrangement of interconnected nodes or struts. By exploiting the versatility of AM, lattice structures can be tailored to exhibit varying mechanical and physical properties across different regions of a single object.

Lattice structures, inspired by natural forms such as the arrangement of cells in bone or the interlinked structure of a honeycomb, are lightweight, strong, and versatile structures that can be engineered to specific performance criteria. These 3D structures consist of a network of interconnected nodes or struts, organized in varying patterns and densities, that contribute to the overall properties of the object.

These structures offer unique capabilities including weight reduction, energy absorption, heat dissipation, and enhanced stiffness or flexibility, depending on the specific design and material used. Because of these diverse properties, lattice structures find application in numerous fields, including aerospace for lightweight structural components, medical for implants with graded porosity, and automotive for crash absorption devices.

Drumsticks on the build plate, supported with e-Stage from Materialise

nTop is a cutting-edge software platform that empowers engineers and designers to create advanced, customized lattice structures that are optimized for specific applications. It is built on a robust mathematical foundation called nTop platform, which uses a new method of geometry representation called implicit modeling. This model allows for infinite detail and precision and can handle complexity at a scale previously unattainable. nTop’s unique capabilities lie in its potential to create graded and variable lattices. This implies that a single part can have different lattice configurations – varying unit cell sizes, densities, orientations, or even different lattice types – based on the performance requirements of different regions of that part. This platform leverages a “field-driven” design approach to create these custom lattices. This means that the lattice parameters are driven by a mathematical function or a field. The field can be derived from various data sources like simulations, experimental data, imaging data, or could be manually defined.

nTop’s technology has found applications across a range of industries. AMEXCI has developed drumsticks for the Finnish band Nightwish, in cooperation with the City of Vaasa & VAMK. The final design was printed in Titanium, making them lightweight while still strong to achieve a good performance.

Nightwish together with City of Vaasa & VAMK

The nTop platform continues to evolve and incorporate new features and functions to enhance its capabilities in creating more advanced and customized lattice structures. The interplay of AM and computational design tools like nTop is set to transform traditional manufacturing paradigms, enabling the production of parts and products with unprecedented levels of complexity, performance, and customization.

In conclusion, lattice structures, facilitated by platforms like nTop, stand at the forefront of the additive manufacturing revolution. Their ability to provide customizable, high-performance parts is not only paving the way for innovation across multiple industries but is also challenging our understanding of design and manufacturing as we know it. As additive manufacturing technologies continue to mature, we can anticipate a future where the limits of what can be built are dictated only by the limits of our imagination.