Design and Characterization of Additively Manufactured Lightweight Metal Structures with Equivalent Compliance and Fatigue Resistance

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been a disruptive manufacturing technology allowing for control of geometric features and material distributions, potentially starting at the atomistic level, to realize structures with lighter weights. However, it is still begin used primarily as a rapid prototyping tool due to challenges arising from various issues that need to be addressed before commercial parts can be deployed. Three of those issues are: (1) characterization of mechanical properties that may vary spatially, (2) identification of novel defects in the parts, and (3) new design approaches that account for the unique capabilities of AM processes and their impact on fatigue resistance.This dissertation addresses these three issues by developing a cyclical indentation technique to characterize the fatigue properties of geometric features only capable with AM. The method produces the degradation of the material stiffness as the number of cyclic loads increases and is capable of generating an entire S-N curve with a single test at sub-millimeter scales. Geometric features are then analyzed by running a thermal and mechanical simulation of a Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) printing process. The new simulation can account for buckling of features with high aspect ratios, such as low percentage infills or high levels of unit cell porosity, and predicts distortions with less than 5% error. This computational approach is useful for analyzing parts before printing and informs designers about regions in the part that may need modification to prevent buckling. Finally, the experimental and computational techniques are combined to design structures with macroscale topological features and microscale unit cell features that are fatigue resistant.