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Product design with compliant lattices: 6 key considerations

It’s easy to understand why compliant three-dimensional lattices are showing up in products from shoes to bike seats to armrests. Additively manufactured lattice structures have unique aesthetics and enable physical responses never before available. With today’s high quality, production-ready elastomers, lattice structures are ready for applications like sports equipment, safety gear, noise reduction, vibration reduction, and shock absorption.

The range of possible lattice designs is nearly infinite, comprising different, sizes, shapes, appearances and mechanical properties. While that design freedom unlocks new features and applications, it can make it difficult to identify the lattice that’s right for your product.  Here at Fast Radius, we’ve developed a deep expertise for lattice design by using our custom-built software workflows to design and virtually test thousands of lattices. We distilled our experience into six things you need to consider when designing and manufacturing compliant lattice structures.

1. Product performance

Usually, a lattice structure is only one component of a product, so it is important to define the performance and user experience requirements for the entire product before creating the lattice. The specific mechanical properties of the lattice should improve product performance, so a lattice structure is only useful if it can meet or exceed performance requirements in the context of the rest of the product.

2. Look and feel

Lattice structure

Interacting with a compliant lattice

In addition to their mechanical properties and performance, elastomer lattices are compelling to product designers and end-users alike because they represent a totally new way to physically interact with products. Lattices are fun to touch and interact with because of their unique properties, and their intricate geometries can be quite beautiful. Like technical performance, a captivating look and feel should be considered as part of the overall product design.

3. Mechanical properties

Additive manufacturing technology allows us to tailor the compression response of a lattice structure to achieve a desired modulus and plateau strength, so you can design a lattice with a specific mechanical response. Using design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) principles, we can create compliant lattice structures with mechanical properties that would be impossible to attain with traditional foams and elastomers.

4. Software and technology

A lattice structure typically has thousands to millions of individual mechanical elements that work together to produce the desired performance, aesthetics, and physical response. Such complex microgeometry can only be achieved using state-of-the-art software. While there are some software tools available commercially, no single application can handle design, performance modeling, and manufacturability. At Fast Radius, we meet these challenges by using a combination of commercially available and custom-built software.

5. Design expertise

Even with the right software, you need significant skill to successfully incorporate lattice structures into end-use products. Designers unfamiliar with lattices could spend months modeling and simulating to produce a lattice that could be integrated into a product design. Here at Fast Radius we can cut that development time from months to hours by leveraging our proprietary lattice library, which classifies the thousands of lattice types we’ve designed and tested. We can quickly identify a lattice type that closely matches your physical and aesthetic needs then tune it to your exact specifications.

Soft Lattice

Lattice rendering

6. Manufacturability

After taking all these considerations into account, you need to manufacture your design. Every additive manufacturing technology has different production parameters, including the orientation of geometries, the size and shape of elements, and the feature layout. Your design must also account for how the part attaches to the build plate and how material flows during manufacturing. There are more than a dozen critical requirements that make a product printable, so you need experts in both lattice design and additive manufacturing technology to achieve a successful outcome.

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Lattice structure printing on Carbon® equipment

Getting started with lattice design can seem daunting, but a full-service partner like Fast Radius can guide you through the process. Drawing on our custom software and extensive lattice library, our product designers work closely with our manufacturing team to make sure your lattice meets specifications within a larger product assembly.

Want to make new products possible with a compliant lattice? Contact our team to get started.