MIT researchers 3D print conch shell-inspired, impact resistant material for body armour and helmets

As the material is 3D printed, the gear produced by the process can be customized to each individual, creating a perfect fit.


Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a 3D printed impact resistant material for use in protective gear. The researchers were inspired from conch shells, which are more resilient than the protection on other marine animals. The conchs can withstand storms, rocks and the teeth of predators. The secret to the unusual resilience lies in the layered structure of the shells, which the researchers replicated with a 3D printer.

MIT researchers 3D print conch shell-inspired, impact resistant material for body armour and helmets

Image: MIT

Conch shells have three layers, similar to plywood. Each layer has a different alignment of the materials, known as grain. On impact, a fracture has a difficult time spreading through the structure, because of the zigzag matrix in the material, which is like going through a maze. Before the advent of additive manufacturing or 3D printing, it was difficult to recreate the internal structure of the conch shell, even though researchers had understood what gave it the resilience.

The scientists first simulated the internal structure of the material on a computer and observed what happened during impact events. Then the same structure was 3D printed and the results matched the computer simulations. The new material could be used for the creation of body armour and helmets.

As the material is 3D printed, the gear produced by the process can be customized to each individual, creating a perfect fit.

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