In nature, mesoscopic or microscopic cellular structures like trabecular bone, wood, shell, and sea urchin, can have high load-carrying capacity. These cellular structures with diverse shapes, forms and designs can be mainly classified into open and closed cell cellular structures. It is difficult to replicate these natural complex lattice structures with traditional manufacturing, but additive manufacturing (AM) technology development has allowed engineers and scientists to mimic these natural structures. Fabricating close cell lattice structures is still considered difficult due to the support structure within the lattices. This paper evaluates a novel way of fabricating a close cell lattice structure with a material extrusion process. The design eliminates the need for support structures and the subsequent post-processing required to remove them. A shell-shaped close cell lattice structure bio-mimicking a sea urchin shape was introduced for the load-bearing structure application. The mechanical properties of the proposed structure, including stiffness, deformation behavior and energy absorption, were compared with those of benchmarked honeycomb and open cell sea urchin (SU) lattice structures of the same density. SU lattice structures and honeycomb periodic lattice structures with varied sizes but the same morphology and fixed density were designed and printed in polylactic acid material (PLA). Their physical characteristics, deformation behavior, and compressive properties were investigated experimentally and via finite element analysis. The effect of the unit cell size on mechanical properties was studied and discussed, and the rankings of better performances were drawn. A possible application of the closed cell is for fabricating the load bearing structure; it can also be encapsulated within a fluid to impart strength and damping characteristics.
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