Frontier environments—such as battlefields, hostile territories, remote locations, or outer space—drive the need for lightweight, deployable structures that can be stored in a compact configuration and deployed quickly and easily in the field. We introduce the concept of lattice skins to enable the design, solid freeform fabrication (SFF), and deployment of customizable structures with nearly arbitrary surface profile and lightweight multi-functionality. Using Duraform FLEX® material in a selective laser sintering machine, large deployable structures are fabricated in a nominal build chamber by either virtually collapsing them into a condensed form or decomposing them into smaller parts. Before fabrication, lattice sub-skins are added strategically beneath the surface of the part. The lattices provide elastic energy for folding and deploying the structure or constrain expansion upon application of internal air pressure. Nearly arbitrary surface profiles are achievable and internal space is preserved for subsequent usage. In this paper, we present the results of a set of experimental and computational models that are designed to provide proof of concept for lattice skins as a deployment mechanism in SFF and to demonstrate the effect of lattice structure on deployed shape.
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