Auxetic materials, known as materials with negative Poisson’s ratio (NPR), have many promising application areas. However, there are only few natural and man-made materials such as certain living bone tissues, certain rocks and minerals, polymeric honeycombs, microporous polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), foams, and carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy composite laminate panels that possess this property.
In recent years, various auxetic material structures have been designed and fabricated for diverse applications that utilized normal materials which follow Hooke’s law but still show the NPR properties. One of the applications is body protection pads that are comfortable to wear and effective in protecting body parts by reducing impact force and preventing injuries in high-risk individuals such as elderly people, industry workers, law enforcement and military personnel, and sports players. It is important to develop new body protectors that best combine each individual’s requirements for wearing comfort (flexible, light-weight), ease of fitting (customized), ensured protection, and cost-effectiveness. The protection pad would be made from multilayer materials and adaptive structures to achieve unique multifunctional properties such as high hardness, impact toughness, light weight, and excellent shock absorption suitable for the needs.
This paper reports an integrated theoretical, computational (finite element analysis), and experimental investigation conducted for typical auxetic polymeric materials that exhibit negative Poisson’s ratio (NPR) effect. Parametric 3D CAD models of auxetic polymeric structures such as re-entrant hexagonal cells and arrowhead were developed. Then, key structural characteristics of protectors were evaluated through static analyses of FEA models. In addition, impact/shock analyses were conducted through dynamic analyses of FEA models to validate the results obtained from the static analyses. Particularly, an advanced additive manufacturing (3D printing) technique was used to build prototypes of the auxetic polymeric structures. Specifically, three different materials typically used for FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology such as Polylactic acid (PLA) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material (NinjaFlex® and SemiFlex®) were used for different stiffness and shock-absorption performances. The 3D printed prototypes were then tested and the results were compared with the computational prediction. The results showed that the auxetic material can be effective for body protection pads. Each structure and material had unique structural properties such as stiffness, Poisson’s ratio, and efficiency in shock absorption. Particularly, auxtetic structures showed better shock absorption performance than non-auxetic ones. The mechanism for ideal input force distribution or shunting could be suggested for designing protectors using various shapes, thicknesses, and materials of auxetic materials to reduce the risk of injury.