Recent developments in design and manufacturing have greatly expanded the design space for functional part production by enabling control of structural details at small scales to inform behavior at the whole-structure level. This can be achieved with cellular materials, such as honeycombs, foams and lattices. Designing structures with cellular materials involves answering an important question: What is the optimum unit cell for the application of interest? There is currently no classification framework that describes the spectrum of cellular materials, and no methodology to guide the designer in selecting among the infinite list of possibilities. In this paper, we first review traditional engineering methods currently in use for selecting cellular materials in design. We then develop a classification scheme for the different types of cellular materials, dividing them into three levels of design decisions: tessellation, element type and connectivity. We demonstrate how a biomimetic approach helps a designer make decisions at all three levels. The scope of this paper is limited to the structural domain, but the methodology developed here can be extended to the design of components in thermal, fluid, optical and other areas. A deeper purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how traditional methods in design can be combined with a biomimetic approach.
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