Revealing the Mechanics of Helicoidal Composites through Additive Manufacturing and Beetle Developmental Stage Analysis

Alireza Zaheri, Joel S. Fenner, Benjamin P. Russell, David Restrepo, Matthew Daly, Di Wang, Cheryl Hayashi, Marc A. Meyers, Pablo D. Zavattieri, Horacio D. Espinosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Investigation into the microstructure of high performance natural materials has revealed common patterns that are pervasive across animal species. For example, the helicoid motif has gained significant interest in the biomaterials community, where recent studies have highlighted its role in enabling damage tolerance in a diverse set of animals. Moreover, the helicoid motif corresponds to a highly adaptable architecture where the control of the pitch rotation angle between fibrous structures produces large changes in its mechanical response. Nature, takes advantage of this special feature enabling an active response to particular biological needs occurring during an animal's ontogeny. In this work, we demonstrate this adaptive behavior in helicoidal architectures by performing a mechanistic analysis of the changes occurring in the cuticle of the figeater beetle (Cotinis mutabilis) during its life cycle. We complement our investigation of the beetle with the testing of 3D printing samples and a systematic analysis of the effect of pitch angle in the inherent mechanics of helicoidal architectures. Experimentation and analysis reveal improved isotropy and enhanced toughness at lower pitch angles, highlighting the flexibility of the helicoidal architecture. Moreover, trends in stiffness measurements were found to be well-predicted by laminate theory, suggesting facile mechanics laws for use in biomimicry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1803073
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 15 2018


  • 3D printing
  • beetle exoskeletons
  • fracture mechanics
  • helicoidal composites
  • laminate theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Electrochemistry
  • Biomaterials


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