A lattice is a repeating pattern of strips, an arrangement so practical that you can find it in everything from apple pie to 3D printing.
In 3D printing, lattice structures make parts lighter and stronger, solving strength and rigidity challenges. They are also relatively simple to produce, enabling most 3D printers to maintain high print speeds.
However, the most practical advantage of lattice structures is that they let you reduce component weight without sacrificing strength while decreasing density. This is especially useful for mechanical engineers in the aerospace and automotive industries, where weight savings are critical.
This article explores lattice structures in 3D printing in detail to help you determine if they suit your project.
Let’s jump in!
What is a 3d printed lattice?
A 3D-printed lattice is a repeating pattern connecting two or more sides.
The pattern is called a ‘cell’. You can think of a lattice as a space-filling structure that delivers the strength of a solid infill with significantly less material.
There are several lattice structures, each offering different mechanical qualities for different applications. We call these cell types.
Types of lattice structures
We categorise lattices by their cell types:
- Beam lattices offer high stiffness and elasticity
- TPMS lattices offer all-round strength
- Honeycomb and plate lattices offer high stiffness in specific dimensions
Here’s an image of the different types of lattices:
As you can see, there are several patterns. The geometry of the space not occupied by “cells” inside the pattern determines its mechanical qualities – in other words, the geometry of the gap or space creates strength or elasticity.
What are the benefits of lattice structures?
Lattices are complex geometric structures, but 3D printers produce them quickly, enabling the production of parts and models that are impossible with traditional manufacturing processes like injection moulding and CNC machining.
You can also create flexible parts like this one:
Here are the significant benefits of lattice structures:
- Reduce weight by replacing solid infill
- Increase part strength and rigidity
- Reduce mass and material usage
- Increase surface area with exposed lattice structures
- Create deformable structures (e.g., footwear midsoles)
- Aesthetics – exposed lattices showcase intricate, exciting designs.
If you need parts to have outstanding performance, save weight, or need to reduce material use, lattice structures are the obvious choice.
How to get started with lattice structures
The CAD software you use probably has a lattice-generating feature, or you can use specialised lattice-generating software like nTopology or Sulis Lattice. For complex shapes, we recommend using specific software.
For example, nTopology lets you produce lattices with over 50,000-unit cells, and you can automate generation to maximise performance.
If you’re an Autodesk user, you have basic lattice options in Fusion 3650 and NetFabb, which let you auto-generate lattices with one click.
Making lattice structures yourself is time-consuming, not to mention a specialised job due to the engineering knowledge required.
Find out more
If you enjoyed this article, read our piece on improving print quality.
For expert advice on 3D printer technologies, please get in touch with the team at 01765 694 007, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can