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Applying graded material transitions with low-cost additive manufacturing

Cole Brauer (Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Daniel Aukes (Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 18 August 2022

Issue publication date: 27 January 2023




Multimaterial components possess material boundaries that introduce potential points of failure. Graded material transitions can help mitigate the impact of these abrupt property changes. This approach is becoming increasingly accessible through three-dimensional (3D) printing, but it has yet to be extensively studied for rapid prototyping processes that are limited in resolution or number of material types. This study aims to investigate methods for applying graded transitions when using manufacturing processes with these limitations.


This study introduces a series of transition types that have graded properties and are produced using a finite number of discrete materials. This study presents a workflow for generating, fabricating and testing these transition types. This study uses this workflow with two different manufacturing processes to characterize the impact of each transition type on the ultimate tensile strength of a component.


Graded transitions can improve the performance of a component if the proper transition type is used. For high-fidelity processes, the best performing transitions are those closest to a true gradient. For low-fidelity processes, the best performing transitions are those which provide a balance of graded properties and mechanical connection.

Research limitations/implications

The presented performance trends are specific to the studied processes and materials. Future work using different fabrication parameters can use the presented workflow to assess process-specific trends.


This work comprehensively compares different methods of creating graded transitions using discrete materials, including several novel approaches. It also provides a new design workflow that allows the design of graded transitions to be easily integrated into a 3D printing workflow.



This material is based on work conducted with the Integrating Design, Engineering, and Analysis Lab (IDEAlab) at Arizona State University.

This material is based on work supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under grant number N00014-17-1-2117 and the National Science Foundation (NSF) under NSF Award No. CMMI-1944789. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the ONR or the NSF.

Continued development of the VoxelFuse platform to facilitate the work discussed in this paper is supported by Jude Brauer and Charles Jeffries.

In the interest of transparency, data sharing and reproducibility, the author(s) of this article have made the data underlying their research openly available. It can be accessed by following the link here:


Brauer, C. and Aukes, D. (2023), "Applying graded material transitions with low-cost additive manufacturing", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 378-392.



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Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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