Toylike blocks make lightweight, strong structures

Instead of reducing parts, engineers suggest building planes from thousands of identical pieces

By Meghan Rosen, 13:53 PM September 23, 2013

A carbon-fiber skeleton of Tinkertoy-like building blocks is 10 times as stiff as structures of similar densities. And because the framework is made of mostly identical pieces, broken parts can be easily swapped out for new ones, its inventors report in the Aug. 16 Science. The new design could one day form light, stiff, easy-to-repair bones of airframes, bicycles, bridges and even buildings.

“It’s fascinating,” says materials scientist Rainer Adelung of Kiel University in Germany. “When you r...

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