New research from scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Rice University, Houston, suggests that packaging design inspiration can be found in the protective shapes of seashells.

The scientists conducted an experiment to test the load-carrying capacity of two types of seashell shapes: the wide fan shell and the spiral screw shell. The researchers created computer-generated models of the shells, which were then 3D printed from a biodegradable polymer known as polylactide, one of the world’s most used e-bioplastics.

The researchers subjected both the natural shells and their synthetic counterparts to underwater pressure simulation tests. The results supported the idea that seashells have evolved to distribute pressure outwards to protect the soft body in the center. The grooves in both shell types and the spiral shell’s shrinking diameter helped to distribute stress.

The 3D printed shapes demonstrated an even better load-carrying capacity than the natural seashells—suggesting that shells could be replicated for practical uses. According to the research article, the findings could be used to create designs such as “seashell-shaped boxes that protect fragile items in the packaging industry or shelters capable of protecting inhabitants during a natural disaster.”


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