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Metal Crystal Structures in Solid Works and 3D Printing

Lab Module
1. Summary
As we have discussed in this course, there are several different crystal structures, only a small fraction of
which are covered in this class. One challenge in analyzing such structures is in visualization; many
concepts including symmetry, interstitial space, diffusivity and close-packed planes/directions all depend
on our ability to see and assemble 3D ordered structures. Typically, our approach in materials science
involves drawing ball-stick models, or building models in the lab. In mechanical engineering, 3D
visualization is crucial for several aspects of design, and modeling software is available to conceive and
present our ideas. Accordingly, the purpose of this is to combine the above two objectives, by leveraging
Mechanical Engineering-based modeling skills in SolidWorks to improve knowledge of materials science
concepts. We ask each student to do this part of the lab as individuals rather than in a group, as these are
skills that would creatively add to any CO-OP portfolio. Follow the included steps, and if you have extra
time, try and create these models in more than one way. Solidworks is a powerful tool, and there is
usually more than one method to accomplish any task. The Materials Science topic for this lab is
creating metal crystal structures and this will include BCC, FCC, and interstitials. Absolutely no prior
knowledge of SolidWorks is required to complete this lab module.

2. Tasks
2.1. Create the BCC Crystal Structure
Follow the directions listed on the Creating a BCC Crystal Structure Guide included in the Lab
2.2. Create the FCC Crystal Structures
With what you know now, create the FCC Crystal Structure.
2.3. Insert an interstitial atom (Mind the gap!)
Smaller interstitial atoms can be driven into the gaps within these metallic structures (such as carbon
atoms diffusing into iron structures to make steel). Lets investigate how much space there really is. Save
your BCC and FCC crystal structures as new files. Insert a single interstitial atom into the tetragonal
interstitial of each structure. Generate additional files and instead insert the interstitial atom into the
octahedral interstitial. Make these atoms as large as they can be without overlapping the metal atoms.

Characterize your structures

Include a Screen Shot of the structure you created. Note: Make the unit cell wire framed to guide the eye.
Show how you calculated the lattice parameter?
Which is the Most Packed Plane in Miller-Bravais? Include a visual of the cross section of this
plane that clearly shows the atoms touching.
d. What is the APF? Show Calculation.
e. Take two screen shots showing the placement of the octahedral and tetrahedral interstitial atoms.

2.5. Generate an .stl file that can be used to 3-D print your structures
Follow the directions on How to 3-D print your structure. Note: You can send your file to Snell Library for

2.6. Generate your individual 4 page report submission

Page 1 Title page that has your name, lab section and your best graphic.
Page 2 Entitled BCC structure. Contains the five characterizations (a-e) for the BCC Structure.
Page 3 Entitled FCC structure. Contains the five characterizations (a-e) for the FCC Structure.
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Page 4 Some images and a brief description of your final .stl code geometry.
Note: Everybody has to turn in his/her own Solid Works report. The due date and the turn-in
location is the same as for the Lab 1 Group Report. Only one copy of the Solid Works Report is

3. Creating a BCC Crystal Structure Guide

3.1. Load Solidworks 2012
3.2. Creating your First Atom
Included in the lab is a page entitled, Creating an Atom. Follow the steps carefully, and for
simplicity sake, ensure that the center of the atom is the origin. Make the radius 1.26 (corresponding
to the 1.26 angstrom actual radius for BCC Iron).
3.3. Creating your Unit Cell Guide
The next step is to create your unit cell template. This will be a framework of where all of the atoms
will go, making it easier to place the atoms in the correct place at the assembly level. In the lab there
is a page entitled, Creating a Unit Cell, you should follow those steps carefully up until Step 5.
Make the lattice parameter 2.87 (corresponding to the 2.87 angstrom actual lattice parameter of BCC
3.4. Creating your Custom Reference Lines
Like most of the unit cells you will be creating the BCC Crystal Structure has 8 corner atoms. This is
why creating the cube guide works best, as there is a reference point in each of the 8 corners. The
characteristic that makes the BCC unique is the central atom. This central atom is located in the exact
center of the cubic unit cell, allowing for the atom to make contact with the corner atoms along the
body diagonal. To create a reference point at this location, make sure that your unit cell created in
step 3 is still open.
a. Create a Plane along the Body Diagonal
In the CommandManager, under the features tab, select Reference Geometry<Plane. Then when the
left pane changes to the point menu, define your plane by 3 corners. When you are happy with the
plane click the Green Checkmark to approve.
b. Sketch a Diagonal Line
Next to sketch the diagonal guide line, select the Sketch Tab of the CommandManager and select
Sketch. Solidworks will then prompt for the sketch plane, so select the previously created Plane 1.
Now in the Command Manager select Line, and draw a line on your plane defined by two opposite
corners. Hover over the corner until Solidworks snaps to it. Press Escape on the keyboard when you
are pleased with your sketch. Then make sure to go back to the CommandManager and exit the
c. Reference the Midpoint
To create a reference point at the center of the new line, under the features tab in the
CommandManager, select Reference Geometry<Point. When the Point dialogue pane appears,
select your new line, and the Along Curve Option. Change the percentage to 50% and click the
Green Checkmark to approve.
d. Save your Unit Cell
3.5. Creating a New Assembly
a. Create the Assembly File
In the main window bar, select File<New<Assembly. You will then be brought to a main
space looking similar to the parts space when you were creating the atom. You should notice on the
left hand side there is a pane titled Begin Assembly. You will want to click the Browse button
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about two thirds of the way down, then locate your Unit Cell you just created. Click it and then place
it towards the center of your screen.
b. Adding Atoms
First off change the view to wireframe, as this Unit Cell is nothing but a guide. You only want to
change the unit cell to wireframe so right click it in the assembly tree, go to Component
Display<Wireframe. Now under the Assembly tab of the CommandManager select Insert
Component<Browse and then find the atom you wish to add. Immediately it will become your
cursor. Place the atom anywhere as we will be mating it later.
c. Mating the Atom
Solidworks allows you to define the position of an atom based off another relative location. This
feature is known as mating. What you will need to do for this is the most simplistic form of mating,
coincident. This simply means making sure two points are in the same exact location. To do this make
sure nothing is selected on the screen, and under the Assembly Tab of the CommandManager select
Mate. When the mate menu appears chose the type to be Coincident. You will then go along creating
eight mates by selecting a corner and the origin of the atom you wish to move in the assembly tree.
When placing the center atom, simply chose the origin of the atom and the point you created before
which can be found in the assembly tree if you expand your unit cell.
3.6. Create Slice Planes
To create slice planes all you need to do is select Section View, from the menu bar floating at the top
of the workplace window. You can then create different views by adding slice planes and sliding
them over. It is up to you to figure out what views you want to show. But play around with it and see
how the atom looks from different angles. Save each creation separately.
3.7. Right click on the unit cell in the assembly tree and select suppress. Make sure to re-save this
assembly with a different name, just in case you want to go back and edit the original.
3.8. We need to trim the assembly down to a single unit cell. Select insert > assembly feature > cut >
Select a plane and cut the around the unit cell, as shown below. You may need to extrude from the
mid-plane to achieve a clean cut.

3.9. Make one final cut in a plane perpendicular to step 8. Save the BCC unit cell as a .sldprt file, make to
check the save all components option.

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3.10. Open the .sldprt file and re-save as a .stl file.

3.11. Using the 3D Printing Lab (Not Required) The media lab on the second floor of the library is a
great resource for additive manufacturing and 3D Printing. If you are interested in getting your .stl
files printed, fill out an order form here: http://dmc.northeastern.edu/help/order-form-3d-prints. You
can upload the .stl and the media lab will notify you when your part is finished! For more
information on the 3D printing lab at Northeastern, check out their website:
http://dmc.northeastern.edu/abilities/3d-printing. This service costs a little bit of money depending
on your print size so be aware of this before printing. The choice and cost is up to you. 3D printing
is a great resource to keep in mind when your Capstone projects come around.

4. Creating an Atom
4.1. Create New File
Load Solidworks 2012, select File<New<Part

4.2. Define Intentions

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The work area should be loaded now, and the next step is to create an arc which can later be revolved
into a 3D sphere. Begin by defining your sketch plane, select Front Plane, which is located in a pane
on the left side of the screen. Next select Insert<Boss/Base<Revolve.

4.3. Create Arc

Select Centerpoint Arc. Your next click will be to define the center of the arc, select the origin
(hover over it until Solidworks snaps to it). The following clicks will be to define the radius and
degrees desired respectively. In this case the degrees will be 180, and the radius is dependent on the
atom youre creating.

4.4. Close off Arc

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Select Line from the CommandManager. The next two clicks will be the beginning and ending points
of the line. Seeing as the goal is to close off the arc, make those two points the beginning and end of
the arc.

4.5. Dimensioning
Select Smart Dimension from the CommandManager Pane. Next select the arc, and click to drag
your newly added dimension to any location on the screen. Immediately after, the modify dialogue
box will appear, displaying your current radial dimension. When finished the Dimensioning Pane will
appear on the right side of the screen, giving you a second opportunity to make adjustments, feel free
to click the Green Checkmark at the top to clear it away. Finally click Exit Sketch in the

4.6. Revolution

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Immediately after closing out the sketch pane, the left pane should change to the Revolve Menu. The
pane will be almost entirely filled out, only requesting for the Axis of Revolution. This will be the
line which was drawn to close the arc. Select the box to the right of the Axis of Revolution, and it will
highlight blue, and then click the line. The box should then populate itself. Solidworks will show you
an example of what the sphere will look like, select the Green Checkmark when satisfied.

4.7. Save
Select File<Save your atom to a place where you can find it later.

5. Creating a Unit Cell Guide

Solidworks is a powerful tool when it comes to creating complex assemblies. As you may know, when
using Solidworks, part components are imported into one file known as the assembly. These piece parts
are then arranged as they would be later assembled if the parts are fabricated. In this case, these crystal
structures are composed entirely of spheres. The lack of corners and edges makes using Solidworks
mating tools difficult (although not impossible). An easier way to create them is to first create a cube,
with side lengths equal to that of the lattice parameter. Then, using reference geometry, the corners, and
edges of the cube, it will make placing the atoms simpler. The following is a guide to creating a generic
cube; you can then alter the process and dimensions as necessary to create countless atoms. Open
Solidworks, chose to create a New Part and follow the following instructions.
5.1. Define Sketch Plane
On the left panel of the Solidworks workstation, you will see listed out each of the three initial planes.
Select Front Plane (you could really choose any of them).

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5.2. Create Initial Sketch

With the initial plane selected, go to the top menu bar and chose Insert<Boss/Base<Extrude. Next
you should see the CommandManager change to the sketch tab initially, most likely on the right side
of your screen. Next select Corner Rectangle, and draw a generic rectangle (for consistency sake use
the origin as the initial point). After placing the two points, click the Green Checkmark in the
Rectangle menu to approve the drawing.

5.3. Dimension the Sketch

Select Smart Dimension in the CommandManager. Choose two adjacent lines, and modify the
dimensions to each the desired lattice parameter. This will depend on the type of crystal you are
attempting to make. When finished choose Exit Sketch in the CommandManager.

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5.4. Extrude
Once exiting the sketch menu, the right panel will immediately change to the Boss-Extrude menu.
You will also see the rectangle which was just drawn made 3D with a default extrusion value. Change
that value in the Depth Box to that of the lattice parameter and then click the Green Checkmark to
accept the extrusion.

5.5. Creating Extra Reference Lines

It seems to be the easiest to create extra reference geometry in the unit cell to make placing the atoms
easier later. For example if you have a BCC crystal, there is one atom which lies in the center of the
body diagonal plane. If you create a point in this position in the unit cell, arranging the structures in

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the assembly level becomes as easy as making two points coincident. To do this see the Reference
Geometry Page in your packet, or see the Creating a BCC Crystal Structure Guide.
5.6. Save your unit cell
Remember to constantly save your work File<Save.

6. Reference Geometry Cheat Sheet

Assemblies are a powerful tool when it comes to Solidworks. They allow one to take multiple assembly
parts and ensure they all interact properly. One way that some students try to create assemblies when first
introduced to Solidworks is place parts based off a coordinate system. This is not good practice. Consider
when you are putting a bike together; you dont put the handlebars in a certain location based off a
relative coordinate system. Rather you place them in different places relative to other pieces; in this case
into the frame and above the front tire. When creating piece parts, Solidworks creates a series of points,
axis and faces which can be used as reference when putting these assemblies together. Often this is not
enough. The following is a guide to creating reference geometry to aid in assembling your own crystal
structures. This will come in handy seeing as the atoms, models as spheres, have limited reference
geometry, seeing as they lack in faces, edges, etc.
6.1. Planes
Seeing as before any sketch can be created, Solidworks requires you to reference what plane you will
be drawing in, it is important to learn how to create your own. In the CommandManager, all you have
to do is select Reference Geometry<Plane. Solidworks will then ask for three references by which
you wish to define your plane. You can select edges, faces, points etc. After choosing your three
points click the Green Checkmark to approve. As you work you will see the plane appear on screen.
6.2. Reference Axis
Creating a reference axis comes in handy when it comes to patterning. For example, when creating a
circular array, Solidworks requires you to define an Axis of Revolution. There is multiple way to
define this axis, I will not go through all of them. All you need to do is select Reference
Geometry<Axis, and then just chose whether you want Two Planes, Two Points etc. It is very
straight forward.
6.3. Point
Creating a point may be the most useful geometry to you. More specifically, placing the atoms in the
correct spot can be made simple if you have already created a reference point at the location you want
the center of the atom. Then you can just make the origin of the atom coincident with the reference
point and you will have a fully defined assembly. Again all you have to do is click Reference
Geometry<Point and then select which way you would like to define. Also, you can create a
midpoint by hovering towards the center of the line and wait for Solidworks to snap to it. Then all
you have to do is click. When you are finished select the Green Checkmark to finalize it.
6.4. Reference Coordinate System
This is another type of Reference Geometry, but for this exercise you should not need to use it so I
will not cover it in depth. However there are multiple ways to do anything in Solidworks so if you
wish challenge yourself and try solving the lab another way!

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