Ahmed Ghazi, assistant professor in the department of urology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC), and Jonathan Stone, neurosurgery resident (also at URMC) have developed a new way to fabricate artificial organs and anatomy. They create these lifelike organs, which can be used by trainees and surgeons to practise on, by converting a medical scan image (MRI, CT, or ultrasound) into a CAD design and then 3D printing a mould of the organ into which they then add a hydrogel, which after being frozen becomes solid. The hydrogel’s composition can be altered to mimic tumours, a blockage in a kidney, or the build-up of plaque in blood vessels for instance. They say the product provides an organ which feels, looks and reacts like a live organ, thus providing more realistic ‘dummy’ models for surgeons.
The team have taken the concept further by building whole sections of the body including skin, fat, muscle, organs and blood vessels (which are attached to bags of red dye so that if they are cut they will ‘bleed’).
Stone believes that this is a viable and better alternative to using virtual reality to mimic operations.
Here are three stories of how 3D printing is being used to create a car, a drone and a spacecraft.
1) Phillip Keane, PhD candidate at Nanyang Technological University, has built a working 3D printed quadcopter capable of flight. He used Stratasys Asia Pacific’s ULTEM 9085 thermoplastic resin printing medium – which is reputedly flame resistant and possesses a high strength-to-weight ratio. The printing process took less than 14 hours during which time heat proofed electronics were periodically placed into the drone’s chassis. The drone is capable of supporting a suspended weight of over 60kg (132lb).
2) Local Motors is developing a 3D printed car called LM3D Swim. Currently it has achieved a 75% 3D printed car – most of the body panel and chassis are 3D printed – and aims to make the car up to 90% 3D printed in the future. It took Local Motors just over 2 months to get the current model from design to prototype. It claims the car is Internet of Things connected owing to a collaboration with IBM Watson.
3) American company Moon Express has received permission from the American government to travel beyond the earth’s orbit and land a robotic spacecraft on the moon in 2017, following discussions with and among the FAA, the White House, the State Department and NASA and other federal agencies. This is the first time that a private company has been given permission to go beyond the earth’s orbit or to another planet. The company envisions bringing precious resources, metals and moon rocks back to earth.
It intends to use New Zealand company Rocket Lab’s Electron booster rocket launch system. The launcher’s nine Rutherford engines have all their fundamental components 3D printed in 24 hours, including the injector, pumps, and main propellant valves.
One of the issues holding back manufacturers’ adoption of 3D printing is counterfeiting. InfraTrac has developed a technology to stop counterfeiters in their tracks – a chemical fingerprint which can be read with a spectrometer. Through incorporation of a chemical between layers of a 3D-printed object – so far it has been incorporated into plastic, and most recently, metal objects – the counterfeiters should have a harder time marketing fakes as authentic. The layered chemical can be read by a spectrometer and the data checked against the manufacturer’s database as verification. This anti-counterfeiting method is also being advocated by InfraTrac for use in packaging and substances (medicines, perfumes, alcohol and so on).
German logistics company DHL recently released a report called ‘3D printing and the future of supply chains’, detailing its opinions about the applicability of 3D printing in manufacturing. DHL has been experimenting with 3D printing for the last few years and has identified potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies. However, the main takeaway of the paper is DHL’s belief that 3D printing will be a complementary process, rather than a substitute, for mass-production; instead emphasizing the utilization of 3D printing to create complex and customizable spare parts.
As a result, the report goes on to outline a potential business model for on-demand spare part printing. DHL would aim at sector specific service offerings and integrated return and repair services. DHL suggests that it would be possible to 3D print spare parts during transit to the customer.
Scientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with international colleagues, have managed to create structural colours that are non-iridescent, meaning that the colour remains the same irrespective of the viewing angle. The idea, as so often, came from nature – the bright colour of animals’ feathers and hair doesn’t change depending on point of view, as, for example with the blue tarantula’s bright blue coat. The root of this is in the hair’s or feather’s nanostructure: regular structures will create iridescence; irregular structures won’t.
The KIT scientists, and their collaborators, realised that the blue tarantula’s blue isn’t iridescent despite its hair’s structure being periodic (regular). After looking at the hairs more closely they discovered that they had a multi-layered flower-like structure. After computer modelling they printed a 3D model and it generated the same colour over a viewing angle of 160 degrees – larger than any previous synthetic structural colour so far. The size of the flower affects the colour it gives off. The scientists believe that this has great potential to be used in manufacturing, textiles and cosmetics, although a hurdle that needs to be jumped is the scalability of 3D nano-printing technology.
Po is a Paraguayan non-profit organisation offering 3D printed upper-limb prosthetics for Paraguayans that are unable to get or afford a traditional prosthetic limb. Po claims that out of those Paraguyans that need prosthetic limbs 99% are unable to get one. It further claims that one traditional prosthetic limb is the same price as 100 of its 3D printed prosthetics. The first version of the limb is currently being used by over 100 people, who donated as much as they wished, with any difference between the production and sale price being covered by Po. The company is now planning version two – a device which can be controlled by Myo (a device which is worn on the arm to translate bioelectric signals into movement of a prosthetic). This allows for far more manoeuvrability and functionality than the older model. Po’s 3D printing file is available open-source, allowing anyone to download and print one.
The Herston Biofabrication Institute, set to open in 2017, will be Australia’s first institute dedicated to advancing knowledge and technology in biofabrication uses of 3D imaging, 3D modelling, 3D cell culture and 3D bioprinting. Biofabrication is a method used to create personalised medicines and provide personalised healthcare using a person’s biological material, information about their condition, and specialised 3D printers to print tissue and bone material.
The product of a collaboration between Metro North Hospital and Health Service and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), it is hoped the institute, which will be based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, will lower health costs, improve access to the best treatment and provide better quality of life for individuals and society through its multidisciplinary biofabrication research and its creation of facilities including a biofabrication and advanced manufacturing lab, tissue engineering lab, and a discovery and innovation lab.