3D Printing Tech Digest - March 2017

Bacterial printing

Scientists at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a method to 3D print bacteria in shapes and patterns. The team has used the technology to print plaque onto cows’ teeth to explore dental hygiene. The team modified a USD300 3D printer by removing the heater from the printer to prevent the bacteria being killed by the heat and replacing it with a syringe. The bacteria are held in place by contact with calcium. The technique is expected to have uses in graphene production by using bacteria to chemically reduce graphene oxide to graphene.  

Saudi contracting company uses Chinese printers for building

Chinese 3D printing company WinSun has signed a deal with Saudi Arabian Al Mobty Group to supply it with 100 3D printers to build 30 million square metres of housing. In the contract WinSun committed to sending the printers to the Saudi company within six months. The predicted number of new houses that will be built is 1.5 million. The price of the deal was CNY10 billion (USD1.5 billion).

Porous bone-like material created by 3D printing

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) have developed a way to create porous materials with the help of 3D printing and salt leaching. In the study the researchers mixed salt granules with resins (extra-fine PEGDA, Standard Clear and Spot-E Ink) used in DLP 3D printing. After printing the objects are then suspended in water to dissolve the salt, creating small holes. The team showed that the method can be used to create porous, self-supporting 3D objects. The porosity has potential for use in medicine as a scaffold for growing tissue or in combination with conductive ink for flexible electronics.

Falcon feathers inspire aviation innovation

Scientists at BAE Systems and City, University of London, have developed 3D-printed feathers that can act like those found on a peregrine falcon. The 3D-printed ‘sensory feathers’ would act as sensors on the fuselage of the aircraft and provide early warning in case of plane failure. More densely packed polymer ‘feathers’ could be used to reduce drag by changing airflow close to the surface of the plane. Another area that the research revealed could be interesting is enhancing the ability of a plane to manoeuvre quickly and land more safely at low speeds by using flexible or hinged flaps. 

Grenade launcher

The US Army has 3D printed a grenade launcher called RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance). With the exception of the springs and fasteners every part of the grenade launcher was manufactured by 3D printing. The fully operational weapon has fired 15 shots at test facilities. The army sees the grenade launcher as proof that 3D printing would allow for faster prototyping of other weapons. 

3D printing on Mars?

Fotec, part of the University of Applied Sciences in Austria, has used a material called ‘JSC-Mars-1A’ that replicates Martian soil to 3D print model structures such as a wall and a yurt-like hut. Its process combines refined volcano-derived dust with phosphoric acid to create a printable material. Although the intention of the research was to prove the concept of in-situ extra-terrestrial printing the technique could also be used for printing with materials on earth i.e. soil or other material.   

Ford 3D printing

Ford announced that it will begin testing 3D printing of large-scale parts. Ford will be working with Stratasys using that company’s Infinite Build 3D printer to produce car parts exceeding a metre in length, for example a spoiler. Ford sees 3D printing as a means of rapid prototyping of automotive parts for testing in mass market vehicles as well as in limited run, or personalised component design. 

New laser melting method

University of Sheffield researchers have developed a new 3D printing process that uses energy efficient diode lasers. Current laser melting methods rely on a mirror to deflect a laser beam. The Sheffield researchers’ method, Diode Area Melting (DAM), is able to melt large areas of material in parallel by using an array of individual laser diodes. The laser beams can be turned on or off as needed. According to the researchers this makes printing faster and more energy efficient. Further research will be carried out with sights set on scaling-up the system and moving into polymer processing. 


Babaoshan Funeral Home, a funeral home in Beijing, is using 3D printing to reconstruct deceased’s damaged faces. The family of the deceased provide a picture of the deceased pre-disfigurement, then the funeral home can 3D print a mask in under three hours. Previous reconstruction methods, such as wax masks could take as long as ten hours to make. 

HP opens 3D printing lab

HP, a computer and printing company, has revealed its new 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab. The lab aims to jumpstart product development, test new materials and allow for real-time feedback from engineers. HP is already working with Arkema, BASF, Evonik and Lehmann & Voss to create new 3D printing materials for HP’s Jet Fusion 4200 and 3200 3D printers. 

$300 3D printed Under Armour shoes

Under Armour, a sportswear manufacturer, announced plans to release a new line of sports shoes called ‘Futurist’ which uses 3D printed lattice midsole. The shoes were released in March 2017, and cost USD300/GBP250.


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