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3D Printing in June

As with any other month, the wonderful world of additive manufacturing has been exceedingly busy and exciting.

Let’s get right to it.

First, from the UK: The Telegraph reports on yet another astounding medical procedure undertaken using the invaluable aid of 3D printing.

Dexter Clark, who is two years old, is from Reading, Berkshire in the UK.  He “was born with severe kidney problems, which left him only able to eat from a feeding tube.”  Dexter’s father, Brendan, who is 36, agreed to donate his kidney.

The only problem?  “The adult organ is [of course] huge compared to the cavity in which it was to sit.”  So, surgeons at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust turned to the wonders of 3D printing.  They “scanned Mr. Clark’s kidney and his son’s abdomen and 3D printed both so that surgeons could find out if the transplant was even possible, and then worked out the best way to insert the organ…in Dexter’s case, the 3D printed models were also taken into the operating theater on the day of the transplant and reviewed by transplant surgeons.”

In similar circumstances, without 3D printing, Dexter would’ve had to be “placed under anesthesia [in order for] a surgical exploration to be carried out to determine feasibility.”  Now, however, because of 3D printing, “the need for surgical exploration can be reduced because pre-planning can happen before the patient is on the operating table.”

As Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Transplant Registrar Pankaj Chandak explains: “The ability to print a 3D model of the patient’s anatomy in varying textures, with the intricacies of the blood vessels clearly visible within it, enables us to differentiate critical anatomical relations between structures…[3D printing model organs] has the potential to really enhance and aid our decision-making process both during pre-surgical planning and in the operating room, and therefore can help in the safety of what is a very complex operation and improve our patient care.”  The surgeons utilized a Stratasys multi-material 3D printer.

Dexter’s mother, Emily Clark, concludes: “Since the transplant, Dexter is a changed boy, eating solid food for the very first time.  We always knew the operation would be complicated, but knowing the surgeons had planned the surgery with 3D models matching the exact anatomy of my husband’s kidney and son’s abdomen was extremely reassuring.  We hope Dexter’s case will offer other suffering families similar reassurance cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printing, can help surgeons better treat their loved ones.”

Elsewhere in the world of 3D printing:

TCT Magazine reports on a recent breakthrough made by crash test dummy manufacturer Humanetics.  Humanetics has 3D printed an “elderly” crash test dummy.

“Humanetics serves 100% of the OEMS and Tier I safety suppliers worldwide with anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs) for testing the safety of automobiles.”  In order for these crash test dummies to be a successful tool in ensuring the safety of automobiles, they must be “designed to reflect the injuries, which occur in real accidents.”  Due to this requirement, it is very helpful to create dummies in every shape, age, and size.

Now, with the help of 3D printing, Humanetics has been able to “create the first elderly crash test dummy” using additive manufactured “internal parts used to replace expensive steel components.”  1 in every 5 drivers in the United States is now elderly, and are therefore “more likely to sustain internal injuries when crashing, because their bones are more fragile and soft tissues less robust.”

As Humanetics’ Chief Technical Officer Mike Beebe explains, due to the specific needs of elderly crash test dummies, he turned to 3D printing: “it’s my job to look at the future.  I’ve been in the ATD business for 38 years and I’m always trying to figure out what new processes and materials we should develop going forward. One of the major discoveries we’ve made recently was that we could 3D print much of the elderly dummy. Now all of the components of the new elderly dummy, from the pelvis to the head assembly, are additively manufactured.”

The team also used “Markforged’s Onyx, a carbon-composite material reinforced with continuous Kevlar fibers.  A complete set of ribs was put to test on an elderly dummy and underwent 60-70 impacts with no visible deformation or damage.”  These specially 3D printed ribs have yet to be broken.

Following these tests, Humanetics has “purchased its own Markforged Mark Two 3D printer, to make ribs and other skeleton components…[and] while Humanetics is seeing Onyx material cost similar to those of the previous steel, the team can print a single rib in twenty-four hours and a full set in a week compared to the two to three weeks with traditional manufacturing.”  3D printing can also improve quality and save between 40-60% in assembly and labor costs.

Humanetics is now eyeing the possibility of 3D printed organs for these crash test dummies.  As Beebe explains: “the ability to generate new organs using 3D printing technology will lead to shorter lead times, improved restraint systems, and safer vehicles.”

Finally, let’s get gigantic!

The Financial Times reports on a recent development announced by the Australian company Titomic.  Apparently, Titomic claims to have build the world’s largest 3D printer.  Not only is it the world’s largest 3D printer – but it also prints in metal as well.

This printer is described as “bus-sized” and has the ability to 3D print “complex aircraft wing parts of up to nearly nine meters in length.”  Additionally, this printer is capable of printing “metal bike frames in around 25 minutes.”

In today’s 3D printing industry, this advancement could be huge.  Gartner, a research company, “predicts three-quarters of aircraft will fly with 3D printed components by 2021.  Also, a fifth of the world’s top 100 consumer goods companies will use 3D printing to create custom products by then.”

Titomic’s Chief Executive Jeff Lang is ecstatic: “only a year ago people thought it would not be possible to use this type of printing process to make large-scale metal parts for industry.  Now we are doing it larger and faster than anyone else…3D printing can provide an exponential increase in the speed of production lines.  One of our 3D printers can do the work of 50 people.  It could enable, for example, US bicycle manufacturers, which tend to manufacture in cheap-labor zones, to begin to bring back local production.”

Titomic was able to develop this technology with the help of Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.  Although Titomic claims their latest 3D printer is the largest, “it is possible the Chinese defense establishment has developed similar printers.”

Be sure to come back next month for more exciting 3D printing news!

Image Courtesy of The Financial Times

Quotes Courtesy of The Telegraph, TCT Magazine, and The Financial Times

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