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3D Printing in The New Year (2019 Edition)

As with every other month, the new year brought many exciting new developments to the world of additive manufacturing.

We begin our news tour with a familiar name…

The Verge reports on a new announcement by MakerBot.  MakerBot, which has gone through various stages of tumultuous evolution and revolution over its nine years, is now owned by Stratasys.

Now, the company’s latest 3D printer, the MakerBot Method, has been announced.  The device aims “to bridge the gap between its parent company’s expensive industrial machines, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cheaper desktop printers MakerBot is known for.”

Set for an early 2019 shipping date, the MakerBot Method will supplement “MakerBot’s Replicator desktop printer line.  The $6,499 price tag is more than twice the cost of MakerBot’s core Replicator+, and the same as the extra-large Z18.”

As one can imagine, the MakerBot Method 3D printer comes packed with exciting features and technologies.  However, the DIY makers who made MakerBot’s Replicator line famous and successful in the first place will continue to be disappointed as the Method is another departure from their DIY ethos.  Evidently, the company has chosen to go the route of Apple with their machines’ hardware and software: the Method’s “moving parts are neatly hidden, and prints are locked behind transparent doors, instead of sitting in an open frame.  Below the printing area, two neat pop-out drawers hold spools of printing plastic.  It’s a dramatic contrast to MakerBot’s first printers, which were open-source wooden kits inspired by the lo-fi RepRap project.”

This is the aesthetic MakerBot are shooting for with the Method, however – the company wants the device to be a “reliable, easy-to-use printer, which will be a step up from cheaper desktop machines.”  The Method features “a more rigid frame allowing its plastic extruder to move faster without shaking the printer, and MakerBot claims it’s up to twice as fast as a desktop printer.  Its build chamber is heated, so the entire print job cools at an even rate.  Ideally, this means users can make tight-fitting machine parts without worrying about size variation.”

The Method will also ship with multiple extruders.  The company explains this innovative new 3D printer is aimed at designers.  However, MakerBot does aim for its more advanced features to eventually “trickle down to their cheaper printer lineup.”

Elsewhere in the 3D printing industry, additive manufacturing had a big impact on medicine and the health industry, as always:

3D Print recently ran a piece concerning yet another medical application for additive manufacturing.  In this case, 3D printing can “aid in a process called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.”  This research was conducted by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

Apparently, “more than one in eight people aged 75 and older in the United States develop moderate to severe blockage of the aortic valve, often caused by calcified deposits which build up on the valve’s leaflets and prevent them from fully opening and closing.  Many of these patients are not healthy enough to undergo open heart surgery, so TAVR is an alternative involving the deployment of an artificial valve via a catheter inserted into the aorta.”

Of course, cardiologists must ensure the valve is the precise right size.  If the valve isn’t the right size, the procedure could prove fatal for the patient.  “It’s a challenge to select the correct size without directly examining the patient’s heart.”  This is where 3D printing and the team from Harvard University come in.

These researchers “have come up with a 3D printing workflow which creates models of individual patients’ aortic valves using CT scan data, in addition to a ‘sizer’ device which helps cardiologists determine the proper valve size.”

As Dr. James Weaver, Senior Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute explains: “If you buy a pair of shoes online without trying them on first, there’s a good chance they’re not going to fit properly. Sizing replacement TAVR valves poses a similar problem, in that doctors don’t get the opportunity to evaluate how a specific valve size will fit with a patient’s anatomy before surgery.    Our integrative 3D printing and valve sizing system provides a customized report of every patient’s unique aortic valve shape, removing a lot of the guesswork and helping each patient receive a more accurately sized valve.”

The researchers “created a software program which uses parametric modeling to generate virtual 3D models of the leaflets using seven coordinates on each patient’s valve that are visible on CT scans. The 3D models were then merged with the CT data and adjusted so they fit into the valve correctly. The resulting model, which incorporates the leaflets and their calcified deposits, was then 3D printed in multiple materials.”

“The system successfully predicted leak outcome in 60 to 73% of the patients, depending on the type of valve each patient had received, and determined 60% of the patients had received the correctly sized valve.”

Other health issues were also tackled:

Motherboard reports on an interesting project developed by LSU Engineering Student Meagan Moore.  Moore has created a full-sized 3D printed human body model made from bioplastic.  Dubbed ‘Marie,’ this medical model stands at five-foot-one and weighs fifteen pounds.

Marie was created in order to develop more effective radiation treatments for cancer – hence her name.  (The model was named after Marie Curie, the famed radiation scientist.)  Specifically, Marie will allow researchers in the future “to test real-time radiation exposure and figure out optimal radiation therapy dosing for treating conditions like cancer.”  Marie “has a detachable head, and a 36-gallon water storage capacity for up to eight hours.”

Moore explains “Marie is the amalgamation of five full-body scans of women taken at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.”  Following these full-body scans, “over the course of 136 hours, LSU’s BigRep Industrial 3D printer churned out Marie.  But the 3D printer had to produce Marie in four chunks,” so Moore was forced to use “a combination of soldering, friction stir welding, and sandblasting” to piece Marie fully together.  Obviously, Marie is far from the product of bioprinting – but she will greatly help research within the biomedical industry.

Indeed, according to Moore “Marie could potentially [help researchers develop] personalized treatments for people with complex forms of cancer.  Children and breast cancer patients have really differing morphology, which is usually very difficult to treat.  I find the more we learn about any body, the more complex it’s going to be.  We’re still getting medicine wrong on a lot of levels.  We have a lot to learn.”

3D printing and projects like Marie are already helping.

Finally, we wrap up our new year’s news tour with more medical and health device breakthroughs brought about by the wonders of additive manufacturing:

TCT Magazine was on hand at Autodesk University London 2018 when Disrupt Disability “unveiled the world’s first generatively designed modular wheelchair” prototype.

Rachael Wellach, who is the Founder and CEO of Disrupt Disability, has been working with Steve Cox, a 3D Tech Consultant with AMFORI Consulting.  Together, they “have delivered a proof of concept for the goal they have been working towards for nearly two years.”

Disrupt Disability began as a series of hackathons, wherein suggestions from wheelchair users and professional designers were taken under serious consideration.  The company’s mantra “of able-bodied people don’t wear the same shoes every day, so why should wheelchair users use the same wheelchair every day” has served as the company’s guiding principle.

The wheelchair prototype is “comprised of five interchangeable modules, customized in accordance with [Wellach’s] measurements and preferences, puts the user forward and itself in the background, and has the potential to be retailed under the 2,000 GBP price point of typical personalized models…all that’s left to fine-tune is the weight, which will come as metal additive manufacturing technology develops.”

The wheelchair’s modular capabilities are vital to the project: “there are five core modules: the seat, backrest, rear wheel axle, cast support and footrest, can all be swapped out to better suit the function at any given time.”

As those working on the project explained, “the lightweighting of a wheelchair is as important as it is in the automotive and aerospace industries.  It means less material usage, and less cost in both the production and shipping stages, but most importantly it makes life easier for the user. In a world where [wheelchair users] are continually restricted, be it through accessibility, stigmatism, or mobility – making life easier is Disrupt Disability’s motivation.”

As Cox adds: “I’ve been involved with Disrupt Disability for two years and right from the very beginning I’ve had this itch I wanted to scratch of throwing Generative Design at a wheelchair to see what it could produce in terms of making something as lightweight as possible, so it takes the least amount of effort for the user to move around. Casting into the future when metal additive manufacturing is more efficient, it will give you the opportunity to put a lattice structure inside instead of having them solid which would save more weight.”

Indeed, the prototype’s seat was designed inside Fusion 360’s Sculpt workspace.  In the future, the seat will be SLS printed.  “The simulation capabilities not only gave the partners the confidence to print the seat, but the seamless way in which Fusion 360 enabled alterations to be made post-simulation, then updated and run through the simulation again, was a key part of an efficient iteration process.”

Cox concludes, referring to the wheelchair prototype: “there’s no way I’m pretending this is a final product, it’s there as a thought-prompter and discussion promoter…one of Rachael’s visions is making a wheelchair more of a wearable device, in the same way spectacles are a medical aid but they’ve become a fashion item.  Why can’t we do the same for wheelchairs?  A key part of this was clearly to make a modular wheelchair which allows the user to A) customize it according to their preference and B) change it on a day to day basis depending on what they are doing.  I think this proof of concept shows this could potentially work.”

That’s all for the beginning of the year…

What else will 2019 bring?  Keep reading Replicator World to find out!

Image Courtesy of The Verge

Quotes Courtesy of The Verge, 3DPrint, Motherboard, and TCT Magazine

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MakerBot Announces Method

The Verge reports on a new announcement by MakerBot.  MakerBot, which has gone through various stages of tumultuous evolution and revolution over its nine years, is now owned by Stratasys.

Now, the company’s latest 3D printer, the MakerBot Method, has been announced.  The device aims “to bridge the gap between its parent company’s expensive industrial machines, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cheaper desktop printers MakerBot is known for.”

Set for an early 2019 shipping date, the MakerBot Method will supplement “MakerBot’s Replicator desktop printer line.  The $6,499 price tag is more than twice the cost of MakerBot’s core Replicator+, and the same as the extra-large Z18.”

As one can imagine, the MakerBot Method 3D printer comes packed with exciting features and technologies.  However, the DIY makers who made MakerBot’s Replicator line famous and successful in the first place will continue to be disappointed as the Method is another departure from their DIY ethos.  Evidently, the company has chosen to go the route of Apple with their machines’ hardware and software: the Method’s “moving parts are neatly hidden, and prints are locked behind transparent doors, instead of sitting in an open frame.  Below the printing area, two neat pop-out drawers hold spools of printing plastic.  It’s a dramatic contrast to MakerBot’s first printers, which were open-source wooden kits inspired by the lo-fi RepRap project.”

This is the aesthetic MakerBot are shooting for with the Method, however – the company wants the device to be a “reliable, easy-to-use printer, which will be a step up from cheaper desktop machines.”  The Method features “a more rigid frame allowing its plastic extruder to move faster without shaking the printer, and MakerBot claims it’s up to twice as fast as a desktop printer.  Its build chamber is heated, so the entire print job cools at an even rate.  Ideally, this means users can make tight-fitting machine parts without worrying about size variation.”

The Method will also ship with multiple extruders.  The company explains this innovative new 3D printer is aimed at designers.  However, MakerBot does aim for its more advanced features to eventually “trickle down to their cheaper printer lineup.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Verge

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Texas To Finally Provide 3D Printed Dentures for Inmates

All the way back in September, the Houston Chronicle released a damning expose, “which shed light on how Texas inmates need to be underweight or suffering from other medical complications to be able to secure a set of dentures.”  Apparently, Texas does not think dental care is a medical necessity for inmates in its state.

Even more horrifically, “some [inmates] had their remaining teeth removed after being promised a set, finding out later on they wouldn’t be able to get one.  Toothless inmates are forced to drink pureed food or to give their gums a workout.”

Now, however, as Engadget reports, following the September expose, Texas’ state prison system has been rightfully shamed and has therefore agreed to finally begin “providing toothless inmates with 3D printed dentures.”

“It’ll avoid the need to transport prisoners to dental facilities across the state, since technicians can simply scan the mouth of the inmate and then send the images to the 3D printing facility.  The process will take weeks instead of months, cutting down wait times significantly.”

There is “an increasing number of elderly offenders within the system, so this 3D printed solution for dentures will be the most efficient and cost-effective one: while the state will have to purchase the 3D printing system for between $50,000 to $100,000, each set of dentures will only cost it $50” after this initial large cost.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle and Engadget

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3D Printed Modular Wheelchairs: Medical Devices as Fashion

TCT Magazine was on hand at Autodesk University London 2018 when Disrupt Disability “unveiled the world’s first generatively designed modular wheelchair” prototype.

Rachael Wellach, who is the Founder and CEO of Disrupt Disability, has been working with Steve Cox, a 3D Tech Consultant with AMFORI Consulting.  Together, they “have delivered a proof of concept for the goal they have been working towards for nearly two years.”

Disrupt Disability began as a series of hackathons, wherein suggestions from wheelchair users and professional designers were taken under serious consideration.  The company’s mantra “of able-bodied people don’t wear the same shoes every day, so why should wheelchair users use the same wheelchair every day” has served as the company’s guiding principle.

The wheelchair prototype is “comprised of five interchangeable modules, customized in accordance with [Wellach’s] measurements and preferences, puts the user forward and itself in the background, and has the potential to be retailed under the 2,000 GBP price point of typical personalized models…all that’s left to fine-tune is the weight, which will come as metal additive manufacturing technology develops.”

The wheelchair’s modular capabilities are vital to the project: “there are five core modules: the seat, backrest, rear wheel axle, cast support and footrest, can all be swapped out to better suit the function at any given time.”

As those working on the project explained, “the lightweighting of a wheelchair is as important as it is in the automotive and aerospace industries.  It means less material usage, and less cost in both the production and shipping stages, but most importantly it makes life easier for the user. In a world where [wheelchair users] are continually restricted, be it through accessibility, stigmatism, or mobility – making life easier is Disrupt Disability’s motivation.”

As Cox adds: “I’ve been involved with Disrupt Disability for two years and right from the very beginning I’ve had this itch I wanted to scratch of throwing Generative Design at a wheelchair to see what it could produce in terms of making something as lightweight as possible, so it takes the least amount of effort for the user to move around. Casting into the future when metal additive manufacturing is more efficient, it will give you the opportunity to put a lattice structure inside instead of having them solid which would save more weight.”

Indeed, the prototype’s seat was designed inside Fusion 360’s Sculpt workspace.  In the future, the seat will be SLS printed.  “The simulation capabilities not only gave the partners the confidence to print the seat, but the seamless way in which Fusion 360 enabled alterations to be made post-simulation, then updated and run through the simulation again, was a key part of an efficient iteration process.”

Cox concludes, referring to the wheelchair prototype: “there’s no way I’m pretending this is a final product, it’s there as a thought-prompter and discussion promoter…one of Rachael’s visions is making a wheelchair more of a wearable device, in the same way spectacles are a medical aid but they’ve become a fashion item.  Why can’t we do the same for wheelchairs?  A key part of this was clearly to make a modular wheelchair which allows the user to A) customize it according to their preference and B) change it on a day to day basis depending on what they are doing.  I think this proof of concept shows this could potentially work.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine

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MIT Develops Desktop 3D Printer Capable of Printing 7-10x Faster Than Competitors

3Ders ran a recent report concerning yet more 3D printing-related research going on at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Apparently, Professors Jamison Go and John Hart of the Mechanosynthesis Group have developed a desktop 3D printer capable of printing 7-10 times faster than competitors.

In order to accomplish this, the researchers developed new hardware they have dubbed FastFFF, or “fast fused filament fabrication.”

“Desktop 3D printers are fantastic at creating high-quality and complex parts on demand, but their greatest weakness has always been speed. They can only print one object at a time, one thin layer at a time. And there are several speed-limiting factors to FDM/FFF 3D printers, with the main four being: the amount of force that can be applied to the filament as it’s pushed through the nozzle, how quickly heat can be transferred to the filament to melt it, how fast the printhead can move around the build area, and the rate that the material solidifies after it’s extruded because it needs to support the next layer.  The solidifying problem they solved like most other developers, by blasting air at it. The remaining hurdles required more creativity.”

The MIT researchers jumped over these hurdles by threading the filament and running it through a threaded nut; “when the nut is turned by a motor (via belt), the filament goes down. Anti-twist rollers prevent the filament from twisting as the nut turns. This method of extrusion is not only faster but also much more precise than the typical drive gear setup.”

Next the researchers utilized lasers and a servo-driven parallel gantry system.  As a result, their new printer was able to scorch the competition (which included a $100,000 commercial 3D printer) in speed tests.  However, it is important to note their 3D printer “cost $15,000 so it isn’t likely to hit the market any time soon.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3Ders

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Stratasys Teams Up With ESG and Angel Trains

TCT Magazine reports on a new partnership struck between Stratasys, ESG, and Angel Trains (“one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies”).  ESG Rail is an engineering consultancy.  The collaboration aims to “address the issue of obsolete parts in the rail industry with 3D printing.”

The initiative, which is UK-first, “has resulted in the creation of four fully approved 3D printed interior components including an arm rest, grab handle, and seat back table, all of which will now be trialed on in-service passenger trains next year.”

In order to complete the goals of this initiative, Stratasys has turned to their Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology for additive manufacturing.  “The components have been structurally assessed by ESG Rail for manufacturing using Stratasys 3D printed tooling and rail-certified thermoplastic materials.  New high performance material, including Stratasys’ Antero 800 NA, a PEKK-based thermoplastic, have also been tested to demonstrate compliance with the Rail Standard EN45545-2.”

Angel Trains Technical Director Mark Hicks “hopes this solution will help to free the industry from technological constraints, and allow [Angel Trains’ trains] to continue to meet passengers’ needs now and in the future.”

Stratasys’ Manager of Strategic Account Team EMEA Yann Rageul concludes: “with the highest level of repeatability in the industry and advanced, rail-certified, materials, we believe our FDM additive manufacturing solutions offer huge potential to replace traditional manufacturing for a diverse range of applications within the rail industry. This collaboration will help us to explore how we can support rail companies, such as Angel Trains, to produce parts on-demand – both cost-effectively and efficiently – eradicating the need for obsolete inventory and improving their ability to service customers.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine

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3D Printing Helps Predict Replacement Heart Valve Pathways

3D Print recently ran a piece concerning yet another medical application for additive manufacturing.  In this case, 3D printing can “aid in a process called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.”  This research was conducted by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

Apparently, “more than one in eight people aged 75 and older in the United States develop moderate to severe blockage of the aortic valve, often caused by calcified deposits which build up on the valve’s leaflets and prevent them from fully opening and closing.  Many of these patients are not healthy enough to undergo open heart surgery, so TAVR is an alternative involving the deployment of an artificial valve via a catheter inserted into the aorta.”

Of course, cardiologists must ensure the valve is the precise right size.  If the valve isn’t the right size, the procedure could prove fatal for the patient.  “It’s a challenge to select the correct size without directly examining the patient’s heart.”  This is where 3D printing and the team from Harvard University come in.

These researchers “have come up with a 3D printing workflow which creates models of individual patients’ aortic valves using CT scan data, in addition to a ‘sizer’ device which helps cardiologists determine the proper valve size.”

As Dr. James Weaver, Senior Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute explains: “If you buy a pair of shoes online without trying them on first, there’s a good chance they’re not going to fit properly. Sizing replacement TAVR valves poses a similar problem, in that doctors don’t get the opportunity to evaluate how a specific valve size will fit with a patient’s anatomy before surgery.    Our integrative 3D printing and valve sizing system provides a customized report of every patient’s unique aortic valve shape, removing a lot of the guesswork and helping each patient receive a more accurately sized valve.”

The researchers “created a software program which uses parametric modeling to generate virtual 3D models of the leaflets using seven coordinates on each patient’s valve that are visible on CT scans. The 3D models were then merged with the CT data and adjusted so they fit into the valve correctly. The resulting model, which incorporates the leaflets and their calcified deposits, was then 3D printed in multiple materials.”

“The system successfully predicted leak outcome in 60 to 73% of the patients, depending on the type of valve each patient had received, and determined 60% of the patients had received the correctly sized valve.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3DPrint

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NavVis Raises $35.5 Million

3D Printing Industry has caught wind of Series C funding for software company NavVis.  NavVis, which derives from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), “has raised a total of $35.5 million to accelerate its digital twin platform.”

What is a digital twin platform, you may ask.  Well, “digital twin technology enables intangible replicas of physical assets, processes, and devices.  Based on the Internet of Things (IoT), a digital twin encompasses a network of connected devices exchanging data.”

In the case of NavVis, the company is “integrating its 3D scanning hardware, NavVis M6, and 3D visualization software, NavVis IndoorViewer.”  In tandem, both the hardware and the software will provide “a virtual workspace…for collaboration and insights which will ‘drive strategic decision-making as well as day-to-day operations.”

NavVis, which was founded in 2013, “has identified two critical challenges experienced by enterprises seeking to implement digital twin technology.  This includes scanning large industrial facilities to capture information and processing data and making it accessible to the workforce.”

Leading NavVis’ Series C funding was Digital+ Partners.  Other funding sources included “Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc. (KKE), MIG, Target Partners, and BayBG.”

Elsewhere in this burgeoning industry, “GE Global Research is developing digital twin models of metal 3D printed parts for the U.S. Navy to accelerate the production of mission-critical equipment.”  Indeed, “a growing amount of manufacturers are integrating its suppliers and customers into a demand-driven supply chain through digital twin concepts.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Printing Industry

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Think3D Opens $6M Medical Device 3D Printing Facility in India

3D Printing Industry reports on the grand opening of Think3D’s $6M Medical Device 3D Printing Facility in the AP Medtech Zone in the city of Visakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Think3D, which is an Indian 3D printing service bureau, has been building and developing this facility since 2016.  “The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, inaugurated the new 3D printing center.”

“India is the fourth largest market in Asia for medical devices.  However, this market is largely import-based and the country imports over 80% of medical devices.”  Obviously, Think3D wanted to develop more homegrown medical device production centers: “it is hoped the opening of the AP MedTech Zone and Think3D’s new facility will establish India as a major producer and exporter of medical devices.”

“Think3D’s new operation will provide a range of on-site 3D printing and manufacturing services, including 3D scanning, 3D printing, CNC and molding techniques.  Currently, the facility houses various 3D printing technologies, such as the HP 4200, a Multi Jet Fusion system, an EOS FORMIGA P110 SLS printer, and an EOS M 290 metal 3D printer. 3D printers from Stratasys and 3D Systems are also available at the center.”

Think3D’s Director, Prudhvi Reddy, explains: “This facility will be used for prototype and batch production of parts for medical devices like MRI, ECG, ultrasound machines, and so on. Once these parts are manufactured, they shall undergo various tests in the biomaterial testing lab present in the park and thereafter these parts will be assembled and send to Gamma Irradiation Facility present inside the park for sterilization. This way, a complete ecosystem for product development, manufacturing, and testing is available in the facility.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Printing Industry

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3D Printed Human Body Model ‘Marie’ Made at LSU

Motherboard reports on an interesting project developed by LSU Engineering Student Meagan Moore.  Moore has created a full-sized 3D printed human body model made from bioplastic.  Dubbed ‘Marie,’ this medical model stands at five-foot-one and weighs fifteen pounds.

Marie was created in order to develop more effective radiation treatments for cancer – hence her name.  (The model was named after Marie Curie, the famed radiation scientist.)  Specifically, Marie will allow researchers in the future “to test real-time radiation exposure and figure out optimal radiation therapy dosing for treating conditions like cancer.”  Marie “has a detachable head, and a 36-gallon water storage capacity for up to eight hours.”

Moore explains “Marie is the amalgamation of five full-body scans of women taken at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.”  Following these full-body scans, “over the course of 136 hours, LSU’s BigRep Industrial 3D printer churned out Marie.  But the 3D printer had to produce Marie in four chunks,” so Moore was forced to use “a combination of soldering, friction stir welding, and sandblasting” to piece Marie fully together.  Obviously, Marie is far from the product of bioprinting – but she will greatly help research within the biomedical industry.

Indeed, according to Moore “Marie could potentially [help researchers develop] personalized treatments for people with complex forms of cancer.  Children and breast cancer patients have really differing morphology, which is usually very difficult to treat.  I find the more we learn about any body, the more complex it’s going to be.  We’re still getting medicine wrong on a lot of levels.  We have a lot to learn.”

3D printing and projects like Marie are already helping.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Motherboard

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3D Printed Glucose Sensors

Futurism reports on recent findings by researchers from Washington State University.  Apparently, these scientists are “hoping [3D print] glucose biosensors.”  This technology could greatly reduce costs for those with diabetes.

The researchers envision “the 3D printed sensors being used in wearable glucose monitors that could stick to a person’s skin and monitor bodily fluids, like sweat.  Without such systems, people living with diabetes must self-monitor their blood glucose levels, involving a [laborious] finger pricking process, or shell out thousands for automated monitoring systems.”

As is the case in many other industries, “compared to traditional manufacturing processes, 3D printing sensors would reduce waste, cutting down costs, while improving the accuracy of glucose monitors.”

In order to develop their 3D printed biosensors, the researchers at Washington State University “used a process known as direct-ink writing, which allowed them to 3D print fine lines of various ‘inks’ at very tiny scales.  In this case the ‘ink’ is a nanoscale material, which is used to create small and flexible electrodes capable of detecting glucose in a person’s sweat.”

Due to 3D printing’s process, “which is very precise, the material is printed in smooth, uniform layers, increasing the sensors’ sensitivity.  The tiny sensors are non-invasive and out-performed traditional sensors at detecting glucose.  3D printing also allows the sensors to be custom printed for patients with different needs, including the needs of children.”

The team knows 3D printing these sensors is only the first step, however.  “In order to put them to use, the team is working on developing a non-invasive wearable system for the sensor to be used in.”

Direct-ink writing could also “be used to print electronics and other components for wearable devices,” which would further reduce costs.  “Once a wearable system is produced, the process could easily be scaled up to help make such devices as accessible as possible.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Futurism

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04:  Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith prepares to testify before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. Smith stepped down as CEO of Equifax last month after it was reported that hackers broke into the credit reporting agency and made off with the personal information of nearly 145 million Americans.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Unlocking Phones with 3D Printed Faces

Tech Crunch recently ran a feature detailing some disturbing implications of 3D printed faces.  Apparently, it is now possible to create a 3D printed model of a person’s head to hack into the protection structures of many modern smart phones – such as Androids and iPhones.

“Gone, it seems, are the days of the trusty passcode, which many still find cumbersome, fiddly, and inconvenient – especially when you unlock your phone dozens of times a day.  Phone makers are taking to more convenient unlock methods” such as facial recognition.

However, this means “a mere 3D printed model [of your face] can trick your phone into giving up your secrets.”  This makes it easier for hackers and cops to invade your privacy.  “It’s no secret biometrics – your fingerprints and your face – aren’t protected under the Fifth Amendment.  [In the United States of America.]  This means police can’t compel you to give up your passcode, but [legally] they can forcibly depress your fingerprint to unlock your phone, or hold it to your face while you’re looking at it.”  Already, this has become a common occurrence.  Now, “there’s also little in the way of stopping police from 3D printing or replicating a set of biometrics to break into a phone.”

As USC Gould School of Law Professor Orin Kerr explains: “legally, it’s no different from using fingerprints to unlock a device.  The government [will] get the biometric unlocking information somehow, by either the finger pattern shape or the head shape.”  They do not need a warrant to 3D print a replica of someone’s face.

These concerns continue to loom over our increasingly post-password world.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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