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March 2017: 3D Printing and the Medical World

The world of additive manufacturing is always busy at work, disrupting hundreds of different industries.  (For the better!)  It may be in medicine where it’s having its most revolutionary impact, at the moment, though.  This is not only the case when it comes to modelling and mapping out certain procedures – but also when it comes to creating tangible solutions out in the real (non-virtual) world as well.

Let us begin our virtual tour of 3D printing’s impact on the medical industry in the arena of robots.  3D Print caught wind of a brand-new article in the scientific journal Nature Protocols.  This article, “a modular approach to the design, fabrication, and characterization of muscle-powered biological machines,” was written by the researchers Ritu Raman, Caroline Cvetkovic, and Rashid Bashir from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Bioengineering.

In plain English, the researchers have essentially published a recipe for 3D printed bio-bots.  As Raman, Cvetkovic, and Bashir explain: “the protocol teaches every step of building a bio-bot, from 3D printing the skeleton to tissue engineering the skeletal muscle actuator, including manufacturers and part numbers for every single thing we use in the lab.  This protocol is essentially intended to be a one-stop reference for any scientist around the world who wants to replicate [our results]…and give them a framework for building their own bio-bots for a variety of applications.”

These bio-bots are more than capable of adapting to their environment.  “3D printing has been a major impetus for the progress seen here in robots, through allowing such advances in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.  The biomaterials of today now allow for the creation of what the researchers call ‘smart responsive machines,’ able to work in a range of different applications.”

As their ‘recipe’ explains: “the 3D printing revolution has given us the tools required to ‘build with biology’ in this way.  We re-designed the 3D printed injection mold to produce skeletal muscle ‘rings’ that could be manually transferred to any of a wide variety of bio-bot skeletons.  These rings were shown to produce passive and active tension forces similar to those generated by muscle strips.”

“In writing the paper and releasing their bio-bot ‘recipe,’ the researchers are hoping to see others not only appreciate and re-create their work – but to improve on it as well.  The team hopes this is just the beginning as scientists everywhere are able to begin meeting current challenges in medicine and science.”

Perhaps even more exciting than bio-bots, however, is how medical professionals from all over the world (and with any means) can now access (and print!) 3D models.

3DPrint ran another feature focusing on the medical company EchoPixel.  According to EchoPixel’s website, the company “renders patient-specific anatomy in an intuitive, interactive virtual reality format, leading directly to increased clinical knowledge, faster operations, and better care.”

“True 3D, from EchoPixel, is an advanced medical visualization software solution.  It offers physicians an unprecedented opportunity to view and interact with patient tissues and organs in a truly 3D form, as if they were real physical objects.”

“Virtual reality tools from EchoPixel are already in use at such medical centers as Stanford University, UCSF, the Cleveland Clinic, and Cook Children’s Hospital – the last of these even having established a dedicated 3D lab bringing together 3D printing with EchoPixel technology for use in heart surgery applications.”

EchoPixel’s new 3D printing capabilities were “built on the foundation of the company’s True 3D Viewer software, which converts DICOM data sets into life-sized VR models.  Already able to virtually interact with the models, these users will now be able to set the desired anatomy and orientation, then send it off to be 3D printed.”

EchoPixel cites the many advantages of 3D modeling in medical applications: “improved communication and collaboration among different members of the surgical team,…enhanced pre-operative planning and better interactive understanding of unique anatomy [which] can be used as a reference during surgery, mirror-image modeling used for reconstruction templates, practice on models for surgical residents’ resident work hours, and increased patient education.”

Ron Schilling, EchoPixel’s CEO, is excited about the prospect of his company using 3D printing technology: “3D printing is a game changing technology, but it’s not yet accepted as a widely effective clinical tool, primarily due to the cost and time restrictions.  EchoPixel’s Interactive Virtual Reality is a complementary technology that can enable truly effective 3D modeling for the first time.  It has the potential to dramatically reduce time and cost investments.”

“[EchoPixel’s True 3D] provides fast and easy methods to create 3D models and export them to a 3D printer.  It also allows medical professionals to import 3D models for quality assurance of complex, material object print cases.”

Not only can medical professionals now easily print 3D models to aid them with complex surgeries – but they can also print medical devices and replacements which can even be put into living, breathing bodies!

3Ders reports on the launch of a brand-new marvel of bioengineering.  Structo, based in Singapore, “has launched what it is hailing as the ‘world’s fastest dental mold 3D printer.’”  They call it the DentaForm 3D printer.  It was unveiled at the Association of Orthodontists Singapore (AOSC) 2017 Show at Marina Bay Sands.

Structo entered the dental 3D printing market almost exactly a year ago, with the launches of their “first two products, the OrthoForm and the high-speed OmniForm 3D printers.  Structo’s 3D printing products, which are based on the company’s proprietary Mask Stereolithography (MSLA) technology, are specifically designed and built for applications within the dental industry, such as making molds in a quick and efficient manner.”

Structo’s brand-new DentaForm 3D Printer is ideal for specific dental applications such as “printing accurate, highly precise models for fitting crowns and bridges in the field of restorative dentistry.  [This] new 3D printer boasts a build platform for 200 x 150 mm and a printing accuracy of 50 micrometers along the x/y axes.”

As Structo’s Co-Founder, Huub van Esbroeck, explains: “we are revolutionizing digital dentistry by breaking through the speed limits of 3D printers today.  The Structo DentaForm [3D Printer] will open up a whole new range of dental applications that can now work with our lightning-fast Mask Stereolithography (MSLA) technology.”

Dhruv Sahgal, Structo’s Head of Business Development and Sales, elaborates: “customers who have experienced the speed of MSLA through the OrthoForm have been asking for a higher resolution solution for the printing of precision models.  Today we are excited and proud to bring that solution to market with the DentaForm [3D Printer.]”

Even more astounding was a case which occurred this month in India:

Hindustan Times reports on a miraculous surgery which just took place at a hospital in Gurgaon, India.  “A 32-year-old woman got to walk again after the successful implantation of the country’s first 3D printed artificial vertebrae.”

The woman, who had spinal tuberculosis, is a teacher.  The team of surgeons who helped her walk again was led by Dr. V Anand Naik, who is a Senior Consultant of Spinal Surgery at The Institute of Bone and Joint.  Dr. Naik’s team “replaced the damaged vertebrae with a 3D printed titanium vertebra to bridge the gap between the first and fourth cervical vertebrae.”

The doctors explained: “the surgery took 10 hours as the first, second, and third cervical vertebrae were severely damaged to the extent that there was no skeletal support available between the skull and lower cervical spine.”  Dr. Naik elaborated: “it was a very complex surgery and the patient’s condition was deteriorating by the day.  It would not have been possible to do…without 3D printing technology.”

Dr. Naik’s team “used computer software to plan every detail of the surgery.  The titanium cage was customized according to the patient’s original spine.  The high-resolution CT and MRI scans of the spine were uploaded [to] the software and a dummy of the spine was 3D printed to measure the surgical resection between the first and fourth vertebrae.  Finally, the 3D titanium implant was printed, which was to be placed in the body.  The titanium vertebrae was further tested for biomechanics and stress risers after receiving inputs from the design team in India, Sweden, and the USA.”

Dr. SKS Marya, who is the Chairman for the Institute of Bone and Joint concluded “our team of doctors has introduced a path-breaking solution in a complicated case such as this.”

While 3D printing does continue to revolutionize the world around us – perhaps the most marvelous aspect of this disruptive technology is how it revolutionizes the world inside us as well.

Image Courtesy of the Hindustan Times

Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print, EchoPixel, Structo, 3Ders, and the Hindustan Times   

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Voodoo Manufacturing Launches Print API and Partner Program

TCT Magazine reports on the launch of two brand new initiatives created by Voodoo Manufacturing.  (Voodoo Manufacturing is a “leading software-optimized 3D printing factory.”)  “Print API offers a 3D printing service to clients, while the Partner Program encourages 3D technology companies to come together and collaborate.”  Both these initiatives “seek to centralize typically ad-hoc approaches to manufacturing and make 3D printing more accessible for clients.”

Specifically, Print API offers “on-demand 3D printing services [which] allow businesses to build never-before-possible experiences and campaigns.  Orders placed through the API will be routed directly to Voodoo, where they will be 3D printed, packaged, and then shipped back to the client or end customer.”

For example, “Dixie Products, a US supplier of practical goods, recently utilized Voodoo’s Print API during the launch of a campaign in which 10,000 custom coffee cup stoppers were ordered online, produced by Voodoo, and then shipped to individuals across the [nation.]”  In fact, in January, Voodoo Manufacturing “expanded its facility to 2,000 square feet” in order to “advance its 3D technology offerings.”

Jonathan Schwartz, Voodoo Manufacturing’s Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, adds: “this is a natural extension of what we already do, and pushes us closer to achieving our goal of making manufacturing more like software.  Through the Print API, we’re turning a process that’s typically regarded as manual and analog, and making it more scalable and accessible by turning it into an end-to-end digital pipeline.”

As for Voodoo’s Partner Program, this “will allow service providers like fabrication bureaus, design studios, or manufacturing consultancies to refer to, and receive referrals from, Voodoo Manufacturing.”

Another Voodoo Manufacturing Co-Founder, and Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Deem, explains: “the Voodoo Partner Program brings together key players in today’s 3D printing ecosystem.  We believe that a number of projects go uncompleted because they’re outside [the] scope of the provider.  The Voodoo Partner Program changes that and now projects can be passed off to a partner to complete quickly and in a cost-effective manner, increasing customer satisfaction and spreading adoption of additive manufacturing globally.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine and Voodoo Manufacturing

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Makness Desktop 3D Printer: Capsule-Based Additive Manufacturing

Geeky Gadgets has discovered a new and fascinating Kickstarter campaign.  The Makness Desktop 3D Printer was developed by a team from Barcelona in Spain.  This fascinating little gadget is aimed for the home consumer market “to be used by all family members.”  But perhaps the most intriguing thing about it is its unique capsule system.

This capsule system “allows you to easily swap out 3D printing filament to complement your needs and printing process.”

In their own words, Makness’s mission “is to bring everybody the possibility of printing in 3D at home…Makness is…a whole 3D printing experience where the printer is just the tool, but not the aim.  [Makness] comprises the whole process…[it’s] as simple as preparing a capsule coffee!”  Each capsule of filament equates to one 3D printed object.

Additionally, Makness is planning to provide a whole online catalog full of 3D models.  Makness users can easily upload their own designs onto this online catalog.  If a user’s design becomes popular enough, according to Makness, they would have the ability to become a Makness freelancer, earning money on each download of their 3D model.

For now, however, Makness is seeking about $159,050 for their Kickstarter, which will last for the next two months.  If Makness’s Kickstarter is indeed successful, the company plans to begin shipping units worldwide by September (2017).

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Geeky Gadgets, Kickstarter, and Makness

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3D Printed Vertebrae Helps Woman Walk Again

Hindustan Times reports on a miraculous surgery which just took place at a hospital in Gurgaon, India.  “A 32-year-old woman got to walk again after the successful implantation of the country’s first 3D printed artificial vertebrae.”

The woman, who had spinal tuberculosis, is a teacher.  The team of surgeons who helped her walk again was led by Dr. V Anand Naik, who is a Senior Consultant of Spinal Surgery at The Institute of Bone and Joint.  Dr. Naik’s team “replaced the damaged vertebrae with a 3D printed titanium vertebra to bridge the gap between the first and fourth cervical vertebrae.”

The doctors explained: “the surgery took 10 hours as the first, second, and third cervical vertebrae were severely damaged to the extent that there was no skeletal support available between the skull and lower cervical spine.”  Dr. Naik elaborated: “it was a very complex surgery and the patient’s condition was deteriorating by the day.  It would not have been possible to do…without 3D printing technology.”

Dr. Naik’s team “used computer software to plan every detail of the surgery.  The titanium cage was customized according to the patient’s original spine.  The high-resolution CT and MRI scans of the spine were uploaded [to] the software and a dummy of the spine was 3D printed to measure the surgical resection between the first and fourth vertebrae.  Finally, the 3D titanium implant was printed, which was to be placed in the body.  The titanium vertebrae was further tested for biomechanics and stress risers after receiving inputs from the design team in India, Sweden, and the USA.”

Dr. SKS Marya, who is the Chairman for the Institute of Bone and Joint concluded “our team of doctors has introduced a path-breaking solution in a complicated case such as this.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of the Hindustan Times

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India Develops 3D Printed Jet Engine

Both The Financial Express and Defense World report on a startling new development for the 3D printing industry in India.  Intech DMLS, which is a metal 3D printing provider and metal additive manufacturing establishment in India’s aviation sector “has announced the launch of the country’s first indigenously developed Jet Engine series.”  Intech DMLS, which was established in 2012, has its headquarters in Bengaluru.

India becomes the fourth country, after the US, Europe, and Israel to develop such 3D printing-related wizardry.  These engines will be primarily used for drones.  These new engines, dubbed MJE 20s, are to be “under the brand name Poeir Jets, promoted by Poeir Jets Ltd., an R&D subsidiary of Intech DMLS.”

The MJE 20 3D printed jet engine features thrust of 20 Kgf.  Intech DMLS says they are hard at work on another 3D printed jet engine, the SJE-350, which will have a thrust of 350 Kgf!  The SJE-350 3D printed jet engine will be used for “strategic applications.”

As the Founder and Managing Director of Intech DMLS Sridhar Balaram concludes: “[This is the first time a 3D printed jet engine has been developed by a private establishment in India.]  This augurs well for the industry in looking inwards for innovation in the high technology aviation sector.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Financial Express and Defense World

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London Mayor Publishes Plans for Largest 3D Printing Centre in UK

TCT Magazine reports on a recent publication of plans by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan: “the UK’s biggest 3D printing centre will be developed as part of a scheme to turn the Thames Estuary region on the English capital into a focal point for the creative and cultural industries.”

This 3D printing centre will be located in Silvertown.  “Khan’s proposal document outlines the potential for a state-of-the-art facility and foundry for manufacturing large-scale artworks and sculptures.  This would include the development of a 3D printing centre.”

“Across London and [southeast England], there is thought to be around 1.3 million currently working in the creative economy.  Over the next ten years, that number is expected to nearly double.  Khan believes rising land values, rents, and the lack of large-scale production spaces threaten the sector’s growth.  His proposal of seven large-scale hubs, submitted to Lord Heseltine, head of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, would theoretically change that.”

This new 3D printing centre is only a small part of Khan’s scheme, however.  He also plans to build “London’s largest film studio complex in Dagenham; a national theater-making studio in Bexley; a home for digital creativity and gaming at the University of Essex, Colchester; and Quartermaster Studios in Purfleet, the UK’s leading proposed independent media production facility.”

Khan’s “industrial strategy was produced in conjunction with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).  It aims to build on the country’s strengths, while tackling its weaknesses to ensure maximum competitiveness across the world as a creative influence.  It also seeks to drive growth across the country, opening up opportunities for more high-skilled, high-paid jobs.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine

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EchoPixel: 3D Imaging for Surgical Planning

Over at 3DPrint, there is a feature concerning the medical company EchoPixel.  According to EchoPixel’s website, the company “renders patient-specific anatomy in an intuitive, interactive virtual reality format, leading directly to increased clinical knowledge, faster operations, and better care.”

“True 3D, from EchoPixel, is an advanced medical visualization software solution.  It offers physicians an unprecedented opportunity to view and interact with patient tissues and organs in a truly 3D form, as if they were real physical objects.”

“Virtual reality tools from EchoPixel are already in use at such medical centers as Stanford University, UCSF, the Cleveland Clinic, and Cook Children’s Hospital – the last of these even having established a dedicated 3D lab bringing together 3D printing with EchoPixel technology for use in heart surgery applications.”

EchoPixel’s new 3D printing capabilities were “built on the foundation of the company’s True 3D Viewer software, which converts DICOM data sets into life-sized VR models.  Already able to virtually interact with the models, these users will now be able to set the desired anatomy and orientation, then send it off to be 3D printed.”

EchoPixel cites the many advantages of 3D modeling in medical applications: “improved communication and collaboration among different members of the surgical team,…enhanced pre-operative planning and better interactive understanding of unique anatomy [which] can be used as a reference during surgery, mirror-image modeling used for reconstruction templates, practice on models for surgical residents’ resident work hours, and increased patient education.”

Ron Schilling, EchoPixel’s CEO, is excited about the prospect of his company using 3D printing technology: “3D printing is a game changing technology, but it’s not yet accepted as a widely effective clinical tool, primarily due to the cost and time restrictions.  EchoPixel’s Interactive Virtual Reality is a complementary technology that can enable truly effective 3D modeling for the first time.  It has the potential to dramatically reduce time and cost investments.”

“[EchoPixel’s True 3D] provides fast and easy methods to create 3D models and export them to a 3D printer.  It also allows medical professionals to import 3D models for quality assurance of complex, material object print cases.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3DPrint and EchoPixel

Video Courtesy of EchoPixel

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Duke University to Host Construct3D Conference

The Journal reports on a recent announcement by Duke University.  Duke will host “a new conference on how to use 3D printing and digital fabrication in education, covering both K-12 and postsecondary.”

This conference, Construct3D 2017, will run from May 5th to the 7th, “and is expected to move to different institutions annually.”  Duke’s Construct3D 2017’s event organizers are still soliciting for speaker proposals, but they intend the conference to cover “experiences using 3D printing alone or with other types of digital fabrication; original research on the general theme of using 3D printing to enhance learning outcomes; new methods for using 3D printing and digital fabrication in educational environments or to support academic research; theoretical or educational concerns related to the topic; and innovative ideas in research and education covering 3D printing and digital fabrication.”

Construct3D 2017 has a few prominent industry sponsors.  These include “3D printer company Ultimaker, 3D design software maker Autodesk, CNC router company ShopBot, and Duke’s own Office of Information Technology.”  Interestingly, Duke’s Office of Information Technology runs a “Co-Lab, which gives students and staff hands-on and cloud-based access to 50-plus 3D printers and related equipment in the campus’ new Technology Engagement Center.”

Construct3D 2017’s website sums up its vision: “Construct3D 2017 aims to bring together educators from a broad range of educational contexts to exchange ideas and innovation – to accelerate adoption and exploration of 3D printing.  Construct3D offers educational pioneers opportunities to shape the implementation of 3D printing in education in [the] years to come.”

Conference-goers will have to pay $299 per ticket in order to attend Construct3D 2017.

Image Courtesy of Duke University, Construct3D 2017, and Ultimaker

Quotes Courtesy of The Journal and Construct3D 2017

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3D Printing…with Holograms!

Arch Daily reports on an exciting (and quite frankly mesmerizing) new additive manufacturing process developed by the tech start-up Daqri.  This process is faster than many other 3D printing techniques by using three-dimensional holograms.

“The printer works by projecting a 3D light field into a dish of the light sensitive monomer ‘goo.’  The plastic quickly hardens, allowing it to be extracted using a screen.  The whole process takes just five seconds, compared to the several minutes [required] by” a more traditional 3D printer.

This holographic 3D printer not only has super-fast speeds, it “also creates monocoque objects that don’t suffer from the weaknesses found in the ‘grain’ between layers of [more traditionally 3D printed] objects.  The process would also eliminate the need for supporting structures currently required to create some 3D objects.”

This holographic 3D printing technique is still under development, of course, so there are currently quite a few limitations – “the machine can currently only create shallow forms – since polymerization of the plastic releases energy, thicker objects may be prone to deformation from melting.”

On the bright side, Daqri has already “begun testing the hologram-producing chip for visual use.  One current prototype is capable of rendering a single image on a [car’s] windshield at 720p HD.”

However far along this process is, however, it is intensely cool to witness with your own eyes!

Image, and Quotes Courtesy of Arch Daily and Daqri

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Structo Launches DentaForm 3D Printer

3Ders reports on the launch of a brand-new marvel of bioengineering.  Structo, based in Singapore, “has launched what it is hailing as the ‘world’s fastest dental mold 3D printer.’”  They call it the DentaForm 3D printer.  It was unveiled at the Association of Orthodontists Singapore (AOSC) 2017 Show at Marina Bay Sands.

Structo entered the dental 3D printing market almost exactly a year ago, with the launches of their “first two products, the OrthoForm and the high-speed OmniForm 3D printers.  Structo’s 3D printing products, which are based on the company’s proprietary Mask Stereolithography (MSLA) technology, are specifically designed and built for applications within the dental industry, such as making molds in a quick and efficient manner.”

Structo’s brand-new DentaForm 3D Printer is ideal for specific dental applications such as “printing accurate, highly precise models for fitting crowns and bridges in the field of restorative dentistry.  [This] new 3D printer boasts a build platform for 200 x 150 mm and a printing accuracy of 50 micrometers along the x/y axes.”

As Structo’s Co-Founder, Huub van Esbroeck, explains: “we are revolutionizing digital dentistry by breaking through the speed limits of 3D printers today.  The Structo DentaForm [3D Printer] will open up a whole new range of dental applications that can now work with our lightning-fast Mask Stereolithography (MSLA) technology.”

Dhruv Sahgal, Structo’s Head of Business Development and Sales, elaborates: “customers who have experienced the speed of MSLA through the OrthoForm have been asking for a higher resolution solution for the printing of precision models.  Today we are excited and proud to bring that solution to market with the DentaForm [3D Printer.]”

Video, Image, and Quotes Courtesy of Structo and 3Ders

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BMW Invests in 3D Printing

CNET reports on a recent announcement made by BMW i Ventures, which is the automaker BMW’s venture capital arm.  BMW i Ventures has chosen to invest in the startup Desktop Metal.  Desktop Metal is “devoted to 3D printing metal objects.”

Now, of course, BMW is not the first automobile manufacturer to invest in the wonderful world of 3D printing.  (In fact, it might even be the last to the party!)  What’s interesting here, however, is the fact that the German company may be interested in bringing 3D printed elements to production vehicles:

“BMW wants to help accelerate the rollout of this technology in both its design and manufacturing departments.”  Uwe Higgin, BMW i Ventures’s Managing Partner, had this to say on the recent investment by his company: “advances in metal 3D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of applications…with grains no larger than half the diameter of a human hair, these printers can create complex shapes in small sizes, and it can work with both aluminum and steel.  It also drastically cuts down on waste material, which can provide financial and environmental benefits.”

“From rapid prototyping and printing exceptional quality parts for end-use production, to freedom of design and mass customization, Desktop Metal is shaping the way cars will be imaged, designed, and manufactured.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of BMW and CNET

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Researchers Release ‘Recipe’ for 3D Printed Bio-Bots

3D Print caught wind of a brand-new article in the scientific journal Nature Protocols.  This article, “a modular approach to the design, fabrication, and characterization of muscle-powered biological machines,” was written by the researchers Ritu Raman, Caroline Cvetkovic, and Rashid Bashir from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Bioengineering.

In plain English, the researchers have essentially published a recipe for 3D printed bio-bots.  As Raman, Cvetkovic, and Bashir explain: “the protocol teaches every step of building a bio-bot, from 3D printing the skeleton to tissue engineering the skeletal muscle actuator, including manufacturers and part numbers for every single thing we use in the lab.  This protocol is essentially intended to be a one-stop reference for any scientist around the world who wants to replicate [our results]…and give them a framework for building their own bio-bots for a variety of applications.”

These bio-bots are more than capable of adapting to their environment.  “3D printing has been a major impetus for the progress seen here in robots, through allowing such advances in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.  The biomaterials of today now allow for the creation of what the researchers call ‘smart responsive machines,’ able to work in a range of different applications.”

As their ‘recipe’ explains: “the 3D printing revolution has given us the tools required to ‘build with biology’ in this way.  We re-designed the 3D printed injection mold to produce skeletal muscle ‘rings’ that could be manually transferred to any of a wide variety of bio-bot skeletons.  These rings were shown to produce passive and active tension forces similar to those generated by muscle strips.”

“In writing the paper and releasing their bio-bot ‘recipe,’ the researchers are hoping to see others not only appreciate and re-create their work – but to improve on it as well.  The team hopes this is just the beginning as scientists everywhere are able to begin meeting current challenges in medicine and science.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print

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