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3D Printing in November 2019

We begin our tour of the wonderful world of 3D printing at Relativity Space’s HQ in Los Angeles. Wired recently featured Relativity Space, the startup making waves in the 3D printed rocket industry. Indeed, “Relativity Space may have the biggest metal 3D printers in the world, and they’re cranking out parts to reinvent the rocket industry – both on Earth – and on Mars.”

Relativity Space’s Chief Executive and Cofounder Tim Ellis, 29, “wants to combine 3D printing and artificial intelligence to do for the rocket what Henry Ford did for the automobile…Relativity wants to not just build rockets, but to build them on Mars…with robots [and 3D printing.]”

At Relativity Space’s Los Angeles HQ, there are “four of the largest metal 3D in the world, churning out rocket parts day and night. The latest model of the company’s proprietary printer, dubbed Stargate, stands 30 feet tall and has two massive robotic arms protruding like tentacles from the cylindrical machine. The Stargate printers will manufacture about 95 percent, by mass, of Relativity’s first rocket, named Terran-1. The only parts which won’t be printed are the electronics, cables, and a handful of moving parts and rubber gaskets.”

In rethinking rocket design, Relativity Space says Terran-1 “will have 100 times fewer parts than a comparable rocket….by consolidating parts and optimizing them for 3D printing, Ellis says Relativity will be able to go from raw materials to the launch pad in just 60 days – in theory, anyway. Relativity hadn’t yet assembled a full Terran-1 and doesn’t expect the rocket to fly until 2021 at the earliest.”

As for printing the components, the Stargate printers are ideal for printing large components quickly, but for parts requiring more precision, “such as the rocket’s engine, Relativity uses the same commercially available metal 3D printers other aerospace companies use. These printers use a different printing technique, in which a laser welds together layers of ultra-fine stainless steel dust.”

As Ellis explains: “fully assembled, Terran-1 will stand about 100 feet tall, and be capable of delivering satellites weighing up to 2,800 pounds to low Earth orbit. This puts it above small satellite launchers like Rocket Lab’s Electron but well under the payload capacity of massive rockets like SpaceX’s Falcon 9. This will make Terran-1 particularly well-suited to carrying medium-sized satellites.”

The intersection of the space and additive manufacturing industries was also apparent this month aboard the International Space Station. Extreme Tech reports on a recent development carried out by Russian cosmonauts on the Russian side of the International Space Station up in Earth orbit.

Apparently, these Russian cosmonauts were able to 3D print synthetic meat in space! Prior to the success of this experiment, the “options for artificial meat were limited to plant-based materials from brands like Impossible and Beyond. The next step would be to generate real meat with the aid of bioprinting.”

This is where Israeli startup Aleph Farms comes in.

Aleph Farms “has partnered with several 3D printing companies to conduct this experiment with Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.” Aleph Farms claims “this is the first time anyone has produced synthetic meat in space.”

In order to create this synthetic meat, Aleph Farms’ process involves “mimicking the natural muscle-tissue regeneration process in cows. If you’ve ever eaten a bad steak, you know it’s not just the animals cells which matter – it’s also the way in which they are organized.”

Aleph Farms’ “process results in a more realistic piece of slaughter-free meat. Getting a meaty texture right has been a challenge for lab-grown meat, and doing this work in space could help inform how we do it back here on Earth.”

As for the cosmonauts’ experiment, they used a “printer developed by Russia-based 3D Bioprinting Solutions. The animal cells were mixed with growth factors to create the ‘bio-ink’ for the printer. The printer lays down layer after layer of cells, which grow into a small piece of muscle tissue. The company says bioprinting meat in space has the potential to be much faster than it is on Earth. Without gravity, the biomaterial can grow in all directions without a support structure. On Earth, a lattice is required and means you can only print from one side at a time.” Up in space, the process can be made far more efficient.

Of course, financially viable 3D printed meat on Earth is a long way off, “but the costs of space travel are already astronomical. It would behoove interstellar explorers on extended missions to produce some of their meat in 3D printers.”

However, “Aleph Farms still aims to begin expanding its beef printing techniques here on Earth, paving the way for the bioprinting and selling of meat requiring far less water and farmland than traditional cow meat.”

Finally, 3D printing not only helped industries in physical space but also in the mental space as well. Dezeen reports on a recent project developed by Japanese design studio Nendo. Apparently, Nendo envisioned an “alternative to the tricky task of nurturing a bonsai tree” and therefore created Grid-Bonsai.

Grid-Bonsai is “a 3D printed version of the plant owners can prune to their liking. The traditional Japanese art form of bonsai involves using cultivation techniques to produce small plants in pots, which imitate the appearance of full-scale trees. Bonsai artists shape their trees by trimming the leaves and pruning and bending branches, as well as adding decorative elements like moss and stones to the soil.”

This art takes an intense amount of focus and effort, of course. “Maintenance of the tree requires sunlight exposure and constant watering, and often entails a substantial amount of professional expertise, which presents a challenge for retailers…Nendo explains it is still very rare to find [bonsai trees] outside of Japan due to agricultural import restrictions. As a result, the popularity of Bonsai-growing among young people and overseas has diminished.”

This is where Nendo comes in.

The studio “aims to tackle these challenges with a 3D printed version of the bonsai tree, which takes the form of an interactive puzzle-like object.” This Grid-Bonsai has been specially designed so its owner can easily trim it, “using a pair of bonsai scissors, just like a natural plant.”

Grid-Bonsai is also “designed to be user-friendly and suitable for beginners. As Nendo’s bonsais aren’t living plants, there are no import and maintenance restrictions, making over the counter sales easy both domestically and abroad.”

Currently, the Grid-Bonsai “comes in seven different shape and sizes, all referencing typical forms of the bonsai tree. Each 3D printed tree is able to be customized from its square-shaped extruded form into a smooth, rounded design.”

Tune in next month for more 3D printing news!

Image Courtesy of Relativity Space and Wired

Quotes Courtesy of Relativity Space, Wired, Extreme Tech, Nendo, and Dezeen.

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The LEGO Group Copyright Strikes 3D Print Designs

Torrent Freak reports on a recent copyright strike enacted by the LEGO Group. “LEGO is protecting its intellectual property [apparently] by targeting fan-made 3D print designs on Thingiverse, Cults3D, and elsewhere.”

“The company hasn’t explained its motivations yet, but many people point out going after homebrew creations from some of the biggest LEGO fans might not be the best strategy.”

Recently, the LEGO Group sent out various takedown notices to various maker spaces where people shared ‘LEGO-inspired” 3D print designs. Apparently, the company “sees some 3D blueprints as copyright and/or trademark infringements.”

Thingiverse user ‘Lucina’ was among those hit with the strikes. Even though “the original LEGO brick patents have long expired, so it’s not entirely clear what the alleged infringement is here…some people have since suggested use of the term ‘LEGO’ in the posted designs could be an issue, but several other uploads using the same term were not targeted.”

To avoid legal trouble, Lucina voluntarily removed the designs. Recently, “the issue was picked up by 3D printing industry news site 3D Printing Industry which got in touch with LEGO, but without any real results. LEGO Group states that it sees 3D printing as a promising technology and is considering using it themselves, but the precise reason for the takedown remains a mystery.”

Predictably, this entire situation has created a backlash among makers against LEGO group.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Thingiverse and Torrent Freak

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3D Printed Bonsai Trees

Dezeen reports on a recent project developed by Japanese design studio Nendo. Apparently, Nendo envisioned an “alternative to the tricky task of nurturing a bonsai tree” and therefore created Grid-Bonsai.

Grid-Bonsai is “a 3D printed version of the plant owners can prune to their liking. The traditional Japanese art form of bonsai involves using cultivation techniques to produce small plants in pots, which imitate the appearance of full-scale trees. Bonsai artists shape their trees by trimming the leaves and pruning and bending branches, as well as adding decorative elements like moss and stones to the soil.”

This art takes an intense amount of focus and effort, of course. “Maintenance of the tree requires sunlight exposure and constant watering, and often entails a substantial amount of professional expertise, which presents a challenge for retailers…Nendo explains it is still very rare to find [bonsai trees] outside of Japan due to agricultural import restrictions. As a result, the popularity of Bonsai-growing among young people and overseas has diminished.”

This is where Nendo comes in.

The studio “aims to tackle these challenges with a 3D printed version of the bonsai tree, which takes the form of an interactive puzzle-like object.” This Grid-Bonsai has been specially designed so its owner can easily trim it, “using a pair of bonsai scissors, just like a natural plant.”

Grid-Bonsai is also “designed to be user-friendly and suitable for beginners. As Nendo’s bonsais aren’t living plants, there are no import and maintenance restrictions, making over the counter sales easy both domestically and abroad.”

Currently, the Grid-Bonsai “comes in seven different shape and sizes, all referencing typical forms of the bonsai tree. Each 3D printed tree is able to be customized from its square-shaped extruded form into a smooth, rounded design.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Nendo and Dezeen

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Personalized 3D Printed Prosthetic Breasts

3D Printing Industry reports on myReflection, a medical start-up based in New Zealand. Apparently, myReflection has “developed personalized breast prostheses for cancer patients post-mastectomy, using 3D scanning and 3D printed molds.”

These prostheses “are made from a 3D torso scan and are designed with an inner core and an ISO-certified outer silicone. As myReflection’s Chief Technology Officer and Head of Research and Development Jason Barnett explains: “traditional prostheses don’t tend to last long, so there’s a real concern when you start to see your generic prosthesis slowly deteriorate, knowing you might have to buy the next one out of your own pocket. The material we use for our prostheses is very stable, elastic, and tear-resistant so it can last for four years, but it depends on the user. Ultimately, each prosthesis is made to be usable and loseable, and it’s about giving these women a sense of confidence.”

The Director of myReflection, Tim Carr, “began exploring 3D printing for the creation of a breast prosthesis in 2015 after his partner Fay Cobbett was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

After a not-so-successful stint with traditionally-manufactured prostheses, the couple discovered 3D printed molds were “a successful method for creating alternative prostheses. They established myReflection in February 2019 to treat women post-mastectomy.”

For now, “the company is offering 3D scanning consultations in Auckland only, and a 3D printed prosthetic is priced at US $408. They aim to produce 320 units sold in one month (approx. $196,000).”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of myReflection and 3D Printing Industry

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Wired Features Relativity Space

Wired recently featured Relativity Space, the startup making waves in the 3D printed rocket industry. Indeed, “Relativity Space may have the biggest metal 3D printers in the world, and they’re cranking out parts to reinvent the rocket industry – both on Earth – and on Mars.”

Relativity Space’s Chief Executive and Cofounder Tim Ellis, 29, “wants to combine 3D printing and artificial intelligence to do for the rocket what Henry Ford did for the automobile…Relativity wants to not just build rockets, but to build them on Mars…with robots [and 3D printing.]”

At Relativity Space’s Los Angeles HQ, there are “four of the largest metal 3D in the world, churning out rocket parts day and night. The latest model of the company’s proprietary printer, dubbed Stargate, stands 30 feet tall and has two massive robotic arms protruding like tentacles from the cylindrical machine. The Stargate printers will manufacture about 95 percent, by mass, of Relativity’s first rocket, named Terran-1. The only parts which won’t be printed are the electronics, cables, and a handful of moving parts and rubber gaskets.”

In rethinking rocket design, Relativity Space says Terran-1 “will have 100 times fewer parts than a comparable rocket….by consolidating parts and optimizing them for 3D printing, Ellis says Relativity will be able to go from raw materials to the launch pad in just 60 days – in theory, anyway. Relativity hadn’t yet assembled a full Terran-1 and doesn’t expect the rocket to fly until 2021 at the earliest.”

As for printing the components, the Stargate printers are ideal for printing large components quickly, but for parts requiring more precision, “such as the rocket’s engine, Relativity uses the same commercially available metal 3D printers other aerospace companies use. These printers use a different printing technique, in which a laser welds together layers of ultra-fine stainless steel dust.”

As Ellis explains: “fully assembled, Terran-1 will stand about 100 feet tall, and be capable of delivering satellites weighing up to 2,800 pounds to low Earth orbit. This puts it above small satellite launchers like Rocket Lab’s Electron but well under the payload capacity of massive rockets like SpaceX’s Falcon 9. This will make Terran-1 particularly well-suited to carrying medium-sized satellites.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Relativity Space and Wired

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New 3D Printing Push for US Army

The Army Times ran a recent story highlighting the push within the US Army to bring advanced manufacturing to troops in the field in a more intense manner.

Indeed, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy “announced an advanced manufacturing policy…which looks to use technologies like 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and composite materials to change everything from how soldiers fix equipment in the field, to how much their weapon systems weigh.”

The Army’s vision is, instead of “an armor brigade combat team requesting replacement parts from a warehouse 1,000 miles away, troops could eventually have a 3D printer churning them out inside the Conex box of a sustainment brigade, putting an Abrams tank, for example, back into the fight faster and cheaper.”

McCarthy claims “the initiative he signed will put strategic guidance out to the service and industry partners to indicate the fact Army leaders will be putting the resources, people, and funding into advanced manufacturing technology in future funding plans.”

As McCarthy elaborates: “we’re already doing it in 2021, but we needed to get more aggressive so we could have a comprehensive approach. The Army has had some success in looking at advanced manufacturing concepts, such as the work done in 3D-printing at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, where a Center of Excellence for Advanced and Additive Manufacturing was completed in May. We want to now tie that with all the research and development efforts we have with Army Futures Command, bring [Army Materiel Command] together.”

“If you had an expeditionary capability, for example, to print parts, you’d be able to extend the range of a brigade combat team. Their ability to replace parts quickly, doing it within hours, as supposed to weeks. … There’s an immediate return where you can put it in to tactical formations…A key principle in manufacturing weapons systems is how do you find ways to reduce the weight of the weapon system so it is faster and it can carry more weapons or avionics payloads, because you reduced the weight of parts.”

As another US Army spokesperson added: “China has been investing significantly. They’re predicted to be the largest user of robotics in production by the year 2025. They just bought 400,000 3D printers and they’re putting them in every elementary school in the next two years. If we don’t start taking action, we will fall behind and we need to catch up.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of the US Army and The Army Times

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Russian Cosmonauts 3D Print Beef in Space

Extreme Tech reports on a recent development carried out by Russian cosmonauts on the Russian side of the International Space Station up in Earth orbit.

Apparently, these Russian cosmonauts were able to 3D print synthetic meat in space! Prior to the success of this experiment, the “options for artificial meat were limited to plant-based materials from brands like Impossible and Beyond. The next step would be to generate real meat with the aid of bioprinting.”

This is where Israeli startup Aleph Farms comes in.

Aleph Farms “has partnered with several 3D printing companies to conduct this experiment with Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.” Aleph Farms claims “this is the first time anyone has produced synthetic meat in space.”

In order to create this synthetic meat, Aleph Farms’ process involves “mimicking the natural muscle-tissue regeneration process in cows. If you’ve ever eaten a bad steak, you know it’s not just the animals cells which matter – it’s also the way in which they are organized.”

Aleph Farms’ “process results in a more realistic piece of slaughter-free meat. Getting a meaty texture right has been a challenge for lab-grown meat, and doing this work in space could help inform how we do it back here on Earth.”

As for the cosmonauts’ experiment, they used a “printer developed by Russia-based 3D Bioprinting Solutions. The animal cells were mixed with growth factors to create the ‘bio-ink’ for the printer. The printer lays down layer after layer of cells, which grow into a small piece of muscle tissue. The company says bioprinting meat in space has the potential to be much faster than it is on Earth. Without gravity, the biomaterial can grow in all directions without a support structure. On Earth, a lattice is required and means you can only print from one side at a time.” Up in space, the process can be made far more efficient.

Of course, financially viable 3D printed meat on Earth is a long way off, “but the costs of space travel are already astronomical. It would behoove interstellar explorers on extended missions to produce some of their meat in 3D printers.”

However, “Aleph Farms still aims to begin expanding its beef printing techniques here on Earth, paving the way for the bioprinting and selling of meat requiring far less water and farmland than traditional cow meat.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Extreme Tech

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3D Printed…Boat!

Futurism reports on three world records the University of Maine just shattered “in one fell swoop.” Apparently, “using the world’s largest polymer 3D printer, a team at UMaine build the world’s largest 3D printed boat.”

This “world’s largest 3D printed boat” also happens to be “the world’s largest solid 3D printed object.” Also astoundingly, this 3D printed boat took a mere (and also record-setting) three days to construct. Truly a marvel of additive manufacturing.

This 3D printed boat project was undertaken by UMaine’s  “Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which unveiled the 3D printed boat during a ceremony involving officials from Guinness World Records, to confirm the group had indeed set three new records.”

At the very end of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center event, “the team tested the seaworthiness of its 25 foot long, 5,000 pound ship, which was dubbed 3Dirigo, in UMaine’s Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory, which features a multidirectional wave basin and a high performance wind machine.”

Additionally, “according to a UMaine press release, 3Dirigo isn’t even the largest object the school’s 3D printer can construct. Apparently, if pushed to its limits, this 3D printer can print objects up to 100 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 10 feet high.”

“The school already has several applications for the printer lined up, too, including a partnership with the U.S. Army, through which it’ll help develop shelter systems for soldiers the military could quickly deploy.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of UMaine and Futurism

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3D Printing Helps Recycle Nuclear Reactor Waste

SciTechDaily reports on recent advances announced by a team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Apparently, this team “printed 3D parts capable of paving the way to recycling up to 97 percent of the waste produced by nuclear reactors.”

As Argonne Nuclear Chemist Andrew Breshears explains: “this additional step may reduce the length of storage almost one thousandfold.” Traditionally, recycling nuclear reactor waste can be done in several ways. One of these ways was, in fact, developed by Argonne scientists all the way back in the 1970s. “With these approaches, nuclear engineers can recycle 95 percent of the spent nuclear fuel from a reactor, leaving only five percent to be stored as long-term waste. But now, for the first time, Argonne scientists have printed 3D parts capable of recycling even more nuclear waste.”

First, the team separated “the highly radioactive actinide isotopes – americium and curium – from the lanthanides, or rare earth metals, which, for the most part, are not radioactive.” Then the team redesigned the Actinide Lanthanide Separation Process (ALSEP), which was developed back in 2013, “around centrifugal contactors.” This sped up the process.

“By following a 36-step separation blueprint, the scientists removed 99.9 percent of the actinides from the lanthanides. This was a striking feat because both sets of elements share similar chemistry.”

“Along the way, the scientists found two additional benefits of using 3D-printed parts. The first is the contactors offered inherent safeguards against nuclear proliferation. The tubes connecting the 20 contactors run inside each device, making it more difficult to divert plutonium or other radioactive material from the process.” Secondly, 3D printed parts are far more flexible. As the team explains: “if a part did fail, it would be easy to reprint and replace. We could easily add or remove steps.”

This is, of course, a step in the right direction. But more research, as always, is needed.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of SciTechDaily

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Prusa Announces the Mini

Electronics Weekly caught wind of a brand new desktop 3D printer released by Prusa, the Prusa Mini. Prusa, which is based in Prague, announced the Mini’s build volume will be 180x180x180mm.

Prusa “is marketing the Mini as a production machine as well as a printer for prototyping and makers.” Indeed, according to Prusa’s announcement, “the Mini was designed to be a 3D printing workhorse and it offers the same level of reliability and quality as the rest of the Original Prusa family. While a large [i3] print platform has its advantages, you can produce a higher number of parts when you utilize parallel printing. Run the print job on two-plus [Mini] 3D printers to maximize your production.”

In order to support this, Prusa “predicts printing 35x of a nominal part every 24 hours on an i3, which costs 900 euros, or 40x parts every 24 hours on a pair of Minis.” The official launch of the Prusa Mini will occur later this month.

As for layer height, the Prusa Mini is 0.05-0.35mm high, while its max temperatures are 280 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Celsius. The Prusa Mini’s extruder is a “Bowden system with 3:1 gearing ratio, while its print surface is a magnetic heat-bed with removable PEI spring steel sheets.” The Prusa Mini’s filament diameter is 1.75mm and the 3D printer as a whole supports PLA, PETG, ASA, ABS, and Flex materials.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Prusa and Electronics Weekly

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Study Discusses Harmful Effects of Indoor Desktop 3D Printing

3D Printing Media Network reports on a recent study released by Professor Rodney Weber and his team at Georgia University of Technology.

This multi-year study focused on the impact desktop 3D printing “could have on indoor air quality.” Additionally, this study awarded the RIZE One 3D printer with the first ever UL 2904 GREENGUARD certification, which “addresses 3D printer particle emissions and safety.”

“Ever since the advent of desktop 3D printing technology, the question of safety has been a concern, especially regarding volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles (UFPs) in the surrounding air. The study conducted by Georgia University of Technology and UL has arguably been one of the most comprehensive and in depth investigations into the topic.”

This study was published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology. It shows “there is indeed a health risk associated with the particles emitted into the air by FDM 3D printers. Specifically, particles emitted from 3D printers can have a negative impact on indoor air quality and can harm respiratory health.”

As Rodney Weber, Professor of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech explains: “the team collected particles created by the 3D printing process and conducted various tests to assess the risk and impact of the particles on respiratory cell cultures. All of theses tests, which were done at high doses, showed there is a toxic response to the particles from various types of filaments used by these 3D printers.”

“The new findings build upon the team’s existing research, which found hotter printing temperatures resulted in higher emissions, meaning higher temperature filaments, such as ABS, created more particles than filaments with lower melting temperatures, such as PLA.”

Professor Weber was quick to caution against panic, however. He and his team “have released a handful of measures makers can take to reduce the risk of emissions exposure. They include operating desktop machines in well-ventilated areas, using the lowest nozzle temperatures possible (dependent on the filament), standing away from 3D printers while they are in operation, and using 3D printers which have been tested or verified for low emissions.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Georgia Tech and 3D Printing Media Network

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Stratasys Launches 3D Printed Synthetic Organs

TechRepublic reports on a recent announcement by Stratasys. Stratasys has announced a new 3D printer, “along with three new materials and new software to power the whole platform.”

This new J750 Digital Anatomy 3D Printer is about to print out synthetic organs, which in the future could be used to replace cadavers as training tools for medical students. As Stratasys Medical Segment Leader Scott Drikakis explains: “the GrabCad Print Digital Anatomy software powers everything.”

“If there is a defect in the heart, a structural abnormality, with this solution, we can 3D print a synthetic digital twin of that patient. A surgeon can also replicate the physical characteristics of a patient’s illness, such as calcifications in veins and arteries.”

Along with the printer, Stratasys also released three new materials. While TissueMatrix is “the softest material available in 3D printing,” Drikakis explains “GelMatrix and BoneMatrix involve an advance in material science for Stratasys. These materials are softer and therefore more flexible, which gives more control to blend them based on the desired outcome. Now Stratasys is making functional models with the same biomechanical properties as a human heart.”

Drikakis elaborates on the development process. Apparently, “Stratasys developed the new printing system based on customer requests for more realistic organs. During the four-year development process, the company’s top priority was to make the software as user friendly as possible.”

This process involves a surgeon starting “with a CT scan or an MRI and segments the image. This process marks the sections of the image that contain the organ to be replicated by the 3D printer. Sections of the scan showing surrounding tissue or bone are discarded. This segmentation is loaded into the software and printing begins. Printing a standard heart model takes between six and eight hours. Printing a thigh bone can take up to 16 hours.”

The goal is to replace cadavers in medical training eventually. (Today a cadaver can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $5,000 – not even counting the human life involved!)

Already, “more than 100 hospitals in America and 85 of the top 100 global medical device companies are using this new printer.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Stratasys and TechRepublic

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