3d-printed-skull

The Wondrous World of Bioprinting

This past month, 3D printing has been in the news more and more it seems. 

Whether this is because of NASA’s new initiative to have a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station (which has led to a 3D printed wrench design ‘emailed’ into space) or due to this viral video by 3D Systems about a two legged dog’s 3D printed prosthetics, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be in the dark about this rapidly evolving technology. 

Yet, perhaps the biggest news this month has concerned the use of 3D printing within the medical industry.  To be honest, this news hasn’t just been coming out this past month, either. 

Last month, (the December 2014 Issue of Replicator World), we sat down with medical design firm Worrell’s Business Development Manager, Derek Mathers, in order to discuss his company’s new collaboration with Stratasys. 

In that interview, Mr. Mathers discussed the benefits of using 3D printed injection molding (which is a specific form of 3D printing) within the medical industry: “traditional tooling is expensive and a hassle to deal with, and the first run of parts is usually never correct.  Our clients and designers have been frustrated by tooling their entire careers since expensive metal molds are usually rendered worthless with a small design change.  3D molds take just hours to print and can be quickly switched out of an aluminum mudset, making design iterations a delight instead of a budget breaking mistake.”

We asked Mr. Mathers what sorts of medical devices Worrell will print using injection-molded prototypes.  He replied that “the bigger question here is what materials we can manufacture – and the answer is most thermoplastics, TPEs, and some thermosets.  This enables us to make small batches of usually around 100 small to medium sized parts in PC, ABS, PP, Peek, and many other materials.”

He sees the medical industry being revolutionized by 3D printing: “It will start with making our current technologies better, such as 3D IM to injection molding.  3D printing will help introduce technology faster, allowing companies to rapidly introduce new medical devices to the marketplace and do so with higher quality products.”

“Next, it will be used in hospitals to support surgeons and doctors to improve their ability to care for a patient – whether it’s companies like Materialise creating titanium surgical guides to make complex surgeries simple, or companies like Oxford Performance Materials making titanium bone replacements.”

“Finally, in the future it will be used to rebuild human [bodies] before medical devices are ever needed, by creating and rebuilding organs lay-by-layer using your specific stem cells.”

Mr. Mathers concluded our conversation by explaining how “this [specific 3D printed injection molding] process is a monumental step for what has been a fairly unchanged product development process for a long time.  By integrating 3D printing with injection molding, we are breathing fresh, exciting life into an industry that hasn’t changed much since its inception.”

Mr. Mathers and his team at Worrell are not the only ones changing the way technology is used within the medical industry, however. 

Indeed, in an extensive article for the New Yorker this past month, Jerome Groopman, a biology writer for that esteemed magazine, dove into the medical potential of 3D printing.

Groopman begins by discussing how 3D printers are now being used to create tissue for bodies that need it.  He then goes on to expound upon a collaboration between 3D Systems and Invisalign, “an alternative to the metal braces used in orthodontics.”

The most interesting portion of the article, however, is Groopman’s discussion with Jennifer Lewis, a materials scientist at Harvard, and one of the pioneers into the new technology of bioprinting.

Lewis, along with graduate student David Kolesky, published a paper in Advanced Materials “describing a potential way to keep large masses of cells thriving” using a customized 3D printer.  Groopman was even able to see a group of these 3D printer-created tissues and cells up close and in person.

On top of these fascinating discoveries, another announcement within the medical industry involved the extensive help of 3D printing recently.  As was first reported by Medical Xpress, “physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston” announced the use of 3D printed models during “the country’s first full-face transplantation in 2011” at the most recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

“Researchers are using computed tomography (CT scans) and 3D printing technology to recreate life-size models of patients’ heads to assist in” face transplant surgeries. 

Frank J. Rybicki, M.D., radiologist and director of the [Women’s] Hospital’s Applied Imaging Science Laboratory, and one of the main researchers during this project, elaborated upon the merits of using 3D printing: ““this is a complex surgery and its success is dependent on surgical planning.  Our study demonstrated that if you use this model and hold [a model of] the skull in your hand, there is no better way to plan the procedure.”

Each of the transplant patience underwent CT scans with “3D visualization.  To build each life-size skull model, the CT images of the transplant recipient’s head were segmented and processed using customized software, creating specialized data files that were input into a 3D printer.”

Dr. Rybicki further demonstrated that “if there are absent or missing bony structures needed for reconstruction, we can make modifications based on the 3D printed model prior to the actual transplantation, instead of taking the time to do alterations during ischemia time.  The 3D model is important for making the transplant cosmetically appealing.”

3D printing is now a regular fixture during surgical planning for face transplantation procedures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Dr. Rybicki concludes: “you can spin, rotate, and scroll though as many CT images as you want but there’s no substitute for having the real thing in your hand.  The ability to work with the model gives you an unprecedented level of reassurance and confidence in the procedure.” 

Yet another recent article discussing the merits of the use of 3D printing for medical devices was published by the Collegian.  It discussed Colorado graduate student and fifth year Ph.D candidate Megan Aanstoos’ collaboration with Idea-2-Product Lab 3D Printing Lab in order to develop a new type of hearing aid cover.  3D printing allowed Aanstoos and her team to create and test prototypes in order to build a product closer to what they had envisioned from the beginning. 

All of these medical innovations through the creative use of 3D printing was evidently not enough for the world this month, however. Scientific American reports that scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London have “developed a new use for 3D printing, putting it to work to create personalized replica models of cancerous parts of the body to allow doctors to target tumors more precisely.”

Glenn Flux, head of radioisotope physics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and his team, used a Stratasys 3D printer in order to create “accurate modeling, [which] will allow doctors in the future to fine-tune dosing, resulting in the likely routine use of such 3D printouts.”

Flux and his team “published a technical paper on their process in the journal Medical Physics [this past] July, showing the models can accurately replicate the shape of a patient’s tumor and the surrounding organs, and are now looking to confirm the benefits in larger studies.”

Flux adds, “if we personalize treatment according to the radiation dose delivered to the tumor, then we should have a better outcome.  I think it will have a huge impact.”

This all just goes to show you how 3D printing has the capacity to revolutionize any industry, even (and perhaps especially) those that have not changed for many decades, as Mr. Mathers explained to us. 

Which brings us back to that recent viral video of Derby the dog and his new set of prosthetics.  Even five years ago, nobody could have dreamed that animals or humans would be able to 3D print customized medical devices that could benefit life so adeptly. 

But as 3D printing is doing in so many industries today, this technology is proving the skeptics wrong.

Image Courtesy of 3dprinting.com

Quotes Courtesy of Worrell, The New Yorker, Medical Xpress, The Collegian, and Scientific American

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Crushing Cancer With 3D Printing

Scientific American reports scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London have “developed a new use for 3D printing, putting it to work to create personalized replica models of cancerous parts of the body to allow doctors to target tumors more precisely.”

This new research “involves printing 3D ‘phantoms’ of tumors and organs based on CT scans taken of patients during treatment.  These plastic moulds can be filled with liquid, allowing experts to see in detail the flow of so-called radiopharmaceuticals.”

As Scientific American explains, “radiopharmaceuticals are drugs containing radioactive material that may be injected into a vein, taken by mouth, or placed in a body cavity.  The challenge is to give a dose that is high enough to kill cancer cells, without causing excessive collateral damage to healthy tissue.”

“Radiopharmaceuticals are used to treat a number of different tumors, including thyroid cancer, cancers of nerve cells in children, and certain tumors that have spread to the bones.”

Glenn Flux, head of radioisotope physics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and his team, used a Stratasys 3D printer in order to create “accurate modeling, [which] will allow doctors in the future to fine-tune dosing, resulting in the likely routine use of such 3D printouts.”

Flux and his team “published a technical paper on their process in the journal Medical Physics [this past] July, showing the models can accurately replicate the shape of a patient’s tumor and the surrounding organs, and are now looking to confirm the benefits in larger studies.”

Flux adds, “if we personalize treatment according to the radiation dose delivered to the tumor, then we should have a better outcome.  I think it will have a huge impact.”

Photo Courtesy of E & T

Quotes Courtesy of Scientific American

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3D Printing Finds a Way to Create Dinosaur Replicas

3DPrint.com has a fascinating article about a Texas-based company, Deep in the Heart Art Foundry.

The Art Foundry “has been around since 1980.  They have taken part in many unique projects, which include the sculpting and creation of statues and monuments, as well as topography maps.”

But now they have turned to 3D printing. 

They have recently been commissioned to help create “an installation at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum, located in Australia’s outback.  Deep in the Heart was asked to create 12 separate 3D printed dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs, after being 3D printed, will be cast in bronze and then installed as part of an exhibit at the museum.”

The Art Foundry team used a Gigabot 3D printer to create the first dinosaur, “a Wintonopus, which was designed by artist Travis Tischler.” 

“The 3D printing process is saving the team a lot of time and money in the creation of the final bronze cast statues.” 

As Ashley Garza, Deep in the Heart’s Executive Assistant explains, “we are printing them to go directly to casting, effectively skipping 4 major steps in the traditional casting process (1 – enlargement, 2 – final sculpt at full size, 3 – rubber mold making, and 4 – wax pattern production).”

The remaining eleven dinosaurs “will be created in separate parts before being assembled.  The final 3D printed dinosaurs will range in length from 3 feet up to 18 feet.”  Deep in the Heart expects the project to last the next 5-6 months. 

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of 3DPrint.com     

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3D Printed Nanoparticle Contact Lens

CNET reports yet another medical breakthrough for 3D printing. 

Princeton University’s new quantum dot LED (also known as nanoparticles) 3D printer has helped researchers create a device that can project beams of colored light, integrating it with a standard contact lens.

“It’s not wearable yet: the lens itself is made of hard plastic, which is unsuitable to be worn on the eye, and the QLEDs require an external power supply.  However, it does demonstrate the feasibility of 3D printed electronics, integrated with complex shapes to create fully realized devices.”

Michael McAlpine, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University’s McAlpine Research Group, explains: “this shows that we can use 3D printing to create complex electronics including semiconductors.  We were able to 3D print an entire device, in this case an LED.  We used the quantum dots as an ink.  We were able to generate two different colors, orange and green.”

Last year, McAlpine and his team at Princeton “3D printed an ear out of living tissue embedded with an antenna for a cochlear implant.”

In 2014, however, the team announced the brand new $20,000 QLED 3D printer.  It works by printing the QLEDs “in a series of five layers.  A ring made of silver nanoparticles on the bottom layer is the metal conduit for a mechanical circuit.  Two polymer layers follow to supply and transfer the electrical current to the next layer, consisting of cadmium selenide nanoparticles (the quantum dots) contained in a zinc sulphide case.  The top and final layer is the cathode, made of eutectic gallium indium.”

McAlpine shares his vision: “the conventional microelectronics industry is really good at making 2D electronic gadgets.  With TVs and phones, the screen is flat.  But what 3D printing gives you is a third dimension, and that could be used for things that people haven’t imagined yet, like 3D structures that could be used in the body.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of CNET     

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3D Printed Wristband Records TV When You Fall Asleep On The Couch

3D printing blog 3Ders.org recently wrote about a new 3D printed wristband. 

Virgin Media commissioned UK teenagers Ryan Oliver, 15 and Jonathan Kingsley, 14, “both students at industry specialist Manchester Creative Studio” to create the 3D printed wristband. 

The idea behind this technology is to create “a wristband that senses when its wearer falls asleep.”  Once this occurs, the ‘KipstR wristband,’ “then mimics a TiVo remote by pausing and recording whatever is currently being watched…other family members can then change the channel without interfering with the recording, while [the user] can automatically resume watching once [they’ve woken up] again.”

The device works in tandem with Virgin Media’s TiVo service.  “The wristband (which hasn’t been released yet) will…only be available for Virgin Media-users in Britain and will be trialed [during Christmas 2014] by a select number of customers.”   

In order to create the KipstR wristband, Oliver and Kingsley used a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D printer.  The wristband “features a pulse-oximeter, a non-invasive device capable of measuring when someone dozes off.  [This is because when] people fall asleep, the blood flow (and the amount of oxygen that circulates through it)…changes, and the oximeter (which is essentially a sensor for [the] pulse) picks up on that alteration.  Theoretically, future iterations could also be capable of picking up on emotional reactions from viewers, [as these also affect] blood flow.”    

Neil Illingworth, the head of Advanced Technology and Innovation at Virgin Media explained that the company “had been looking for promising young people who could be inspired to pursue an engineering career.  ‘We discovered a couple of young lads called Ryan [Oliver] and Jonathan [Kingsley], who are fourteen and fifteen [respectively], and fantastic innovators.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of 3Ders.org

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NASA ‘Emails’ 3D Printed Wrench to ISS

Earlier in this issue, we here at Replicator World reported on the first object 3D printed aboard the International Space Station. 

Now, 20 3D objects later, NASA has apparently ‘emailed’ a design for a wrench to be 3D printed in space. 

According to Business Insider, “in the first-ever case of ‘emailing’ a tool into space to meet the needs of an astronaut, ISS commander Barry Wilmore [pictured above] was in need of a ratcheting socket wrench, so he had one emailed to the 3D printer that’s now aboard the ISS.”

This is the same 3D printer created by Made In Space that is currently aboard the International Space Station. 

“Made in Space designs the 3D printed hardware in CAD software, which is then converted into a file-format the 3D printer can read.  The company then sends the file to NASA, which is then transmitted to the ISS.  The Space Station’s 3D printer can receive the code and begin manufacturing immediately.”

The Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Made In Space, Mike Chen, adds that “this type of technology translates to lower costs for experiments, faster design iteration, and a safer, better experience for the crew members, who can use it to replace broken parts or create new tools on demand.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Business Insider

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The New Yorker Discusses BioPrinting

In a recent issue of The New Yorker Magazine, Jerome Groopman, who writes primarily about medicine and biology, and studies endothelial cells, “which line the insides of our veins, arteries, and capillaries”, wrote an extensive article about the medical potential of 3D printing. 

Groopman begins by discussing how 3D printers are now being used to create tissue for bodies that need it.  He then goes on to expound upon a collaboration between 3D Systems and Invisalign, “an alternative to the metal braces used in orthodontics.”

The most interesting portion of the article, however, is Groopman’s discussion with Jennifer Lewis, a materials scientist at Harvard, and one of the pioneers into the new technology of bioprinting.

Lewis, along with graduate student David Kolesky, published a paper in Advanced Materials “describing a potential way to keep large masses of cells thriving” using a customized 3D printer.  Groopman was even able to see a group of these 3D printer-created tissues and cells up close and in person. 

Check out the article here!

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of The New Yorker        

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3DSystems Gives Derby the Dog Mobility

Techcrunch got wind of a recent YouTube video uploaded by 3DSystems.

In the video, the company tries its best to bring tears to our eyes by introducing us to Derby the dog.

Derby was “born with deformed legs…[and] placed into a foster home by The Peace and Paws Rescue and ended up with a 3DSystems employee, Tara Anderson.”  Anderson is 3DSystems’ Director of CJP Product Management.

Along with “Derrick Campana, an animal orthotist”, Anderson “scanned Derby’s legs and made cradles and blades that fit him perfectly.  As was said in the above video, they used 3D Systems’ Connex 550 3D printer to print the “two blade-like attachments that [Derby now] uses to run and scamper.”

Anderson, to the agreement of us all, added: “this is what 3D printing is all about.  To be able to help anybody  – a dog, a person – to have a better life? There’s just no better thing to be involved in.”

Video Courtesy of 3D Systems

Photo Courtesy of Tech Radar

Quotes Courtesy of Techcrunch

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3D Printed Models and Face Transplants

According to Medical Xpress, “physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston” announced the use of 3D printed models during “the country’s first full-face transplantation in 2011” at the most recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

“Researchers are using computed tomography (CT scans) and 3D printing technology to recreate life-size models of patients’ heads to assist in” face transplant surgeries. 

The research team, which was led by “Frank J. Rybicki, M.D., radiologist and director of the [Women’s] hospital’s Applied Imaging Science Laboratory, Bohdan Pomahac, M.D., lead face transplantation surgeon, and Amir Imanzadeh, M.D., research fellow, assessed the clinical impact of using 3D printed models of the recipient’s head in the planning of face transplantation surgery.”

As Dr. Rybicki explained, “this is a complex surgery and its success is dependent on surgical planning.  Our study demonstrated that if you use this model and hold [a model of] the skull in your hand, there is no better way to plan the procedure.”

Each of the transplant patience underwent CT scans with “3D visualization.  To build each life-size skull model, the CT images of the transplant recipient’s head were segmented and processed using customized software, creating specialized data files that were input into a 3D printer.”

Dr. Rybicki further demonstrated that “if there are absent or missing bony structures needed for reconstruction, we can make modifications based on the 3D printed model prior to the actual transplantation, instead of taking the time to do alterations during ischemia time.  The 3D model is important for making the transplant cosmetically appealing.”

3D printing is now a regular fixture during surgical planning for face transplantation procedures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Dr. Rybicki concludes: “you can spin, rotate, and scroll though as many CT images as you want but there’s no substitute for having the real thing in your hand.  The ability to work with the model gives you an unprecedented level of reassurance and confidence in the procedure.” 

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Medical Xpress

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Royal Mail and iMakr Team Up

PSFK reports that the UK’s national postal service, the Royal Mail, has struck a partnership with 3D printing specialist iMakr.

“The scheme will put 3D printing services in delivery offices [around the UK], the way some post office shops have a copy machine and fax available.”

The first location for this pilot program will be “central London’s New Cavendish St delivery office, and [the Royal Mail will] expand it as demand and success dictate.”

The Royal Mail has already launched “a variety of digitally-printed knickknacks available for order as part of the initiative.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of PSFK    

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Ph.D Candidate and 3D Printing Lab Develop Hearing Aid Cover

The Collegian recently wrote about Colorado State graduate student and fifth year Ph.D candidate Megan Aanstoos.

Aanstoos studies biomedical engineering and has been hearing impaired for most of her life. 

“When [Aanstoos] was looking into buying new hearing aids, she realized that many of them had a design flaw that would cause a loud squeaky noise to occur whenever something made contact with them.”   

Aanstoos was frustrated: “this was my money that I would be spending on something that didn’t work.  As a biomedical engineer, that didn’t sit very well with me.”

So Aanstoos contacted Idea-2-Product Lab 3D Printing Lab, in order to develop a solution herself.  She “had the idea to increase the depth of the microphone cover so that it would” cease to make the irritating noise. 

As David Prawel, the director of the lab, explained, “all projects in the 3D Printing Lab start with understanding the vision of the project and identifying if it is feasible for the lab.  ‘We’re a community lab, you never know what’s going to come in the door.”

Aanstoos worked with Craig Egan, “who worked in the lab at the time and ended up creating the design for the hearing aid covers.  Egan is also hearing impaired.”

Egan is currently a master’s student at the University of Colorado at Denver, and both he and Aanstoos “were able to create and test prototypes.”

As Aanstoos explains, “[Egan] was able to put his architectural skills together with my idea and biomedical knowledge so that we could design something that would be like a removable cover…we were able to try different ideas and actually see and touch and feel them to see how well they would work.”

Image Courtesy of Idea-2-Product Lab 3D Printing Lab

Quotes Courtesy of The Collegian

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NASA Prints First 3D Object in Space

Last issue, we wrote about NASA’s partnership with the company Made In Space in order to bring 3D printing into space. 

Now, according to CNET, the first 3D printed object in space has been created.  Printed by Made in Space’s customized 3D printer aboard the International Space Station, the object is “a part for the printer itself – a faceplate for the extruder printhead, emblazoned with the logo for Made in Space…and the NASA logo.”

The print job was completed on November the 24th at 9:28 pm GMT.  Mike Snyder, principal investigator for this astronomical experiment and Made in Space Director of Research and Development, said, “this project demonstrates the basic fundamentals of useful manufacturing in space.  The results of this experiment will serve as a stepping-stone for significant future capabilities that will allow for the reduction of spare parts and mass on a spacecraft, which will change exploration mission architectures for the better.  Manufacturing components on demand will yield more efficient, more reliable, and less Earth-dependent space programs in the near future.”

Made in Space CEO Aaron Kemmer chimed in: “When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space.  We look at the operation of the 3D printer [in space] as a transformative moment, not just for space development, but for the capability of our species to live away from Earth.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of CNET

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