3D Printing News

A note of caution to our viewers: many of these products are only available for pre-ordering and have yet to be manufactured. Others are only hopes/dreams. Hyperbole is the language of choice, so be careful!

Additionally, be forewarned that some of the materials you intend to work with, as well as particles and fumes from the printer itself, may be toxic. You may want to read this article for a further discussion of the potential problems.

We salute all of you - from children to large companies - who have turned your 3D printers into supply chains for the protective gear that healthcare workers need. You are true heroes!

Along with the MIT Media Lab, a team at Bristol in the U.K. has developed a new spray-on technique called ProtoSpray that eliminates the necessity for rectangular shapes and 2D as a basis for touchscreens. The process is deemed user-friendly, without requiring any specialized training. It utilizes conductive plastic and electroluminescent paint, which lights up when electricity is applied. This enables the production of objects of any shape that can display data and respond to touch.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have come up with a 3D printing process based on motion capture technology. The technique allows electronic sensors to be printed directly on human organs like hearts and lungs as they contract and expand. One suggested application will be in diagnosing and monitoring the lungs of patients with Covid-19.

Responding to the growing need for lightweight optical equipment aboard spacecraft and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles), 3DOPTIC service is using a plane mirror for its high-energy laser functions to facilitate 3D printing of the optical substrate. In general, optics need both sitffness, to secure line of sight, and strength, to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Several new mirror geometries are leading to alterations in technology, like thermal insulation, cooling channels, and seamless integration into other functions. In this case, ceramics feature heavily in the process.

Researchers from Tsinghua University in China have 3D bioprinted brain-like tissue that can respond to external stimuli. The primary neural cells were garnered from the cortex of a rat and embedded into 3D printed structures. The result is much like a brain in a petri dish. The cells can be exposed to experimental drugs, for example. Extensive trial and error was required to perfect a process that would work, including finding the best nozzle diameter and print rate. The 3D structures were kept alive for 4 weeks, with 85% of the material surviving the 3D printing process.

A mini 3D print of the City Hall of Antwerp shows incredible details of the interior. The building is considered the crown jewel of the city's architecture. It dates back to the 16th century and has not had any major restoration for the past 60 years. A giant 3D model of the renovated building was displayed recently at Paviljoen Antwerpen Morgen. The model was engineered in Ghent by Mindscape 3D, utiltizing the Mammoth Stereolithography printers at materialize.

Science News for Students is studying ways to construct buildings on the moon using only local materials. One of the projects being considered is the ability for astronauts to use their own pee along with moon dust to make cement. NASA estimates that every pound of material sent into orbit around the earth will cost $10,000. Since cement requires large amounts of water in its construction, and water is unavailable on the moon, human urea seems to offer an alternative.

The Tandon School of Engineering at NYU, along with The Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tubingen and Stuttgart, Germany, has produced an open-source relatively inexpensive quadruped robot. The creature is 4-legged, dog-sized, Solo 8, torque-controlled, and easily built by other facilities around the world. It will be virtually exhibited at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

Using bio-ink and light, scientists have entered the realm of science fiction by directly 3D printing a human ear-like structure under the skin of a living mouse. The process involved a 3- D printed mirror-image of a healthy human ear used without any surgery. The mirror-image is described as "a cross between a really fancy camera lens and a tiny house of mirrors." The device penetrates tissue and creates the living structure. It took only 20 seconds for the basic shape of a human ear to be created onto a living mouse: the ear-like shape retained its structure for roughly a month.

Paleontologists at St. Petersburg University have created a complex 3D virtual copy of the endocranial cast and blood vessels of the head of an ankylosaurian, a herbivorous dinosaur that looked a bit like a modern armadillo. From this model, scientists learned that the ankylosaurs could cool their brains, had a fine sense of smell, and could hear sounds of low-frequency. It was found that their brains were 1 1/2 times smaller than those of modern animals of a similar size. The ankylosaurs lived on earth about 160 million years ago and were similar to modern turtles. They were covered with thick armor and occasionally sported a bony club on the tail.

A material called Chitin is found in mushrooms, butterfly wings, and the shells of crustaceans. It is biodegradable, robust, and naturally occurring, and thus is being studied as an alternative to the use of plastics. The U.S., for example, is using Chitin to develop a coating that can enhance body armour so that it will withstand bullets, lasers, microbes, and even poison gas. 3D printing will create tiny openings that can soak up the impact of incoming materials. Implanted charcoal nanoparticles are expected to absorb potential toxic gases in the air. An adhesive layer will then bind the coating to other materials like canvas.

We review many hundreds of articles each month, culling the most significant for you. We also welcome suggestions from our viewers for products and processes that we may have missed.

c.Corinne Whitaker 2020