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. Additionally, here is a later review of some of the known health hazards.

One of the problems with understanding the increased glucose metabolism of cancer cells is the low resolution of fluorodeoxy glucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). A study has been released discussing the use of radioluminescence microscopy for imaging FDG with high resolution. The researchers used a multicellular tumor spheroid (A59 lung adenocarcinoma) within an artificial matrix in order to copy both the tumor and its surrounding stroma. The cultured cells were exposed to high resolution imaging after incubation with FDG, offering the ability to resolve tumor and stromal components separately. The results are expected to be applied to tissue slices during surgery as well as tumor biopsies.

Scientists from Harvard University, Northeastern University and Brigham and Women's Hospital, all in Boston, MA, are working to produce a programmable microbial ink for 3D printing of living materials out of genetically engineered protein nanofibers. Previously, a major obstacle has been the ability to build 3D structures in arbitrary shapes and patterns. Now the researchers have come up with a "microbial ink", made from entirely genetically engineered microbial cells, that can produce nanofiber networks that comprise extrudable hydrogels. In addition, they have embedded programmed E. coli cells and nano fibers into microbial ink that can regulate the growth of its own cells into living architecture. Earlier processes printed mammalian cells using inkjet printing, contact printing, screen printing and lithographic methods. Now, extrusion-based bioprinting has advanced because it is simpler to use, cost-effective, and compatible with a variety of bio-inks. The goal, clearly, is to produce living, responsive materials and devices. Earlier attempts also tried freeze-dried saccharomyces cerevisiae, yielding high cell densities but hindered by the need for freeze-drying. These drawbacks have led to a search for ways to produce bioinks from engineered microbes, resulting in macroscopic 3D living materials.

A California based company called the Sakuu Corporation has produced a new system that can make batteries for large electric vehicles on demand. The results are solid state batteries that are smaller and lighter-weight than the currently-used lithium-ion batteries. Their process employs two types of printing: one is a powder bed system to sinter materials into solid form; the second squirts out materials to particular specifications. The method can print both ceramic and metal, as well as a storage medium called PoraLyte. Initially Sakuu will concentrate on smaller 4-wheel electric vehicles. They could also 3D print batteries for a scooter and a car on the same day. According to the company, their batteries are 50% lighter and 20% smaller than traditional lithium ion batteries. Importantly, they can also use recycled metal and ceramic rather than only new ones.

3D printing is now being used to produce furniture made of concrete. Designer Philipp Aduatz has collaborated with Austrian manufacturer incremental3D to make gradient benches, a chair and a vase. They were also able to dye the furniture during the printing, and integrate steel into the objects for additional strength. The use of gradient colors greatly enhances the aesthetic quality of the pieces. Additional examples of the furniture can be seen at the designer's own website - I highly recommend seeing them. Aduatz, born in 1982, is based in Vienna, Austria, and holds a doctoral degree in Applied Arts. He has won several awards for his sculptural and functional designs.

Newsweek is highlighting several innovative projects around the world. Included are the world's first 3D printed community to be opened later this year in Mexico. Each 500 square foot home is quickly constructed with minimal material waste and built to last. Also mentioned are vertical farms in Compton, California, built inside a 95,000 square foot warehouse that uses robots and LED lights, resulting in 95% less water and 99% less land. With similar thinking, a company caled ABIBOO is planning an entire vertical city for another planet. Built into the side of a cliff to protect from radiation and atmospheric pressure, the homes are expected to begin in the year 2054.

The double-helix of DNA has inspired "supercoiling" fibres as potential artificial muscles for robots. The researchers were able to make rotating artificial muscle fibres by twisting synthetic yarns. The yarns can be untwisted by heating or by charging them like batteries. They can be retwisted by shrinking. The fibres can actually spin a rotor at speeds of up to 11,500 rpm. In the current experiment, the DNA supercoiling occurs when pre-twisted textile fibres are swelled. Simply immersing the hydrogel in water makes the composite fibre untwist, but if the fibre ends are clamped to prevent untwisting, supercoiling occurs instead. A significant reduction in size takes place, although it has not yet been possible to replicate the contractions of natural human muscles. The process described here offers a new way of producing very large contractions.

A team of researchers at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has come up with a new group of soft materials called elastomers. These materials are stretchable and 10,000 times softer than conventional rubber. The elastomers can be 3D printed for use in health care, like replicating damaged vocal cords. The new material is similar to a bottle brush used for cleaning small glassware, but here on a molecular scale. When the bottle brush polymer is linked to form a network, a soft but "dry" material occurs. The new material is rigid at room temperature but melts when exposed to very high temperatures. It can be stretched up to 600%, giving the quality of rubber. Above you see a 3D printed sculpture created some 4 years ago. The goal was to achieve a skin-like feel, although at the time no rubber or elastomers were available. The experiment failed: the sculpture collapsed under its own weight, and all that remains is a small prototype.

The journal Science Robotics has just printed an article claiming that the human brain is capable of handling an extra body part. Engineers were able to train people to use a robotic extra thumb. The double-thumbed hand was capable of executing some complex maneuvers like building a tower of blocks. The next step is to study the brain's adaptation to the extended body. Called "Body Augmentation", this new field of study aims to figure out how the brain accomplishes the feat. The new thumb used is totally 3D printed and worn on the side of the hand next to the natural thumb. Pressure sensors attached to the feet control the extra thumb wirelessly. 20 people wore the new devices for 2 to 6 hours every day, including taking them home to do ordinary household jobs. Another group of volunteers wore a static unmoving prosthesis for comparison with the control group. Future plans envision ennabling a surgeon to operate without an assistant, but the main issue is to figure out how the brain interacts with these devices.

Researchers from two Korean Universities - Pohang University of Science and Techonology (POSTECH) and Pusan National University - have 3D printed diseased skin models to study skin infections in diabetes. They also tested drugs on the artificial diseased skin, eliminating the necessity for animal studies. Skin health problems are one of the first indications of diabetes, particularly Type 2. In their experiment, the scientists used a droplet-based 3D printing technique to manufacture diabetic skin fibroblasts and keratinocytes. They watched the model's vascular channels over a 3-day period of drug testing, looking also for the restorability of the artificial skin and the presence of any inflammatory responses.

An art work titled Silent Orchestra has been created by German artist Peter Lang. It was inspired by the nests of wasps and hornets, and is made up of nature-inspired tubes layed out in a honeycomb pattern and will be hung from the ceiling to improve the acoustics of the room. The artist used a material called Arboblend, a biocompatible plastic, along with beer as a natural adhesive and additional pigments.

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 2021