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 may be toxic.

A nifty little gadget has just been made available for 3D printing. It clips onto your phone, turnigg your smartphone into a strong microscope with ambient light. The possibilities for this inobtrusive add-on are endless and still being explored. Here is another description of the process involved.

Engineers at Miami University in Florida are working to 3D print better bones to help in the healing of badly damaged bones. In the past titanium has been the material of choice due to its nontoxicity and durability. Currently researchers are trying a large medical bioprinter called a 3D-Bioplotter made by Envision TEC. First the scaffolds are 3D printed and then treated with a mixture of solvents to create micro holes. These holes can foster the growth of blood and bone vessels and permit fluids to flow between cells. The solvents also create "nanoscopic pockmarks" all over the scaffolding, allowing biological cells to replicate. The scientists are trying to enlarge both the size and number of pores while keeping their thickness; at the same time they are seeking a balance between cell adhesion and scaffold durability. The project has so far received funding through 2019.

The 3D printing of very tiny metal structures has been facilitated by a process being used at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Caltech materials professor Julia Greer reports that metals react differntly to light than polymer resins. The polymers harden when exposed to light, which metals do not. Instead, researchers are using organic ligands - basically molecules that can bond to metal - so that the polymers can be combined with metal. They used nickel as their metal and then directed a two-photon laser onto the combined material. The material was then slowly heated up to 1,000 degrees Celsius in an oven. That degree of heat is below the melting point of nickel but high enough to vaporize the organic material. The resulting product shrank 80% but kept its shape and proportions. Specifically, the diameter of the resultant metal pieces was approximately 1 /1000th the size of a sewing needle tip. The scientists are investigating the use of other materials, including ceramics, tungsten, and piezoelectric materials.

In another example of experimenting with living cells, researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands are using a 3D printing technique called in-air microfluidics to make structures that can heal damaged tissue. They use minute drops of fluids, usually betwee a micrometer and a millimeter in size, so that the process now takes minutes rather than the 17 hours required previously. The increased speed comes from combining two liquids, one of which holds living cells. The new process prevents clogging from solidification and prints directly onto the substrate, eliminating the UV light or heat which might damage cells. The final structure resembles a sponge, while its internal pattern looks much like a natural tissue. At the moment, the scientists are only able to make cylindrical forms: they are experimenting with other shapes.

Picture a giant lens the size of a small office building sitting in the middle of Times Square in New York City and you'll have an idea of the installation called "Window to the Heart". The project came about as a result of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition. Design firm Aranda/Lasch worked with Formlabs to conceive and construct the huge project.

If you hear the phrase BBB, it no longer means Better Business Bureau, at least not in the technology field. It stands for blood-brain barrier and is a membrane found in the heads of all humans. Scientists at the Istituto Italiano de Tecnologia in Genoa,Italy, have succeeded in 3D printing a man-made model that can be used for research and treatment of brain diseases. Using a Nanoscribe nanoscale 3d printer, the researchers followed a two-photon lithography protocol in which a laser scans through a liquid photopolymer and systematically solidifies the substrate layer by layer. The end-product is like an SLA print on a submicron scale. Among other uses, the device can study how pharmaceuticals infiltrate the blood-brain barrier, leading to new therapies for conditions like Alzheimers, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. The research results have been published in small.

Did you know that Porsche has a Heritage Department dedicated to keeping older cars running? That department is now planning to use laser 3D printing to output very rare parts that need to be available in small quantities. It should be especially valuable, for example, in reproducing parts for cars like the Porsche 959 Supercar of 1986 for which only 292 cars were built, and the 911 family which is so popular with collectors. 3D printing will allow individual parts like crank arms and a clutch release lever to be offered on an individual level for a much lower cost.

We have written previously about the exciting fashion designs 3D printed by Iris van Herpen. She now has a show at the Pnoenix Art Museum, where you can see things like shoes made of laser-cut cow leather, 3D printed polymer, and stereolithography resin and dresses made with gold foil, tulle and cotton.

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has just issued its annual report on the 10 greatest technologies of 2018. The report looks for breakthroughs that will have major impact on our lives, whether they have been in the works for a while or just recently announced. Included are 3D metal printing (See Whitaker's "Curiosity", a first in 3D metal printing, made of 60% stainless steel and 40% bronze.) MIT's list includes some fascinating glimpses into the future of life on the planet Earth, if we don't self-destruct first.

3D Hubs offers a review of the main 3D printing resins, with a discussion of their advantages and disadvantages. Note that they mention rubber-like, which you can see in Whitaker's Bloated Doll.

3D printed foam has been used experimentally for such things as 3D bioprinted in-air microfluidics and form-fitting silicone. Now scientists at the Tandon School of Engineering, part of NYU (New York University), have created a process using a syntactic foam which can 3D print complex parts to be used under pressurized situations, like submarines deep under water. In the past, it was difficult to make a filament that would go through unmodified commercial 3D printers. The microballoons were unable to make it through the printer's nozzle. NYU's composite syntactic foam works without any changes to the 3D printer's hardware. It is also made of recycled flyash, a byproduct of the production of coal.

A 14-year-old who was fascinated with 3D printed prosthetics has gone on to start a private company called "Unlimited Tomorrow". Easton Lachepelle has designed a 3D printed hyper-personalized arm with haptic feedback costing 1/20 of the conventional prosthetic. He is aiming for custom-designed personalized prosthetics that will be "hyper dexterous" and able to offer haptic feedback in each finger. The young woman currently using his device can brush her hair, wave, and play with tiny objects. Although the prosthetic will have to be replaced as she grows, it will be at a cost far below what is currently available.

Students at the University of California Viterbi School of Engineering have 3D printed a highly detailed 3D map of the campus. The level of detail achieved meant that each individual 3D printed building took 4 - 6 hours to print, using the Zues 3D printer at the campus.. The final model measured out at 51' X 65"


Researchers at Rutgers University have discovered how to add the dimension of time to the printing. Their proprietary material reacts to heat, changing its shape according to the degree of heat. It includes hydrogel, a binding element; a chemical that activates bonding in light; and a special dye that manages light penetration. Since the material handles liquids, the hope is to use it to release drugs into the body. The process is described as 4D, with the 4th dimension being time.

Doctors in India have announced that they have grown an animal ear cartilage in the laboratory. Although they have yet to publish the process, they have been working for a year and a half trying to make autologous ears for children who were born lacking them. The researchers at the SIMS hospital and SRM University began with a small bit of cartilage from the ear of a rabbit. They then followed up with a 3D print of a child's ear using bio-degradable and bio-compatible substances.

Typically 3D printing involves noise, toxic fumes and particle emission, and warping and cracking. Now a kickstarter campaign called Box3D claims to lessen the noise, extract fumes through a window, and control the printing climate. Their offering is a 3D printer enclosure kit. They want additional funding to further research their product.

Note: we review 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 2018