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.

I'm not sure what to make of this, but 2 Canadian companies claim to have made filaments for 3D printing that they say are "entirely biobased and compostable". The material is called REGEN, made by BOSK Bioproducts in Quebec and Filaments.ca in Ontario. Although REGEN is a bioplastic, the companies state that "it contains no fossil-based or toxic chemical additives". BOSK makes the pellets, which are then "transformed" into high-quality filaments by Filaments. The PR tells us that their material biodegrades faster than standard PLA filaments and outputs objects that are less brittle, have a smoother finish, and better heat resistance.

Architects Journal has awarded its Innovation of the Year 2022 to Zaha Hadid Architects for its 3D printed concrete bridge called Striatus. The bridge is an arched footbridge made up of 53 hollow concrete blocks, 3D printed and assembled without mortar or reinforcement. The bridge was shown at last year's Venice Architecture Biennale where it was unanimously selected as the inaugural winner of the Architectural Journal Award. ZHA says they used a special concrete ink which was 3D printed in orthogonal layers to make the striated structure. All of the blocks were printed in 84 hours and are demountable and easy to maintain. The entire building of the bridge took onlly 35 days. Shortlisted for the award was a company called Chetwoods for its research into AI and deep learnng to understand how humans can take a positive emotional approach to design.

A new printer from KRAYLYN prints upside down and can fit into a backpack. Called the Positron V3, it can apparently be unfolded and assembled in about 1 minute and self-calibrates. As as interesting side note: KRAYLYN cannot guarantee the production of the positron, to it has open-sourced the construction plans on GitHub free of charge. The company's hope is that other 3D print fabricators will become interested and start to manufacture it. Interesting concept.

A French industrial conglomerate named Saint-Gobain has 3D printed stairs using a parametric design. They say that the design lessens CO2 emissions by 50% and shortens construction time by 8 weeks when compared to traditional manufacturing methods. These are called embankment stairs, meaning they can be precisely molded to the environment they will be built on. They are also said to be 30% cheaper than other prefab staircases. 20 of these stairs have already been built in the Netherlands and the U.K. Customers can also design the stairs themselves, or send Saint-Gobain dimensions and a drawing.

SAGA Space Architects have 3D printed a polymer structure meant to be a moon habitat. At 7 meters high, the building is said to be the world's tallest 3D printed polymer structure. The shell and surface have been optimized to withstand the forces expected to be found on the moon. From initial sketch to final object, the process took 9 months. The building has been designed to accommodate 2 astronauts for 90 days on the moon's surfce. It has 2 sleeping pods on the top floor and circadian lighting, meant to to help the crew maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. A number of companies were involved in working out the problems to be overcome.

You may recall our mentioning previously the problem with NASA's spacesuits, which were originally designed for men only and are mainly based on 1970's technology. Now NASA has decided to invite commercial partners to design a new spacesuit, since current plans include a crew landing on the moon in 2025. Two companies have been contracted to work on the project, with the understanding that the two will retain complete ownership and control of the new suits. The potential value of the project is said to be as much as 3.5 billiion USD. One big problem is whether there remains enough time to redesign, build and test a new product before the expected launch. Both Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will be working on the new spacesuits.

Scientists at Concordia University in Austin, Texas, have developed a new 3D printing process that allows physicians to build body parts directly into the body without the need for open surgeries. The doctors call this "direct sound printing", achieved by filling containers with liquid resin. They then use focused sound waves to change the pressure found inside of tiny bubbles in the resin. Their investigations led them to the conclusion that a certain type of ultrasound with a specific power and frequency force the bubbles to act as reactors. These reactors can be used to change liquid resin into solid or semi-solid objects. The physicians would first inject the target area with a biocompatible liquid so that they could build implants inside of their patients. The process needs much more testing before it is appropriate for humans, and would not work when surgery is required to remove something first. One of the researchers noted that ultrasonic frequencies are already being used in procedures like laser ablation of tumours and tissues; he commented, "we wanted to use them to create something".

Digital Patisserie has developed a new 3D printer for pastries. Called the Patisse3, the printer was inspired by 3D printing technology done at M.I.T. It is aimed at pastry chefs and restaurants and uses an extrusion-based system. Marine Core-Baillais, founder of the Digital Patisserie had previously launched the CakeWalk, a device that converts regular 3D printers into food printing machines. The new printer uses 2 different powder-based materials: one is flavorless and allows the print to hold its shape; the other is cocoa-based and reduces the bitterness of the printing mixture. Users are encouraged to add their own batters to give additional textures and flavors. The Patiss3 printer comes with 2 optional modules: a depowdering station to recover any unused powder which can then be reused for up to 7 times; and an oven for faster cooking. The Patisse3 also comes with 3D printable recipes from master chefs who are paid a royalty each time one of their recipes is used. This new device joins other innovations in 3D food processing: Natural Machines just won an award for a copy of the world's best tiramisu; Shimadzu, a Japanese company plans to build a machine just to create 3D printed meat in large quantities.

At the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, researchers have just produced a one-step all-in-one 3D printing way to make robots. Usually, building robots is a complex and bulky process involving heavy weights and large volumes. The engineers claim that their tiny new robots can "walk, maneuver and jump". Using a "metamaterial", the scientists say that their mini robot is capable of fulfilling many demands, like decision-making, movement, sensing, and propulsion. The metamaterials, called piezoelectrics, are described as "a class of intricate lattice materials that can change shape and move in response to an electric field or create electrical charge as a result of physical forces". Earlier attempts to translate electricty into motion produced limited range of motion and distance traveled. The new material, by contrast, can flex, twist, bend, contract or expand at high speeds. Currently the only external source needed is a small battery to power the robot. The new robots are approximately the size of a fingernail. They are capable of sensing danger and detecting obstacles using echoes and ultrasound emissions. 3 prototypes of the new robots were built: one that can move around s-shaped corners and obstacles; another that can escape after an impact; and a third that can walk over difficult terrain and make tiny jumps.

Researchers at Brown University have produced a hydrogel that will be activated only in the presence of a specific enzyme released by bacteria, thus working only when needed and with a purpose. It is hoped that this new method will reduce the amount of drugs required for treatment and lessen resistances. The hydrogels are greatly biocompatible and are already being used, for example, to deliver slow-release vaccines and as dressings for wounds. So-called "smart" hydrogels are also on the research horizon, meaning they respond to their environment and deliver medications when and where they are necessary. At the moment, the new hydrogel was tested in the laboratory and on skin infections in pigs.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo in Japan have succeeded in crafting living skin onto a robot. The new skin is also water-repellent and self-healing. First author Shoji Takeuchi reveals that the finger is driven by an electric motor, providing an interesting experience when the clicking sound of the motor is accompanied by a robotic finger that looks just like a human. Current silicon skin made for robots lacks textures like wrinkles. The new material requires a skilled craftsman to work with the skin sheets and provide a seamless skin coverage onto a robotic form. The researchers first submerged the robot finger in a solution of collagen and human dermal fibroblasts, The natural shrinking of the mixture made it conform nicely to the finger. The next coat of cells, composed of human epidermal keratinocytes, formed the majority of the skin's outer layer. When the robot curled and stretched its fingers, the new skin had enough elasticity and strength to work with the motions and was also able to repel water. When the new skin was wounded it could self-heal with the aid of a collagen bandage. Much work remains to be done, since the crafted skin is weaker than normal human skin and requires constant maintenance to survive. Eventually the researchers plan to add things like sweat glands, nails, hair follicles, and sensory neurons.

Stratasys has produced an ultra-realistic human head. The head is life sized and has incredibly realistic surface textures. Touching it, you realize that it is not hard or rigid - rather it has a flexible feel like a real human. You can even twist its nose as you would a human's. At the moment the head appears only in front but that front is frighteningly realistic.

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 2022