3D Printing and Bionics?


3D printing and bionics may no longer be considered a thing of the future. For those of us that grew up in the 1970’s who remember watching the 6 million dollar man or the bionic woman, we were all fascinated by the idea of bionics. Now a couple of European companies are delving into the area of bionics with the help of 3D printing.

The EU is putting up investment into research and development to help European manufacturers stay competitive in the growing market for personalised medical products.

There are currently two projects that are developing ways of incorporating 3D printing to benefit patients that are in need of specially fitted components or implants and prosthesis.

It is no secret that 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing provides a serious resource to help produce one-off, highly complex components or parts for medical applications.

The process of making such highly complex parts will require further development of new processes and machines that can meet strict safety and health protocols.

The first manufacturer, Symbionica, are approaching this by focusing on developing a 3D printer that can make extremely customised prosthetics with short lead times.

“Symbionica’s approach is to focus on the development of a 3D printer that can make customized prostheses on demand. The printer will be able to make complex products in one processing step, incorporating different types of materials – a real novelty in the AM field.

The researchers plan to integrate the printer in a platform on which designers, engineers and other stakeholders can collaborate to customize prostheses.

“Symbionica is also creating what the project describes as a ‘bionic through-life sensing system’. This would provide ongoing support to patients fitted with prostheses. The assistance would include personalized exercise plans and sensors to monitor patients’ health conditions.

CerAMfacturingplans to use 3D printing to develop a new approach to make customized medical and consumer products from ceramics. These include implants with special properties – such as the ability to conduct electricity – and micro surgical tools.” source: todaysmedicaldevelopments.com

Both of these projects show just a couple of the many exciting advancements that will be coming to 3D printing in the near future. The sky is the limit for 3D printing!

3D Printing and Aquatic Life Make New Underwater Worlds

3d printed sculpture

3D Printing and sculpture have long been a marriage made since the dawn of 3D printing. Just do a search for “3d printed sculpture” in Google Images and you will find a vast array of 3d printed sculptures ranging from the architecture of famous landmarks, busts taken from historical figures, characters and weapons from games, all of the way to 3D printed fractals and everything in between. Now a Japanese artist has combined 3D printing and aquarium life to create stunning pieces of minimalistic living art.

Misawa Haruka, the designer and founder of Misawa Design Institute, has created a series of aquariums entitled “Waterscapes”. These aquariums of minimalistic design include 3D printed objects that take their inspiration from underwater environments. These 3D printed sculptures mimic aquatic flora and fauna such as coral to create habitat for small marine life to use as hiding places. Using weight and mass to her advantage, she creates digital sculptures that would typically fall under its own weight but through the use of physics and the buoyancy of water, these underwater masses can exist without toppling over. Thus creating beautiful minimalistic living and hiding spaces for underwater life.

In the words of Misawa Haruka

“Underneath the surface of water is a unique environment that exudes an energy which is completely opposite from that which is surrounded by air.
The inner space of this fish tank is created by combining two simple elements of container and water, with an extraordinary world created that differs from the world with air.
Propelled by buoyancy, this is the result of an opposing gravity that is pushing upwards.
For example, when placed in midair, gravels and aquatic plants are bound to fall instantly to the ground, but when placed in water, the gravels would slowly sink to the bottom, and the aquatic plants would gently rise up to the water surface.
Moreover, delicate structures that are prone to damage caused by their own weight on land are able to maintain a stable state because of the relative force of gravity and buoyancy.
The interaction between gravity and buoyance is consciously controlled with this, seeking to explore from zero the ecology where aquatic beings dwell. The observations are then tangibly realized, transformed into the project, Waterscape.” 
 Credits: Combining 3D Printing and Aquatic Life – 3D Printing Industry

The Race For 3D Printer Metal Filament For Any Standard Desktop 3D Printer Is Finally Over!

For those standing, you might want to sit down and hold on to the edge of your seat! What I am about to report is going to shock those of you who thought a pure all metal filament would never make it to the desktop 3D printer world.

Word has it on the streets that a couple of guys, from the upper Midwest, have developed a 3D Printing Filament with a very high metal content. They have succeeded in producing an almost pure metal 3D printing filament that can run on virtually any desktop 3D printer anywhere. Something that any maker with a 3D printer can use no matter how cheap or expensive their printer cost. A very affordable filament that produces stunning results that go far beyond any other “metal type” filament on the market.

The company is The Virtual Foundry, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin and the filament is called Filamet™.  While printer manufacturers were struggling for years to bring down the cost of 3D Metal Printers, these guys took a different approach. Rather than bringing the high end down in cost, Filamet™ was created to extend capabilities of current 3D printers to bring them up to the high-end machines.

Want to know how it works? There are two methods one of which is very basic and the second takes it a step further.

 The first method you just print and polish to bring out an outstanding shine. This process will leave you a product that is 88.8% pure metal.

 Take it a step further and pop your printed model into a kiln which will heat treat the print. First by vaporising any plastic binder then sintering the metal particles in the print. Walla, you have a 3D print that is 99.9+% Pure Metal!

I created an infographic showing the process:

metal 3d filament

For most people, polishing your Filamet™ model to shine will be more than enough to achieve their goal of a good looking model that is 8

For those looking for a purer, all metal will have to locate someone with a kiln to further refine their Filamet™ model as most people do not have a kiln sitting around.

For more information on prepping your model for a kiln please review the video below from The Virtual Foundry.

3d printer metal filament, filametCurrently, The Virtual Foundry makes the Filamet™ in Copper and Bronze, but more metals are in the works. They are also looking at further refining their process to bring in a more pure filament by raising the amount of metal from 88.8% on up to 92% by the end of summer.

I take this as a sign of good things to come in the world of 3D printing metal for desktop printers. We know more metal types are in the works so it should be interesting how far this goes.

Perhaps they will soon come out with a metal filament that can be quickly hardened to use in custom form tooling. I will be testing to see if we can use to aid in prototyping smaller sheet metal parts by printing small custom shape form tools for use in our CNC brake and forming presses.





DIY 3D printed Drone, Inspired By DJI Inspire Quadcopter Drone.

Looking for DIY 3D printed drone project? After a little research I came across a very slick looking project on thingiverse. This one is inspired by the DJI Inspire. The DJI Inspire is a very popular yet a bit on the pricey for a drone and fpb camera combo.

According to a review by CNET, CNet editor rating gave 4 out of 5 stars, stating “THE BOTTOM LINE The DJI Inspire 1 offers an excellent aerial photo and video solution for professionals or well-heeled enthusiasts looking for a simple, ready-to-fly drone with camera-swapping potential.”

Thanks to thingiverse user CdRsKuL (located in the UK), he/she has chosen to share his quadcopter drone CAD files and electronic plans with the rest of the world. It appears they did their original 3d printed drone on a Davinci 3D printer. So if you have access to a 3D printer it should be much easier than starting from scratch.

You will need the motors, electronics, etc… but you can find the models and links to the electronic plans on CdRsKul’s thingiverse project page.

If you are truly inspired to take this project on, don’t forget to share pics with the rest of the  Thingiverse world and make a donation to CdRsKul if you can afford to do so.

Check out the following video showing the DIY 3D printed drone in action:


Can 3D Printing Really Save our Coral Reefs?

3D Printing Saving Coral Reefs

3D Printing Saving Coral Reefs With the impending changes in our environment due to man-made pollution and global warming (whether manmade or just due to cycles of the Earth), the warming of the oceans and other bodies of water stand to have a great impact on most living things including putting our coral reefs at a serious risk of extinction. With the tender balance of nature this can in turn have a domino effect of consequences to the rest of the fish and living organisms that make our oceans their home.

This makes it imperative that we find alternative ways to keep our coral reefs healthy by any means necessary thus ensuring that all of the anemones, barnacles and many other dependent species can thrive.

The following article makes a case for how 3D printing is already doing a great job as one means of recreating the shapes, colors, and rough surfaces needed to keep the reefs teaming with living creatures alive and well…

“Humans have tried to create artificial coral reefs for years by sinking ships, dropping concrete blocks etc. into shallow water. These provide a hard, rock like surface for coral, algae, anemones, barnacles and many other dependent species could thrive. With the help of revolutionary rapid prototyping and 3D printing methods, this process can be improved dramatically as the 3D printed reefs can be better shaped into mimicking actual hard coral.

, she explains that usually, baby coral polyps are more likely to be drawn to reefs that are white or pink in color. Pink and white are colors of a healthy reef and the polyps prefer surfaces that are uneven; contain crevices, grooves and holes. This ensures their safety from being eaten by predators of being trampled. 3D printers are working for rapid prototyping of corals in order to recreate this kind of desirable environment for coral polyps to thrive.”

 Check out the rest of the article: 3D printing could save our coral reefs – 3D Printing Industry


3D Printed Body Parts – A Look Into The Future of 3D Printed Prosthetics 2

It is no secret that in recent years, as 3D printing has become more affordable for the masses, it is having a large impact on 3D printed prosthetics. 3D printing manufacturers such as Airwolf3D sponsering Print-a-Thons and flash printing events to donate 3D printed hands to those in need have changed the lives of hundreds of people. 

Here is an excellent article by techchrunch on the future of 3D printed prosthetics:

 Credits: The future of 3D-printed prosthetics – TechCrunch

The recent ubiquity of 3D printers and innovations in prosthetic design, manufacturing and distribution offer a viable solution for the millions of people living with limb loss around the world. In the United States alone, close to 200,000 amputations are performed each year, yet, with prosthetics priced from $5,000-$50,000, having one can almost be considered a luxury.

Traditionally, the process of getting a prosthetic limb can take anywhere from weeks to months. Because prosthetics are such personal items, each one has to (or should) be custom-made or fit to the needs of the wearer. However, as 3D printers become more affordable, with some available for less than $200, the possibility of anyone being able to design and print a prosthetic limb in their home or local community is rapidly becoming a reality.

To fully appreciate the cost of prosthetic limbs, we can look at the economics of a family with a child in need. On average, each prosthetic has a lifespan of five years, and when considering younger children who are growing every day and are prone to breaking things, more frequent replacements are required.

Once you calculate the price of the prosthetic and its subsequent replacements, the total lifetime cost could place a considerable amount of strain on a family’s finances. Not to mention, it is also almost impossible to get insurance companies to cover that cost annually — CNN recently reported a new Medicare proposal that would limit access to limbs (currently, there are 150,000 amputees in the system).

The democratization of prosthetic design and creation through 3D printing enables millions of people around the world to reap the benefits of the newly popularized manufacturing technology. Open-source initiatives such as The Enable Community Foundation let anyone with a 3D printer customize and create a prosthetic hand. Those on the Enable team, a global network of passionate volunteers, are using 3D printing to give the world a helping hand, and it only costs $50.


Enable’s “Raptor Reloaded” prosthetic hand in action.




7 Reasons Why The I3 MK2 Prusa 3D Printers Are The Most Popular and Trusted 3D Printers On The Market


It is no wonder after reading the following article why the Prusa I3 MK2 3D printers are one of the most popular and most trusted 3D printers ont he market. See at least 7 reasons or new features that make Josef Prusa’s design highly stable and extremely popular:

Prusa I3 MK2 3D Printer


Josef Prusa’s designs have always been trustworthy. He has a talent for scouring the body of work out there in the RepRap community, finding the most valuable innovations, and then blending them together along with some innovations of his own into something greater than the sum of its parts. So, it’s not hard to say, that once a feature shows up in one of his printers, it is the direction that printers are going. With the latest version of the often imitated Prusa i3 design, we can see what’s next.

The printers from Prusa research are my recommendation for anyone getting started in 3D printing who wishes to understand the magic box on their desk, humming away into the night. The Wanhao duplicator is okay, but it’s a cost optimized version of the work done by Prusa, E3D, Ultimachine, and others. You’ll only learn when it breaks, and it will break. Prusa puts top of the line parts into every printer, the design is accessible, and the documentation is the best out there. It’s the Old Heathkit quality of 3D printing.

As Prusa tells us in the video interview below (we caught up with him at the Microsoft booth at Maker Faire — a RepRap at the Microsoft booth!), The MK2 is packed with new features.

Auto Bed Leveling and Its Many Benefits

Le glass et mort.
Le verre est mort. Prusa recently posted a trashcan full of borosilicate glass plates on his twitter. 

There’s been a big push for auto bed leveling in the industry. It’s my absolute favorite upgrade for my printer. In my mind, it transformed the printer. I didn’t realize that being forced to level the bed on my printer was keeping me from using it until I did away with the chore.

Starting with servo motors moving limit switches into place, and ending with non-contact inductance sensors, the reprap community has been moving towards auto bed leveling for a while. At MRRF this year SeeMeCNC was showing off their tiny Eris delta printer which uses accelerometers under the build plate to accomplish this task. The MK2 uses another trick, with a non-contact inductance sensor for its own auto bed leveling.

before the MK2. A cold-corner compensating heated bed is a bed that has different trace densities at different parts of the board. This allows the heated build platform to put more energy into typically colder parts of the bed; which results in a more evenly heated area.

Credits: Prusa Shows Us the New i3 MK2 3D Printer and Where the Community is Headed – Hackaday
If you are new to the 3D printing market or if you are just looking to upgrade or pick up a new virtualy stress free 3D printer the Prusa I3 MK2 is defintely worth serious condideration.

Hacked Desktop 3D printer used for study of Precancerous Breast Disease

hacked makerbot used to 3d bioprint for breast cancer research
hacked makerbot used to 3d bioprint for breast cancer research
Hacked Makerbot used for bioprinting material

Believe it or not researchers are using a hacked Makerbot replicator to 3d print (or 3D bioprint) soft structures for breast cancer research.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UCPI) along with engineers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have teamed up to study the over diagnoses and over treatment of non-invasive precancerous breast tumors by utilizing a hacked Makerbot Replicator to create the first ever 3D bioprinted breast ductal structure to identify markers for low risk pre-malignant disease. The consumer grade 3D printer will be outfitted with a custom designed extruder to print soft tissue within a dissolvable gel. This will help overcome one of the biggest hurdles to printing breast ducts according to Adam Feinberg, materials science and biomedical engineering professor at CMU.

The first step is to create a realistic model system with complete control in order to uncover biomarkers. Up until now the only way to study breast tumors in the lab are to culture tumor cells in a petri dish or grow tumor cells in rodents. Neither method allows researchers a way to trace how breast duct structure impacts tumor spread.

Problems in the past with 3D printed breast ducts, according to Feinburg, is that the printed tissue collapses under its own weight.

“The challenge with these materials is that they’re super soft,” Feinberg said. “They collapse under their own weight. They’re kind of like Jell-O. A block of Jell-O would sit there just fine, like a cube. But once you try to make an intricate 3D structure, it would just fall apart.”

To fix this problem Feingburg’s group invented a way to print soft tissue within a dissolvable gel using a setup that includes a consumer grade desktop 3d printer. A Makerbot replicator normally extrudes layers of plastic to build up an object. But Feinburg created a custom extruder designed to extrude proteins layer by layer along with other molecules normally found in tissue.

Even better, the plans for this extruder were made available to anyone by opensource download through the National Institutes of Health website.

There is an infinite number of awesome things that can be created with this extruder design. Making it available to anyone interested in printing tissue should open up a route to advancing biomedical research.

Beyond creating better ways of diagnosing invasive DCIS, this new process of 3D bioprinting will help transform how future research is doen by allowing researchers and scientists the ability to create complex biology for study.

Up until now the process of printing tissue has been more than challenging and making the use of a consumer grade 3D printer fitted with an easy to replicate open source extruder seems so simple but at the same time ingenious and will hopefully prove to inspire other researchers to think outside the box and come up with radical new ways to advance science and medicine.