Piece by Piece: 3D Printing Implants

11. June 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

We’ve mentioned before how the applications of 3D printing in the field of medical science have changed the way both doctors and patients think of surgery. Whether it’s creating missing limbs or growing new tissue from scratch, the technology continues to move closer and closer to levels of sophistication once only thought of as science fiction.

But even as strides are made with visibly noticeable attachments, such as limbs, it’s the parts that aren’t always obvious which can go unattended. Fortunately, there are pioneers in the field who are devoting their attention to those specific “overlooked” areas.

The Titanium Skull

Jessica Cussioli was fortunate. She was able to survive an automobile accident in her native Brazil, but needed extensive reconstructive surgery to rebuild her face. Even after that was completed, there was still a 12-centimeter piece of her skull that was missing, leaving her head disfigured. What’s worse, the type of prosthesis that would assist with her condition proved far too expensive.

Fortunately for Jessica, her parents were resourceful. After contacting doctors at UNICAMP, the doctors agreed that Jessica would be a perfect candidate for a custom-molded titanium implant, created using 3D printing.

Jessica-Cassioli-post-surgery.jpg
(via IFLScience)

After an eight-hour procedure, Jessica’s implant was declared a success. The material is light weight, yet durable. Jessica is expected to make a full recovery, at which point she plans to return to her studies.

Robo-Claw

Until recently, a common complaint about prostheses was that they were both physically cumbersome and cosmetically unattractive. What’s more, they were often only effective for the most rudimentary functions of the missing limb. For instance, a prosthetic arm and hand could hold simple items, but the simple act of turning a key would prove difficult.

Then came the HACKberry.

HACKberry.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

Created by the Japanese company exii, the 3D printed HACKberry is major step forward in prosthetic functionality. In addition to its sleek design, the prosthetic boasts enough articulation in the wrist and digits to grab small items, flip through book pages, and even tie shoes. In addition to that, the hardware is able to be updated and added upon as the technology improves.

Both of the above innovations serve as reminders that while nearly all prosthetics serve a necessary purpose – substituting that which was lost – there’s also a sense of familiarity to be considered. It isn’t simply a case of finding a missing piece, it’s also trying to get it to work as well its predecessor. It might not be the original, but engineers doing their best to make the next best thing.

A Home of Our Own

4. June 2015 12:21 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It’s said that when one ignores the past, they’re doomed to repeat it. Others learn of history and push ahead with their plans all the same. It’s hard to say which of these scenarios is more likely to be responsible for the current US housing crisis, but it definitely smacks of a repeating pattern. Maybe it’s a residual effect of the market crash of 2008, maybe it’s an inevitable effect of young people suddenly finding themselves flush with income, or maybe it’s a combination both and more. The only thing known for sure is that people need affordable homes.

Fortunately, modern technology is offering a few solutions to the problem.

Man-Made Material

When one is in need of a home, two pressing concerns will be time and money. Unfortunately, a lack of the two isn’t likely to get you very far, especially if you’re trying to build your home from the ground-up. That’s what was on the mind of USC professor Behrokh Khoshnevis when he put his industrial and engineering skills to work. Khoshnevis designed an automated construction system that uses 3-D printer technology to create an entire 2,500-sq. ft. home in roughly 20 hours.

With 3-D computer models and concrete-based materials, Khoshnevis’ system maintains the human element in terms of its design, but drops it at the construction stage.

Contour-Crafting.jpg
(via Engineering.com)

Fixed Pieces

And that design process is crucial in the creation of a domicile for human inhabitants. It isn’t simply a concern of location and materials used, but also layout and design. With that in mind, architect Damien Murtagh decided to turn the 3-D designs he built on his PC into physical models he could assemble by hand. He created the Arckit modeling kit for structural designers to create practical designs they could put their hands on. The project has proven so popular that Murtagh has begun considering selling Arckits in children’s toy stores.

Arckit.png
(via mental_floss)

No matter where you lay your head, these new 3D printing technologies could help you get there faster in the future.

Knowing Art when You See It

Although the digital age has made it easier than ever to see the world's greatest art in vivid detail, nothing yet compares to the experience of witnessing it yourself in a museum or gallery. Sure, you can browse books and websites about the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel, but they don't hold a candle to standing in the buildings themselves. From school field trips to couples on first dates, art exhibitions are a unique visual experience.

The only problem is how to appreciate them when you don’t have full visual acuity. Even with the most detailed of audio guides, a blind person will only walk away with a vague impression of a piece of art. Well, one museum in Spain is using 3-D printing to make art available for those who can’t see it – and it requires breaking one of the art world’s well-known rules.

"Do not touch" has been one of the most steadfast rules for visitors to businesses and exhibits the world over. From museums to zoos, guests are told early and often to appreciate the work from a respectable distance. But at the very least, the average guest is able to visually absorb what is around them.

(via NPR)

In order to make some of the world’s most famous art pieces accessible to the blind, the Museo del Prado in Spain has used 3-D printed versions of the art to create the braille equivalent of paintings. The museum has 3-D printed works of Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, and even Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa".

With the versatility of each piece – including the equal attention paid to both visual color and physical texture – the experiment is also popular with both the visually-impaired and the visually proficient. Spanish collegiates have found the experiment a refreshing new take on art appreciation, and the blind have begun to regard it as a missing link in their experiencing popular art in a way others take for granted.

The museum will be running the experiment until June 28 and there are no specific plans for running the experiment again. Nevertheless, 3-D printing has once again proven to be an invaluable tool in making accessible what was previously thought impossible to the human experience.

 

Saving our Skin

21. May 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This blog has mentioned before how 3-D printing has already changed the face of medicine and promises to do even more in the future. One such innovation is the technique known as bio-printing, in which organic material is created for use with living tissue. When 3-D printing is added to the process, it not only expedites the production of the material, but it increases the number of applications for which the process can be used.

Not only has 3-D bio-printing become a crucial tool in the avenues of stem cells, heart repair, and the treatment of cancer, but it could also eliminate one of the most controversial factors of the pharmaceutical and beauty industries. Although animal testing is regarded as a scientific necessity amongst scientific academia, it’s an incredibly divisive topic that has long stirred the ire of animal rights groups and humanitarian organizations. But soon that argument could become a moot point.

The L’Oreal company, one of the largest beauty companies in the world, recently announced a partnership with the bio-printing company Organovo. The aim of the partnership is for Organovo to provide L’Oreal with bio-printed human tissue for use in testing their cosmetics. Though still in the developmental stage, the harvested material would ideally provide more accurate results with how human skin reacts to the beauty products.

The need for animal testing probably won’t go away in the foreseeable future, but projects like the L’Oreal partnership with Organovo illuminate how technology has the potential to both streamline common necessities and help eliminate the moral dilemmas surrounding them.

The Pitfalls of 3-D Printing

14. May 2015 09:42 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Once again, another day seems to bring another new report on an innovation in 3-D printing. The technology hasn’t become truly commonplace just yet, but its proliferation appears to increase with every new use discovered. But just as more industries adopt the technology for its functional simplicity and ability to reduce production costs, there also lurks the possibility of unforeseen consequences to long-standing institutions.


(via Forbes)

Creating a Monopoly

One such concern is the threat of a monopoly over manufacturers. Although the number of companies exploring the technology seems innumerable, two companies – 3D Systems and Stratasys – control an overwhelming market share of printer manufacturing. Over the past decade, the two companies have engaged in seemingly endless acquisitions of smaller manufacturers. Although some credit the push by these two companies as being instrumental in the recent prevalence of the technology, it also raises the concern that smaller manufacturers will be left with one of two choices: allow their companies to be acquired or watch the companies flounder.

Replacing Manual Labor

Another equally pressing concern comes from those in industries traditionally done by hand. The worry amongst these industries – such as model-makers – is the idea that they will be entirely replaced by an assembly line of machines. Though this concern is often dismissed as alarmist, it does hold a basis in reality: the automobile industry does the majority of its once-by-hand assembly through machines, and a series of jobs that traditionally required human interaction are being outsourced to machines in large numbers.

Will Science Fiction Become Fact?

Only time will reveal the true impact of 3-D printing technology on the world at large. The problem with adopting a new technology with seemingly limitless potential is the ambiguity of when and where its applications will stop. Such is the stuff of science fiction. But if that genre has taught us one indisputable truth, it’s that technology is merely a tool with no moral compass of its own. Rather, it is the use of the tool that reflects the motivations of its users.

 

Low Tech, Lots of Fun

It seems as though whenever a flashy new product is released, people revert back to their juvenile forms. Everyone has to have the brand new toy that parents think costs too much and might very well be forgotten once “the next big thing” comes around. This question becomes all the more pressing once you actually have kids; you don’t want them thinking that impulse purchases are all there is to life. Fortunately, the following craft projects will inspire you to put your own homegrown spin on high-tech fads.

The Watch Redefining Touch Screen

You’ve probably seen the announcement of Apple’s new smartwatch all over the news. It plays music, tracks your exercise, accepts e-mail and text messages – all that and it even actually tells time. But what if your little one doesn’t know all of their numbers yet? That won’t be a problem with these felt Apple Watches. Created by artist Hiné Mizushima, the watches will soon be for sale on her Etsy page. Mizushima’s website details the progress of creating each watch by hand.

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3-D Printing our Missing Pieces

3-D printing continues to be one of the most prolific modern technologies, used in everything from art and cuisine to construction and space travel. Yet the extent of its possible uses is only beginning to be explored. We’ve already mentioned how the technology has been used for controversial means, such as printing weapons and “transporting” items, but there have been just as many inspiring uses. With the recent news of scientists using 3-D printing to create living tissue, there has been movement to create missing body parts for those in need.

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3D Printing Is More Science than Fiction

5. February 2015 09:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It seems as if there's no limit to the possibilities of 3-D printers. In 2013, an international controversy was ignited over the ethics of printing a gun. That same year, NASA began experimenting with printing a pizza to test the possibilities of creating food in space. In 2014, a printer was sent to the International Space Station where it successfully printed one of its own missing parts. It's the tech of the future.

Star-Trek-transporter-via-Paramount-Pictures.jpgMore...

The Latest and Greatest 3D Printing

ust a few weeks ago, International CES wrapped up in Las Vegas. This conference is one of the largest technology-focused conferences in the world and often sets the tone for consumer products. However, it sometimes doesn't capture other trends like 3D printing, especially in medicine or other fields. We wanted to highlight two accomplishments: one involving a 3D printed model of a brain tumor, and the other involving a 3D printed drone. These examples are sure to get you excited about the printing world!

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Highlights from CES 2015

Every January, the tech world comes to gravitate around International CES, a global technology conference held yearly in Las Vegas to showcase devices and ideas that will set the stage for the year and well into the future. Sometimes there are products that consumers will have access to immediately whereas other products are merely in the testing stages. Whatever the case, these products are an exciting look into the industry's future. Here are some of our favorites so far.

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