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Printing in 3D: From Toys to Organs

3D-Print

You’ve no doubt often used printers for school papers and reports. But can you imagine printing a three-dimensional object – something as complex as an action figure or a human heart? Soon such creation might be (almost) as simple as hitting Ctrl + P.

3D technology – from the new immersive animated movies to breakthrough medical imaging software – has been in the news a lot lately. So what about 3D printers? These remarkable devices, which possess the ability to print a three-dimensional object, have actually been around since the 1980s, aiding countless engineers and designers. But only recently have they become much faster, smaller, and more affordable.

3D printing

Most 3D printers work by depositing molten polymer (a flexible substance like plastic or rubber) layer by layer into a support structure – often a special reusable powder. The print specifications are sent from a computer, using computer-aided design (CAD) software, like SolidWorks and AutoCAD, which allow engineers to realize their designs in virtual form. Here’s a brief video that demonstrates the process of printing a 3D object:

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A 3D printer was also featured in an episode of CSI: New York, in which a scientist reconstructs a bullet from the crime scene:

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So what does the future hold for 3D printing? The technology may soon have uses that go beyond rapid prototyping and forensics to something even more extraordinary: organ printing. That’s right –soon, biomedical engineers may be able to print whole lungs, kidneys, and even hearts using the patient’s own cells. The engineering firm Organovo has developed a 3D machine that would be able to create new organs “on demand.” Check it out here:

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What’s next? The RepRap Project is an initiative that aims to develop a printer that can print replicas of itself. That’s all well and good, but if you’re like us, you look forward to the day when Chinese takeout and delivery pizza will materialize before your eyes. We’re keeping our fingers crossed – and print cartridges ready.
Banner Image courtesy of Z Corp

11 Responses to “Printing in 3D: From Toys to Organs”

  1. […] important advancement is on the way in the world of 3-D bio printing. Biomedical engineers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine have created an inkjet bio […]

  2. […] I’m adding a link to one particular article I found on this site. It’s about 3-D printing, one of my current favorite subjects. My hubby recently became a certified technician for one of these printers, and my inner geek is über-excited about this kind of technology. I even have a copy of the gargoyle shown in this article sitting by my computer right now; it was a gift he brought home from his training seminar. Read more about 3-D printing here: http://students.egfi-k12.org/printing-in-3d-from-toys-to-organs/ […]

  3. […] Printing in 3D: From Toys to Organs […]

  4. You should also be aware of the uPrint personal 3D printer from Stratasys…the uPrint builds 3D models from ABS thermoplastic, so your models are much more durable and functional than powder based systems.

    Here is a link to a short video on the uPrint: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ry5kUj-oAU.

    Cimtech offers free “test drives” of the uPrint to schools that are interested in evaluating the technology.

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  6. […] Their new Concept Cabin, a futuristic design created for the 49th biennial Paris Air Show, features a transparent roof that can adjust its opacity, giving passengers a panoramic view of the skies. The streamlined web that supports this canopy will be made of a lightweight titanium modeled after bird bones. Airbus engineers even predict that much of the cabin will be able to be 3D printed. […]

  7. […] Yacht, caravel, U-boat, or jet ski – whatever type of ship is needed, naval architects will dream it up. They are primarily responsible for conceptualizing ship designs, taking into account variables such as size, structure, weight distribution, and propulsion requirements. Students in the field will take a variety of classes relating to hydrostatics and hydrodynamics. They will also learn how to model vessels using 3-D design software (CAD). […]

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  9. […] called additive manufacturing, 3-D printing technologies work off a three-dimensional CAD design of a product, then construct the item by laying down one […]

  10. […] called additive manufacturing, 3-D printing technologies work off a three-dimensional CAD design of a product, then construct the item by laying down one […]

  11. […] called additive manufacturing, 3-D printing technologies work off a three-dimensional CAD design of a product, then construct the item by laying down one […]

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