Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3D-Printed Fingernails

Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford are a couple of digital artists from New York City who are taking the nail care industry by storm.  Calling themselves, “The Laser Girls” they have begun creating artificial fingernails using a 3D Printer.  The nails are printed with an adhesive back, so they can be applied quickly and easily, and last quite some time. 

One of the biggest benefit to their 3D printed nails is that they make it possible to create nails with unique patterns that aren’t otherwise possible.  Using both detailed patterns, and depth on the nails it is possible to create entirely new looks that can’t be done using acrylic and nail polish alone. 

The Laser Girls can print off the nails and either apply them directly, or ship them to customers around the world.  They sell their nails through an online ‘shapeways’ shop (you can view it HERE). 

This is one more example of how 3D printing is changing just about every industry imaginable, and how it will continue to do so long into the future.

See a couple of the nails they’ve printed below:


Monday, January 27, 2014

New York Doctor 3D Prints Windpipe Hoping it will Someday Help People Breathe

Dr. Faiz Bhora of St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, and his research team, have helped to take 3D printing to a whole new level.  Using a special printer that uses biologic materials, primed with stem cells that will reproduce and grow over time, he wants to print a trachea that can be used in humans. The trachea is the tube that starts just below the voice box, and connects with the bronchia. 

Dr. Faiz Bhora hopes that his team's research will progress enough to be able to implant the first 3D-printed tracheas in humans in a few years.Currently it is very difficult to replace the trachea, and only a few successful transplants have taken place.  When it is tried, patients often die within a short period of time due to complications.  While it might not seem like it would be difficult, this is a very important part of the body that needs to work perfectly in order to allow food and air into the body, and keep infections from setting in.  The trachea transplant is often rejected by the body when it is done.

Trachea transplants are needed in cases where people experience inhalation burns, have stenosis or experience lung disease.  Another use for this could be for those who have to go through a tracheotomy due to throat cancer or an emergency situation. 

Since the main complication from trachea transplants is rejection, the doctors want to use biologic material from the person’s own cells to create the new trachea.  This would reduce, or eliminate the risk of rejection.  Using a biological gel solution Dr. Bhora has already created a 3D airway that could be implanted, but it would quickly become unusable.  This is why he said, “The next step is then to incorporate or embed stem cells within that that will differentiate into cartilage, which is the bulk of what the trachea is made up of.”
Adults have plenty of stem cells that can be used, once the process is perfected.  That might not be very far off. 

The research team has already had early success repairing the windpipe of a ping using a biologic membrane seeded with stem cells.  After three months, the pig is doing well, and the trachea is growing along with the pig.  This is very promising for the future of this technology.

Scientists are testing other uses for 3D printing for other parts of the body including ears, bladders, blood vessels and even kidneys.  The future of 3D printing is looking very bright for the medical industry, and there for, for all of us as well. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

3D Printed Leg gives Duck New Confidence

The 3D printed foot to be attached to the Dudley

Dudley the Duck was living in an animal shelter with his brother and several chickens when several months ago some of the chickens decided to attack the ducks.  They killed Dudley’s brother, and damaged his leg severely enough to require amputation of the foot and part of the leg.  While Dudley could still swim around, he had a lot of trouble getting around on land, and it even caused him to be the victim of more ‘animal bullying.’
When Terence Loring heard about this, he decided to see what he could do to help.  Terence is a mechanical engineer and architect, who also happened to know quite a bit about 3D Printing.  He worked with a local firm, Proto3000, who agreed to allow him to use their 3D printer for free. 
They scanned Dudley’s good foot, and made a mirror image to ensure it would match up well in size and shape.  A simple structure that consisted of an upper-leg, a lower-leg, the joint and the foot was printed off and attached to Dudley.  After some getting used to, he was able to walk around with ease.  The foot was made from a flexible rubber-mimic plastic, which help ensure easy placement and walking.

When interviewed, Loring said “He has a little friend, a pot bellied pig called Elsie that pushes him around.  When he got his leg, the first thing he did was go push the pig around.  You can really see the excitement that he can move around”

He continues to make adjustments and improvements to the leg, and is printing new versions as the duck grows.  Given that the process was relatively simple and inexpensive, Loring hopes he will be able to help other animals in the future.  He has even published the 3D files publically so anyone can download them and use them to help animals in their own area. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hey NASA, Print me off a Slice of Pizza!

NASA has had an interest in 3D printing for quite a while, and it is easy to see why.  They can use these printers in space to print off items that they need.  This will allow them to bring fewer tools and pieces of equipment with them, since they can decide exactly what they will need for a given mission, and print it off.  It would even be possible to set up a 3D printer on the moon, and have it print off a structure for astronauts to use for future missions.

Their latest goal, however, is to use 3D printing technologies to print off food.  This isn’t some long term future goal either, they actually funded a project for this, and it is a reality today.  There is now a prototype 3D printer that can print off an edible pizza!

The video below will show the 3D printer making the pizza, which then needs to be baked for just 70 seconds before it is enjoyed.  The contractor who made the printer claims that the pizza tastes good, though I’m not so sure I believe it myself.  Maybe tastes acceptable would be more believable.  I will say, however, that the end product doesn’t look half bad.

The fact is, however, that as this technology is improved, people in outer space, and anywhere on earth, will be able to print off a variety of types of foods.  The foods will be contained in compact ‘cartridges’ so they will be easier to transport, and have a much longer shelf life. 

This is indeed taking us one step closer to the Star Trek style food replicators that always seemed so futuristic.  The technology is still in need of some advancement, however, with this prototype being made, it will undoubtedly be much easier to make improvements on it so pizzas can be printed faster, and with better results. 

3D Printer to make Mini-Me

We all know that 3D printers can make images of just about anything you can imagine, but one smart company in Scotland is offering customers the ability to have their very own mini-me. They have been offering the service for a while, and are now testing the market for this service in a local supermarket.  That’s right, you can go in to pick up your fruits and veggies, make a quick pit stop in the 3D printer booth, and leave the store with a small replica of yourself.

Creepy?  Maybe at first, but is it really much different than taking a photograph?  Back in the early days of 2D photography there were many people who were hesitant to have their picture taken.  Some people thought it captured the soul in the image.  Today, of course, our pictures are often taken dozens or hundreds of times each day (sometimes without our knowledge).  In the future, it can be predicted that 3D images will be almost as common.

A Mini-Me?
While the marketing angle for a mini-me is easy to follow, there are actually many different reasons why people will love this ability.  Print off a 3D replica of dad before he goes off for military duty, and children will have something they can actually hold.  Before and after pictures for weight loss will take on a whole new dimension (literally).  The company is even able to make 3D replicas of a fetus from information gathered during an ultra sound (thought this option won’t likely be available inside a supermarket.)

Clearly, there are many different reasons why people would want to have a 3D scan of them done, and then printed off.  One interesting use that the company offering this service commented on was a couple preparing for their wedding day.  They can each come in and have their replicas printed off for use as wedding cake toppers.  No more generic husband and wife, you can have your actual figurine standing on top.

This is just one more example of how 3D printing is already changing the way we look at the world.  As the technology continues to advance, these types of imaging booths will be available in many more locations around the world, and eventually even in our own homes.

What would you think about having a 3D image of yourself or a loved one printed off?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday, January 24, 2014

3D Printing in the Palm of Your Hand

When most people think about 3D printing, an image of a large item that sits on a desk comes to mind.  Today, however, you can buy a hand held 3D printer that you can actually use to ‘draw’ things in 3D.  That’s right, the paper and marker is so 2013, and this is the future of what people will be drawing with.  Whether it is for children who want to have fun, or architects who want to make a great new building, this simple pen allows them to create virtually anything they can dream of. 

You can see in the YouTube video below an example of one of these pens.  The 3Doodler is an excellent item, due to be out later this year.  There are already other 3D drawing pens on the market today, so there is really no need to wait. 

The Price
One of the best things about this pen is that don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for it.  You can pick one up for around $100, and the plastic material used for printing is fairly cheap as well.   The YaYa Pen is, from what I’ve found, the first pen on the market, and you can buy it from Amazon HERE for only $105!  I was looking at it online and it seemed to have bad reviews, but then I realized that all the negative reviews were from supporters of the 3Doodler (which isn’t even available for purchase as of the writing of this).   I haven’t personally used either of them, but they both seem like great products to me. 

How it Works
Basically this pen functions like an old hot glue gun, but instead of glue, it puts out either ABS or PLA filament.  You can draw on a flat surface, and then raise your pen into the air and keep drawing. The filament comes out automatically, and can be set to two speeds for easy use.  Here are a few images of what types of things can be made with a 3D Pen:
Just about anything you would want to create, you can make a simple model of it using this pen.  Pretty incredible in my opinion! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this innovative, and affordable item in the comments below.

3D Printing to be Key Part of Oil Industry Future

General Electric’s oil and gas division, which is one of its fastest growing areas, has officially announced that it will be starting pilot production of 3D printed metal fuel nozzles for gas turbines later this year.  These nozzles have long been made from multiple smaller pieces being welded together.  With the 3D printing technology, they will be able to be printed as a single unit.  This will dramatically reduce the cost associated with them, and also make them much easier and faster to create.

They expect to have full production of these fuel nozzles in 2015, according to Eric Gebhardt, the Chief Technology Officer at GE Oil & Gas. 

GE Aviation has already begun using 3D printing for fuel nozzles in their division.  These nozzles are being used in the innovative new LEAP jet engines.  This move by GE has helped to ensure this method of making fuel nozzles (and many other parts as well) commercially viable. 

GE Oil and Gas has committed to investing $100 million over the course of the next two years for technology development.  Of that money, a significant amount will be used on 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing).  They have already purchased and installed dozens of these advanced printers throughout their business.

One of the most important benefits 3D printing is currently being used for is rapid prototyping.  When creating prototypes of new equipment, it can be very costly and time consuming to manufacture each new version.  With 3D printing, however, it can be done quickly and inexpensively with plastic or even metals.  With many things, once the prototype has been completed, it can then be made using traditional manufacturing methods.  Of course, in the future even the production versions will likely be printed.

An example of this comes from a GE pipeline inspection plant.  In this plant, they create monitoring robots that have to be designed specifically for the pipeline where they will be used.  These pipelines have many variables such as size, environment, what is being moved inside them and more. 

In the past, the design of a new robot would take about 12 weeks.  Today, it is being completed in about 12 hours due to an onsite 3D printer.  Prototypes are designed, printed, tested and adjusted rapidly, allowing for a quick move to full production of the new robot.

GE is one of many companies that is really pushing the envelope with 3D printing, and this type of thing is exactly what will help keep the advancement of this technology moving fast.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are you in Trouble with the Wife? Print off these Flowers!

In the big scheme of things this might not be on the top ten list of most important uses of 3D printing, however, it does represent an important advancement.  Using a soft material similar to rubber, Richard Clarkson from Victoria University of Wellington was able to print an inflatable flower that appears to bloom. 

You can pump air into inner chambers of the material, and the flower appears to open up, reveling the colorful inside of the flower.  This may appear simple at first glance, but as far as I can tell, it is the first time 3D printed items can be inflated like this, resulting in movement. 
These Blossoming Flowers Are the First Inflatable 3D-Printed Object

Opening New Doors
This type of advancement means that as it is perfected, it will be possible to print off custom party balloons, for example, which are the exact shape and size that you want them.  More importantly, it may be possible to print off inflatable medical equipment that can be used for a wide variety of things.  Also, printing off tires for bikes, cars and any number of things seems like it wouldn’t be a significant step forward.

In addition to bringing the ability of inflation to the table, this little flower shows how it is possible to use 3D printing with more advanced movement capabilities.  As the flower is inflated, the flower petals spread out naturally, and the middle becomes more prominent.  There are many possible applications for this type of thing in a wide variety of industries. 

The big question, however, remains whether or not your wife will accept printed flowers as an apology, or if it will just get you in more hot water.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Print Your New House in a Day with 3D Printing

A University of Southern California has recently commented about how it is possible, using today’s 3D printing technologies (with some modifications), to ‘print’ a full 2500 square foot house.  The house could be built in less than 20 hours, according to the professor.  The technique is known as contour crafting, and it was created by Behrokh Khoshnevis, who is the director of the manufacturing engineering graduate program at USC. 

He spoke about this innovative new construction option in a presentation at TEDxOjai, where he said, “Construction the way it’s done today is very wasteful.  Our solution benefits from advanced technology…it is essentially a way of streamlining the process of construction by benefiting from the experience we have gained in the field of manufacturing.”

The process works by having the 3D printer lay out concrete and interlocking steel bars as it builds the structure.  The printer can handle virtually everything within the house, including the plumbing, electrical, flooring and more.  It can build most types of houses, including multi-story structures. 

The below video is from the ContourCrafting.org site, where the technology behind this new method for building houses is explained.  As begins to be put into practice, there will undoubtedly be advancements and improvements, allowing for even more creative structures. 

Imagine, being able to send in a few of these home building printers to an area devastated by disaster.  Rebuilding entire neighborhoods could take weeks or months, rather than years.  In addition, the USC is working with NASA to use this type of technology to be able to build lunar structures, including landing pads, radiation walls and even fuel vessels. 

This is quite an extraordinary new use for 3D printing, and one that I think everyone should be excited about! 

High School Students use 3D Printer to Make Prosthetic Hand

Here is a news story about how 3D printing has already started to revolutionize the medical industry.  Just a few years ago an advanced prosthetic hand that allows the user to catch balls, write and do just about everything a real hand can do would have taken advanced medical teams to create.  Today, using 3D printing, a high school robotics team can do it.

A four year old little girl from Cedar Springs, MI, who was born without a right hand had recently outgrown her first prosthetic hand.  The family couldn’t afford the $5000 price tag for a new one (Insurance wouldn’t cover it).  Going without a hand at this age would have undoubtedly been devastating.  This is the age where children start to learn all sorts of new things, including writing and playing sports.

The Robotics team at West Catholic High School decided to do something about it.  The team got with a local parent who had a 3D printer, and got to work.
The robotics team consulted with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to make a cast of young Harmony’s hand so it would fit perfectly.  They then proceeded to make an advanced prosthetic hand.

The hand is made with plastic and elastic cables, which respond to Harmony’s wrist movements, allowing her to pick things up, catch balls, and perform many other activities that would have otherwise been impossible.

West Catholic High School and the robotics team presented the hand to young Harmony free of charge. 

This is just one more example of how 3D printing is bringing advanced technologies like those used in the prosthetic hand, to the people who need it.  Without the 3D printer, Harmony would have had to go without a hand.

What a great story!  I love how 3D printing is allowing people from all walks of life to help each other out!  What do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

3D Printing Pro

Hello and welcome to 3D Printing Pro.  I've decided to start up this blog to help track the growth and advancement of 3d printing and printers.  Over the past few years this technology has really begun to revolutionize many different industries in many different ways.  I've been a fan of this technology for years, and finally decided to start writing about it. 

This site will be dedicated to sharing news and information related to the world of 3D printing, as well as some thoughts and opinions on the matter.  While I will be doing my best to keep up with all the latest and greatest information, this is a rapidly changing technology, so I might occasionally miss something.  If you hear of something that you don’t see here, please contact me and let me know!

What is 3D PRINTING?
In case you’ve found your way to this site on accident, or you are just starting to hear about 3D printing, here is a very brief overview.  3D printing, also known as ‘Additive Manufacturing’ is a technology that allows you to ‘print’ three-dimensional objects.  There are many different types of 3D printers, allowing you to print with a variety of different materials.

For example, a large manufacturing facility may have a 3D printer that can use some types of metals.  The printer will melt the metal down, then create a 3D object in a very precise way.  This could be done to print off a custom office desk, or to create a prototype of a new engine block for a future vehicle.  There are virtually no limits to what can be printed.
For the average person, a 3D printer will use a type of plastic that is melted down and then used to form different objects.  Many artists use these printers to create new and exciting sculptures.  They can also be used for printing custom tools, toys, medical equipment and much more.

The Future of 3D Printing
The most exciting part about 3D printing is that there is almost no limitations to what it will be able to do.  While today the printers are quite expensive today, like all technologies, the price will drop rapidly over the coming years.  Imagine having the ability to print off anything you need in any situation. As this technology advances, that is exactly what will be possible.

In the near future (3-5 years) 3D printing will continue to revolutionize manufacturing.  It will also begin to be used more and more in the architecture and design industries.  Long term, 3D printing will change the way the medical industry works.  Hospitals will be able to print off exact replicas of bones that need to be replaced, for example.  They will also be able to make instruments that are customized to the specific needs of the patient. 

Of course, the biggest benefits likely haven’t even been thought of yet.  As more and more people become familiar with this technology, new and innovative ideas will be brought to the table.  In my opinion, however, 3D printing will be one of the biggest drivers of advancement over the next several decades.

I look forward to following the world of 3D printing, and helping bring information about it to you and hopefully many others.