The future for 3D printing is “not so rosy” according to Todd Grimm, president of T A Grimm and Associates, in a keynote presentation during last week’s TCT conference in the UK, in which he urged the industry to adopt a more pragmatic approach.
Printers that create artificial limbs, cheap drugs and replacement organs could radically change medicine in poorer countries. But can this technology deliver?
...In a farming culture like India, a 3D printer could allow small parts for broken tractors to be printed, or custom-made connectors for irrigation systems cobbled together from metre upon metre of different types of hose. And take a faculty as basic but as important as sight. Glasses frames are easy to change in the western world, but in developing countries, they are expensive or impossible to replace, according to Phil Reeves, managing director of Econolyst, a UK-based consultancy in rapid manufacturing. “Often lenses outlive the frames in developing countries,” he says. If a village, or nearby town, has a 3D printer and access to some basic polymer raw materials, a new set of frames – custom made to fit the lenses – could be knocked out in no time
But there have been some notable achievements. Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina printed a kidney, though a non-functioning one, on stage at a TED conference last year. Biologist Jonathan Butcher, Lipson’s colleague at Cornell, has already 3D-printed a working heart valve out of biological polymers. 3D printing allows complicated structures to be built easily, says Butcher. A heart valve has areas that need to be stiff and strong, other areas that need to be flexible, and a host of interconnecting, moving parts. Building a system as intricate as that using a mould instead would be mind-numbingly difficult Butcher suggests. “Anytime a tissue is anatomically complex... 3D printing will make a major impact,” says Butcher.
So far, Butcher has printed aortic heart valves and put them in a bioreactor, where stem cells are added that integrate with the polymers and eventually take over so that the valve is made entirely from human cells. The next step is to try this in an animal model, and Butcher is aiming for 2013 for that. The developments needed now are in the materials used as the inks, says Lipson, who is working with Butcher on the project. “Once people figure out the process it doesn’t require hi-tech,” says Lipson. Butcher agrees: “we’ve got the printing thing worked out,” he says.
Butcher anticipates that 3D printing could slash the cost of organ transplant surgery and help bring it to the developing world. “Some of the major costs for organ replacement are the limited supply and the transportation and storage costs,” he says. “3D printing-based tissue engineering creates a new organ from scratch, fundamentally removing those costs.” And even though new materials are needed, they needn’t be prohibitively expensive either. “We currently use about $10 of polymer to print a human sized heart valve,” says Butcher.
Lipson also thinks that 3D printing could help to train doctors and surgeons. Removing a tumour accurately, for example, he says, could easily be practiced if a scan of the tumour site is made and then a replica printed. “There are ethical and cost issues with cadavers and animals, but a 3D printer can recreate what you need,” Lipson says. Not only that, but the texture of live tissues can be recreated: rigor mortis makes cadavers stiff and unrealistic for someone who wants to learn what surgery on a live patient really feels like.
...Unaware of the interest he was about to get from 3D printing enthusiasts, computing engineer Grant Schindler at Georgia Tech launched Trimensional in 2011, a phone app that turns lots of 2D images into a 3D version. Schindler made the app as a social tool, for fun. But he quickly discovered that he’d created a 3D scanner that would be just the thing for the developing world, and could be put to use there soon. Schindler is certain that Trimensional will be useful to medical professionals in the developing world. “I have had some discussions with folks in the prosthetics and orthotics community who are excited about the potential for using Trimensional on the iPad to cheaply scan body parts for custom fit prosthetics and orthotics,” he says.
There are limitations at the moment, not least that smart phones or tablets weren’t designed as 3D scanners, says Schindler, but he knows what’s required to fix this: “we need to intelligently combine the phone's sensors and screen with new algorithms to extract 3D information from images.” This limits the technology to printing knick-knacks – for now. “There is every reason to think this level of quality and accuracy should improve over time,” Schindler says. This will be thanks to better cameras, faster processors, and better software
...As always, the question of who pays for the technology is a thorny one. Deshmukh thinks some combination of country, state and NGOs is the answer. Lipson agrees that governments in developing countries should take some responsibility, rather than diverting funds from ongoing philanthropic projects. “I would hesitate to take money away from the field,” he adds.
...Lipson predicts, with an air of optimism, that in a decade the 3D printing revolution will have taken hold globally. “It removes barriers, anyone can make anything,” he says. The limiting factor is the imagination of the inventor.
3D Systems Corporation (NYSE: DDD) announced today that it acquired Tim The Innovative Modelmakers B.V. (“TIM”), a leading full service provider of on-demand custom parts services, located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The company plans to integrate the operations of TIM into its on-demand parts service as part of 3D Systems Benelux, and immediately offer its full range of rapid prototyping, model making and manufacturing solutions for the benefit of design-to-manufacturing professionals and consumers alike.
“We are very pleased to add a company of TIM’s reputation, craftsmanship, flexibility and speed to our growing on-demand custom parts services network in Europe,” said Ziad Abou, Director On-Demand Parts Europe, 3D Systems. “With TIM’s expertise on board, we can serve our European growing customer base better, faster and with an expanded menu of services.”
This weekend was Maker Faire NY, which ExtremeTech toured, taking a picture of just about every 3D printer design imaginable. Follow us on a mystical journey that goes from the Replicator to the Rostock and beyond.
What happens when a prime example of the open-source hardware movement locks down its products? Read this article by Rich Brown on CNET News.
<<< personal opinion :
I don't think Makerbot's decision to go partly closed-source is a threat to the open source community. I merely think it's a sort of payback for all the work and developpment they brought to their versions of RepRap. Their decision shouldn't influence DIY fans to stick with Thingeverse or their own RepRap projects, in a way that it tries to grasp concertation on industry standards.
No way the technology 2 years from now will be the same as today. By continuing their stuff, DIY might just always be a step ahead as mainstream companies (Makerbot, Cube, Form, etc). These companies are battling to settle a common ground for more industrial and user friendly 3d printers. The core of 3d printers will remain and grow as an open source solution, while companies will have to invest money, human and time ressources to developp ready to use solutions for the growing mass market.
Back in July, we covered a story about 3D printing coming to a Nevada public library. The University of Nevada engineering library became the first in the nation to offer 3D printing resources to the public.
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.