We've already seen many cases of the innovative push 3D printing is inspiring all over the map. The 3D printing revolution seems to have a knack for quickly moving technology ahead by way of collaborative effort and even a little friendly competition -- all of course in the name of scientific advancement. With such a large spread of applications, there is news of 3D printing's ongoing role in the medical field and in support of space exploration.
A 3D-printed skull made out of polyetherketoneketone was used as an implant to replace 75 percent of an unknown patient's missing skull. (Source: Resources2.news.com)
As 3D printing becomes more widespread, the question of what more the technology can be used to achieve naturally arises. Since 3D printers are already being used to print out globs of stem cells and makeshift, affordable prosthetics, why not print out entire bone replacements? That's exactly what Oxford Performance Materials in Connecticut has accomplished by gaining the FDA's approval to scan and print out the missing 75 percent of a man's skull to be used as an implant. The 3D-printed bone replacement was constructed by first scanning the patient's entire skull.
Once the missing portions were laid out, small texture and surface adjustments were made to the final polyetherketoneketone skull design to promote bone and tissue growth upon the implant's surgical insertion. Ultimately, the company believes that many people can benefit from this technology and that there's no apparent reason why this it be used to repair other damaged areas throughout the human body.
On the space exploration front, a competition set up by the folks at DIYRockets has its eyes set on improving satellite technology by recruiting help from interested competitors worldwide. Oh, and there's prizes, too! The goal of the program is to inspire rapid innovation through the design of a 3D-printed stainless-steel propulsion system that will carry a nano-satellite equipped with all necessary onboard electronics into Low Earth Orbit. Registration for the competition is closed, but you can check out the winners when they are announced in July. Submissions are being judged on technical, business case, and collaborative design criteria to help stimulate well-thought-out competition entries. The winner will receive a $5,000 prize from Sunglass for best rocket engine, with additional $2,500 prizes awarded to the best student-led team and to the best collaborative design effort. For more info on the competition, head on over to the DIYRockets website.
As 3D printing continues to expand its influential spark on rapid technological innovation, we ask ourselves, again... What's next for 3D printing?
Thanks for the additional information, Cabe. The article on Social Network for 3D Printers was very interesting. It would be really cool to see Office Depot down the street offer this service as part of their print center and maybe in a few years they will.
You do not have to be a machinist to work a 3D printer. Though, understanding how the printer work completely will not be avoided. If you need to make a lot of parts, prototypes, etc, then getting one will pay for itself. However, like Greg said, you can always have someone else make one.
Thanks for the great information, Greg - I will definitely look into it. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. There are so many possibilities...I have a lot of projects in my head that I never thought it would be cost-effective to pursue...this could change my mind!
Nancy, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how affordable and easy to use 3rd party 3D printering services are today. One of these services, www.redeyeondemand.com allows you to just upload your .STL file to their website and automatically generates a quote on the spot. After purchasing with a credit card, it starts the printing job and a few days later, you receive the part in the mail. Efficient (and even fun) to use.
I'd heard of 3D printed partial skull plates, but none this large. Thanks for covering this, Cabe. Here's an entire, artistic 3D printed skull : http://www.ahalife.com/product/1946/3d-printed-filigree-skull/
Many companies now, including mine, have a 3D printer on site. An engineer or a designer will typically send their designs to the machine in the morning and have the parts in the afternoon (or maybe the next day if it is a large/complicated part). This really accelerates development and test cycles from weeks to even days or hours and is a very effective development tool.
The price of 3D printers has been lowered dramatically, so these systems can be within financial reach now. When selecting a 3D printer, it is also important to choose one that has simple operation (so that everyone in the department can run the machine, rather than having a specialized technician only).
Thanks for your observation, Greg. The company I worked for typically lagged 3-7 years behind current technology so we did a lot of making do with what we had. I can see that if we could prove the cost-effectiveness of 3D printing and the increased speed to market that we possibly could have sold the idea of investing in one to management - especially since we had a full department dedicated to CAD.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.