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?
Fascinating article, Cabe - thanks for the peek at some amazing technology. Both applications are so exciting and the possibilities are mind boggling. How cool it would be to prototype designs digitally - just print it out! I see a lot of articles about 3D printing on here but have never seen a 3D printer myself - how accessible is it becoming for the average engineer and what skill sets are needed to utilize one?
I agree. The article was very interesting. The solutions that 3D printers are solving are mind boggling and shows the spirit of human innovation at its finest. The video of the 3D printed rocket engine was very impressive. I believe using a 3D printer is not difficult because of the machine's ease of use, the online support from folks like Makerbot, and the free CAD software and files being shared by the online community of Makers. Nice article Cabe!
Not to be skeptical mrdon, but every time my husband tries to rope me in on a project (we sometimes do projects together - he does most of the HW and I do most of the SW) he always comes in with the idea that the programming won't be difficult for the same reasons you mentioned. I guess what is "difficult" is all in your perspective!
Very good point. Software can be tricky and I never take it for granted that its easy to use.If you do run into a challenge with a 3D printer project, I believe the support from the Maker Community and Makerbot will alleviate some of the stress.
Its nice you and your husband work on tech projects together. The DIY electronics tech books I've written and are writing today my wife provides editing and tech support on assembly of the electronic projects. Here's my latest book for building cool electronic gadgets using the Arduino.
Very cool mrdon - I just put your book on "the list" for our family to get in the near future. Isn't it great to work with your spouse on projects?! When things aren't working I always blame the HW and Phil always blames the SW LOL. Off topic for this forum but relates to our discussion since we are both authors - I am literally just putting the finishing touches on this website for a book I have written: www.love2christ.com I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband. Best wishes on your book sales and future projects!
Yes, in many product development arenas, using 3D printing to make quick prototypes is quite common. This is especially effective on concurrent engineering teams where quick feedback and multiple design iterations can be used to rapidly get to market.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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 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.
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/