3D Printing Round-Up: Innovative Medical Field & Space Exploration Pursuits

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.

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?

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