Objects that couldn’t be made before 3D printers existed!


Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

Objects That Couldn’t Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

3D printing isn’t just for making unique stuffed animals or weird fake meat. It allows us to fabricate objects we never could with traditional manufacturing. Here are some of the incredible things we can print now, which were nearly impossible to make before.

Personalized Car Parts

3D printing can make car parts that are custom-built for the driver’s body and comfort: an ergonomic steering wheel, for example. Last month, Fortune reported Ford’s partnership with California-based 3D printing company Carbon3D. The automakers themselves can benefit from 3D printed parts, too. Instead of the ol’ Ford assembly line, engineers can make manufacturing and design more iterative with 3D printed materials, since prototyping suddenly becomes faster and cheaper and testing becomes more frequent and thorough.

You see, many products—from drinking cups to video game consoles to car parts—are created in a process called “injection molding.” That’s when a material, like glass or metal or plastic, is poured into a mold that forms the product. But with 3D printing, you can design a crazy object on your computer, and it can be turned into reality.

“3D printing bridges the gap between the digital and the physical world,” says Jonathan Jaglom, CEO of 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot, “and lets you design pretty much anything in digital form and then instantly turn it into a physical object.”

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

Lighter Airplanes

There have been lots of materials used to make planes lighter, and thus more fuel efficient and greener. But 3D-printed materials can cut weight by up to 55%, according to Airbus, which announced its involvement with 3D printing last year.

In February, Australian researchers unveiled the first 3D-printed jet engine in the world.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

3D-printed polymers often have “high strength to weight ratios,” says Kristine Relja, marketing manager at Carbon3D, the same company that’s working with Ford on the 3D-printed car parts. 3D-printed plane parts use that strength-to-weight ratio to their advantage. It gives them an edge over traditional materials, like the aluminum often found in seat frames.

“If the arm rest of each seat of a plane were replaced with a high strength to weight ratio part, the overall weight of the plane would drop, increasing fuel efficiency and lowering the overall cost of the plane,” Relja says.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

Detailed Molds of Your Jaw

Possibly the arena 3D printing handedly dominates is personal health. Our bodies are unbelievably individualized, idiosyncratic flesh bags filled with biological items uniquely shaped to each person. Since customization is so critical, especially in surgical implants, 3D printing can really shine here.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

Let’s start with dental trays: Those molds of your chompers that’re made with gross cement stuff that you have to leave in your mouth for minutes on end. They’re useful because they can help dentists and orthodontists create appliances like retainers or braces, and can give them a three dimensional, kinesthetic mold of your mouth.

Over at Stratasys, the 3D printing company that owns MakerBot, 3D-printed dental trays are going from CAD file to model, blazing trails in orthodontics. It gives orthodontists and dentists a cheap, accurate glimpse into a patient’s maw. It’s way easier than those nasty physical impressions with the cement, and way less gag-inducing.

Customized Surgical Stents

Stents are those little tubes surgeons stick in the hollow parts of your body—a blood vessel or artery, say—to hold it open and allow it to function properly. Usually, they’re mesh, but stents that are 3D-printed can have an edge, since they’re able to be customized more and are made with cheaper, flexible polymers that can dissolve safely into the bloodstream in a couple years.

At the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in the Detroit Medical Center, a 17-year-old girl was suffering from an aortic aneurysm, a potentially fatal heart condition that was discovered with a precautionary EKG. That’s when Dr. Daisuke Kobayashi and his team turned to 3D printing. A 3D printed model of her heart allowed the doctors to know exactly where to put stents in an otherwise delicate operation for a young patient.

In other cases, the surgical stents themselves are 3D printed: University of Michigan doctors have also implanted 3D-printed stents just above infant boys’ lungs to open their airways help them breathe normally on their own. The advantage of using 3D printing here is that doctors were able to create custom stents that could fit the kids’ individual anatomies, quickly and cheaply.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed


No, not the tiny magnetic choking hazards. We’re talking about models of Buckminsterfullerene, the molecule. It’s every chemistry teacher’s dream. 3D printers can produce tangible, big models of molecules. And they’re accurate, too. This type of complex geometry is really hard to pull off with injection molding. The closest thing we had before was basically popsicle sticks and Elmer’s.

3D printing not only helps us learn more about what molecules look like by making lifesized models of them—it also helps us make actual molecules. Earlier this year, Dr. Martin Burke at the University of Illinois led the construction of a “molecule-making machine”: It’s a machine that synthesizes small, organic molecules by welding over 200 pre-made “building blocks” and then 3D printing billions of organic compound combinations. This could “revolutionize organic chemistry,” the paper in the journal Science reported, significantly speeding up the process to test new drugs.

What’s cool about 3D printing is that it makes ambitiously designed objects way more feasible. Specifically, 3D printing can make those “complex geometries” that injection molding can’t: That is, stuff that’s in obscure shapes, like long twisty mobius strips or zillion-sided polygons.

Replacement Parts for Your Organs

3D printing can be used to make surgically-implanted hardware that protects or supports damaged organs. This could lead the way to custom repairs for damaged tracheas or windpipes, for instance. Sometimes part of a windpipe needs to be removed, but the two remaining ends need to be joined together—if they can’t be joined together, the patient may die.

3D bioprinting to the rescue! It can replicate the mechanical properties of the trachea. That’s right: a living, biological tracheal replacement can be made from a mix of 3D printing and tissue engineering. That’s what the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research did. They modified a 3D printer to use a syringe filled with living cells that produce collagen and cartilage. Within hours, bioengineered tracheas can be created on-the-spot quickly and cheaply. And that’s a key strength for 3D printing: fast prototypes.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

Organs and Bones

The most futuristic use of for these magical printers? They could, one day, create internal organs. That’s a literal lifesaver for folks who need an organ transplant. Also possibly available: eyes, blood vessels, noses, ears, skin, and bones. Even hearts.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed

And this isn’t just science fiction. In 2013, medical company Organovo started selling 3D-printed liver tissue. It’ll be a while before a fully functioning liver can be printed, but it’s a big step in the right direction, even if it just means prototypes and experimental liver-like structures.

As if that wasn’t incredible enough, we can also create replicas of people’s existing internal organs. With the help of CT scan data, docs can whip up three dimensional, touchable copies of individuals’ guts, in all their nuanced, unique glory. This can help medical professionals better find tumors or other irregularities. (Not to mention it could possibly take the gross awesomeness out of biology class dissections.)

And already, companies are creating cheap, 3D-printed prosthetic limbs for kids. A whole generation is growing up with 3D printing — not just as a toy, but a vital part of their bodies.

Objects That Couldn't Be Made Before 3D Printers Existed


by Bryan Lufkin | 8/11/15 4:34pm

3D printed meat for vegetarians?

A number of vegetarians and vegans weigh in on a debate still in its infancy; Is it OK to eat 3D printing meat?



In August, the first lab-grown beefburger was cooked and tasted in London. The verdict? “[It tasted] like an animal protein cake, said Josh Schonwald, author of The Taste of Tomorrowand one of the “lucky” few to taste the $330,000 morsel of petri dish meat.

The future of slaughter-less meat is not far off. In fact, scientists project it could be in the aisles of our supermarkets in 10 to 20 years. In today’s talk, Andras Forgacs, CEO and co-founder of Modern Meadow, explains the process of biofabrication and asks an interesting question: “What if, instead of starting with a complex, sentient animal, we started with what the tissues are made of, the basic unit of life, the cell?” Biofabrication, he says, signals the rise of a new industry that is both sustainable and humane and could radically change a society and environment shaped by the consumption of animals.

Yet, there are still many questions left unanswered. Would printed meat circumvent religious dietary rulings? Would it be considered Kosher or Halal? PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is positive about the future of lab-grown meat. So much so, it is offering a $1 million dollar reward to the first person to make commercially viable in vitro chicken meat by March 1, 2014.

And how about vegetarians? How might they feel about a new dietary prospect? We asked 7 TED vegetarians to consider the scenario of lab-grown meat. Here are their thoughts:

Amy Short wouldn’t eat printed meat, seeing it as just another processed food product.

“As a 20-year vegan who is not interested in meat and generally avoids meat analogs, I doubt I’d consume 3D printed meat. I’m most interested in whole foods that are true to nature and as unmolested and unmodified as possible.  I avoid processed foods and 3D printed meat is at its core a processed food product.”

Emilie Soffe would consider eating printed meat, and hopes it might stop crazy arguments about food production.

“It can feel overwhelming to look at a machine like factory farming and feel helpless against it. Incredibly smart, compassionate people are still buying into this system and it remains such a fiery, personal issue, as food is wrapped up in difficult things like culture, tradition and personal preference. It would feel much better occupying a world where both sides are satisfied with one system. I don’t have much of a desire to eat meat, anymore, so I don’t know if the introduction of this technology would change my current diet much. Maybe I’d splurge on a good, guilt-free filet mignon every once in a while.”

Morton Bast is a very-nearly-vegetarian who keeps kosher. She can’t wait to see how religion and technology collide.

“I’m waiting for the rabbinic ruling on this one. 10,000 points to the first rabbi hip enough to come out and declare a stance on the theological implications of printed meat. If it’s kosher, I’m in, but something tells me it will be a while. Truthfully, I’m desperately curious about the answer. It’s exhilarating and awesome to watch a concept as futuristic as printed meat come into contact with a concept as old as religious tradition. Reconciling them is awkward, but in a way it captures something deeply important. How do we bring what is comfortable and beloved with us into a world that is unfamiliar and new? This is definitely a match I want courtside seats for!”

Nick Weinberg is a lifelong vegetarian. Printed meat still wouldn’t cut it for him.

“I wouldn’t eat printed meat. My decision to be a vegetarian is not based on the ethical issues that surround it. It has always been the texture of meat and the idea of me actually cutting into it that has creeped me out. I’ve never been one to wear a leather jacket, but I do own a couple pairs of leather/suede shoes. I’d be up for trying printed leather.”

Jordan Reeves thinks he’ll rest a lot more easily when printed meat is a reality.

“I come from Alabama, a land where the standard ‘meat and 3’ is the only available option. The only people who ordered a veggie plate were the little old ladies who ventured out once a week — lunch with their Sunday school class after church, perhaps. We had meat with every meal, and it was also a staple in most of our snack foods. I bled BBQ sauce. Then, about two years ago, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I pledged to never, ever eat an animal again. Currently, I spend a large amount of my time and energy to educating myself about vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals. Not only would this be a cathartic culmination of that scholarship, but it could potentially disrupt the destruction of the environment. I literally lie awake at night worrying about the natural world’s future. I think one of the most detrimental forces to the earth is the factory farming institution. If printed leather became a thing, I could sleep at night!

To her own amazement, lifelong vegetarian Kate Torgovnick thinks she’d try printed meat.

“When I read about Andras Forgacs’ talk in the TEDGlobal program, I thought: ‘this guy is nuts’ and the idea was futuristically creepy. Then I watched the talk and saw that his idea is so much subtler than I first realized. Taking a biopsy of tissue doesn’t harm an animal, reproducing the tissues from it and then growing them en masse creates a material that is in many ways better than the original. If it catches on, this is a way out of the mass raise-and-slaughter paradigm. So I am surprised to say that I would eat printed meat. As weird as it might feel at first, if no animal is harmed in the process, I am fine with it. I have no idea what a real hamburger or bacon tastes like, and would like to be in the know. I’m also curious, can printed meat even be healthier than real meat?

Mark Bogdanoff is a lifelong vegetarian. He says no to printed meat, but he’s happy it’s happening.

“I’ve never intentionally eaten meat and don’t intend to. I do eat vegetarian meats such as veggie burgers or sausages, but not a lot. And, I generally enjoy the alternatives that aren’t even really trying to be meat. I have nothing to measure against so I just go for what’s healthy and tastes good. So, I’m just not that interested in printed meat that’s trying to be real meat. Am I glad it’s starting to exist? Very. I hope it becomes a method by which we can stop killing animals for food.”

by  | September 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm EDT