Extinct rhinos and 3D printing



Can 3D Printing Save Rhinos From Going Extinct?

With large-scale poaching causing the once-abundant rhino population to dip to extinction levels, one Seattle-based biotech startup has come up with a deceivingly simple idea to stave demand of the rhino’s coveted horns: fake it.

Pembient, founded earlier this year, is working with rhino horn powder in its labs in order to develop solid rhino horn substitutes, by “duplicating the cells, proteins and deposits in a rhino horn so the synthetic version is genetically similar to the real thing,” the Puget Sound Business Journal reported.

The fascinating part? They’re doing it by using 3D printing. Making something go from this …

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To this … (the one in the middle is the fake one)

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It’s unclear how exactly Pembient’s making the products, but as TechCrunch explained, “Rhino horns are composed of a specific kind of keratin protein. Pembient figured out the genetic code and was then able to reproduce the horns using the keratin in a 3D-printing technique.”

After Pembient CEO Matthew Markus showed a TechCrunch reporter one of their horn prototypes, Markus said, “You can’t physically tell the difference. No one looking at this could tell this wasn’t from a rhino. It’s the same thing. For all intents and purposes, this is a real rhino horn.”

Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine and are considered a cure-all for many types of illnesses, driving a devastating global black market. Pembient’s goal is to replace this illegal, $20 billion wildlife trade with fabricated wildlife products, such as rhino horn and elephant ivory, at prices below the levels that induce poaching.

“We surveyed users of rhino horn and found that 45 percent of them would accept using rhino horn made from a lab,” said Pembient. “In comparison, only 15 percent said they would use water buffalo horn, the official substitute for rhino horn.”

Markus also told New Scientist that Vietnamese rhino horn users have said that Pembient’s manufactured rhino powder has a similar smell and feel to wild rhino horns. If all goes to plan, the fake horns could be on the market by next fall at a tenth of the price of illegal ones, the publication reported.

However, conservationists have pointed out that the company’s plan doesn’t placate global demand for real rhino horns, especially in countries where it’s considered a status symbol to own one.


“The synthetic horns will not have an impact on current rhino horn users that want real horns from dead rhinos,” Douglas Hendrie, technical advisor at Education for Nature–Vietnam told New Scientist.

We’ve seen 3D printers do some pretty incredible things, from “printing” sustainable food to tackling plastic waste. Can this new technology help save the rhino?


by  | May 8, 2015 9:15 am

New 3D printed legs for a dog

Animal Lovers Rejoice! This Adorable Dog Can Walk Again Thanks to 3D Printing.


Another day, another animal given a new lease on life thanks to 3D printing. This time it’s Derby, a dog born with deformed legs who, with the help of some folks at3DSystems, now runs alongside his owners with gleeful abandon. Derby’s front legs have been augmented with two blade-like attachments that Who’s-a-Good-Boy uses to run and scamper.

Derby was placed into a foster home by The Peace And Paws Rescue and ended up with a 3DSystems employee, Tara Anderson. Two designers and Derrick Campana, an animal orthotist, scanned Derby’s legs and made cradles and blades that fit him perfectly.

While this footage, like the footage of 3D-printed ducks before it, is designed primarily to melt our poor widdle hearts, it’s wonderful to see a dog so happy and all thanks to rapid prototyping. While these sorts of things were possible for decades, the work required to sculpt legs like these was prohibitive, especially for an animal. Now, however, you could feasibly design these once and scale them up and down for various animals, inviting in the Age of the Bionic Hamster or the Era of the Cyber-Ermine. Or, simply, the Hour of Sweet, Lovable Derby.

“This is what 3D printing is all about,” said Anderson. “To be able to help anybody – a dog, a person – to have a better life? There’s just no better thing to be involved in.”

by  | Dec 16, 2014

3D print sand?

Markus Kayser has managed to 3D print sand by harnessing solar power. Follow the link for more!



“So what are you doing this weekend, Markus?”

“Oh, you know. Heading out to the desert and harnessing the power of the sun to make a 3D printer that can print objects out of sand. You?”

“… catching up on Breaking Bad.”

You know the kid in your old neighborhood that spent his spare time frying ants with a magnifying glass? This is like that — except instead of a magnifying glass, he’s using an big ol’ fresnel lens. And instead of roasting insects, he’s melting freaking sand into stuff.

Built by artist Markus Kayser, the “SolarSinter” concept isn’t too disimmilar from laser sintering printers used by operations like SpaceX to print otherwise impossible objects out of metal. A focused sun beam is a whole lot less precise than a finely-honed laser, of course — but the core concepts are the same.

I bet this guy could make a mean sand castle.

by  | Sep 25, 2014

3D printed hands

Adding a superhero’s touch to prosthetic hands 🙂


What could be better than giving disabled kids a new pair of hands? How about slapping a set of claws on those hands!

Aaron Brown, a maker and volunteer for the group Enabling The Future, has been building 3D printed prosthetic hands for kids who are missing fingers. These hands are given away for free and the group has made countless children quite happy.

Now they can be happier. Brown built a set of Wolverine claws that are compatible with the free prosthetic hand plans available on Thingiverse.

“The Comic loving nerd inside of me (along with some Facebook friends) said there is no way I can make a Wolverine hand without CLAWS…so I modeled some in Sketchup the morning before the makerfaire, printed ‘em, spray painted ‘em silver and velcro’d ‘em on there. Turned out pretty darn cool!” said Brown.

“I worked for about 7 years in nightclub security, with a few less exciting factory jobs before that.
Playing around with technology has always been a passion and hobby on the side and when my grandfather passed away unexpectedly last year, I was left with a small amount of funds in his will – just enough to start building my own business,” he said. Now he is working on a small 3D print shop and has been building Wolverine-themed hands for kids since he showed the first hand at the Grand Rapids Maker Faire.

It’s great to see 3D printing become truly useful and it’s even more exciting to see folks who can move from part-time nightclub bouncer to full time maker with a little time and effort.

by  | Sep 6, 2014

Headphones 3D printed

Customised 3D printed headphones designed around the shape of your ear! Using the Normal app, you can send photos of your ears Normal will make a customised headphone based on your ear’s shape and customisation choices, which will be shipped in 48 hours!


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Hello, world. Meet Normal, the customized, high-end earphone manufacturer that’s looking to bring 3D printing to the mass market. From its offices and manufacturing facility in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Normal is looking to sell $199 customized ear buds made to the shape of an individual’s ear.

The brainchild of Nikki Kaufman, a former Quirky executive (and spouse of Quirky founder Ben Kaufman), Normal represents a new step in the evolution of manufacturing through 3D printing.

“People have been talking about 3D printing and mass customization as the new future of manufacturing, but there hasn’t been a really good consumer application for that technology,” says Kaufman.

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The evolution of Normal actually came from Kaufman’s experience at Quirky, where she was exposed to 3D printing, hardware sourcing and manufacturing. But she didn’t pursue developing the product through the Quirky platform, because as an executive, she said it would have been an abuse of community engagement — and Normal was its own, standalone business.

Kaufman began developing her business plan in earnest in August, just a month after the idea first came to her. By October she had secured financing from a slew of investors — both institutional firms and angels — and at just around a year since its inception, Normal will open the doors on its manufacturing facility and storefront.

Typically, if someone wanted a custom-built earphone for the exact shape of their ear, the process would cost thousands of dollars and take weeks to manufacture, according to Kaufman.

In fact, it would involve a trip to the doctor just to get a custom-built mold of your ear. Using the Normal app, that process is reduced to two days at the most (including shipping).

Users download the Normal app available on iOS orAndroid and are asked to take pictures of both ears using a coin as a point of reference so the app can size things correctly.

Once both ears have been documented for Normal, customers can further customize their headphones with different selections for cord length and color, and accent colors on the earphones’ hardware.

From the photographs, Normal will make a customized earphone for each ear, match it with the choices for cord length and hardware coloring, and make and ship those personalized earphones to a customer within 48 hours.

“When we set out to make Normal we wanted not just an amazing brand, and an amazing fit and a product that you design, but one that sounds incredible,” says Kaufman. “Anyone would really appreciate that sound. We went out to find the best components we could find and it’s about the engineering, too — how it’s engineered and manufactured. Because of the 3D-printed custom fit, it’s creating a seal for you which makes it sound that much better.”

Shoppers can order now through the app or head to the company’s storefront when it opens in August.

The company uses Stratasys Fortus 250mc printers to manufacture the earforms and is using undisclosed top-of-the-line suppliers for the audio components, according to Kaufman.

There’s certainly a market for high-end audio equipment (no matter the quality), and Kaufman says that the earphones are just the beginning.

“We are working on additional products,” she says. “The idea could be much bigger than headphones and earphones. [But] the economics and the timing makes sense for ear phones right now.”

With $5 million in the bank from a gaggle of prominent venture capital firms and angel investors, Kaufman isn’t alone in thinking that Normal could be that application.

The firms behind the new startup include RRE Ventures, Maveron, NEA, Social + Capital Partnership, Vegas Tech Fund (all heavy hitters).

And Normal’s list of angel investors includes a broad swath of the backers behind some of the most successful recent startups of the app era like Josh Spear and Jason Port (an investor in Quirky); media and sports moguls like Michael Ovitz and The Kraft Group (owners of the New England Patriots); and entrepreneurs like Donald Katz (founder of Audible.com).

by  |  Jul 8, 2014