Develop body armor inspired by fish scales


US Army is Using 3D Printing to Develop Body Armor Inspired by Fish Scales

A collaboration between American and Israeli researchers has produced a prototype of a new type of body armor inspired by the flexibility of fish scales and other naturally occurring imbricated body armor. The armor prototype was designed to maximize the wearer’s ability to move unencumbered while providing significantly more protection than standard Kevlar body armor.

While scale armor has been used for centuries, examples very often had very little in common with the fish scales that inspired it. They were made of rigid plates crudely attached to each other and offering little in the way of maneuverability. But the body armor developed by MIT and Technion does more than simply look like the scales that inspired it and actually creates multiple layers of rigidity and flexibility, just like real fish scales. The outer layers of the body armor is made of stiff plates while being attached to a highly flexible under-layer.

“Many species of fish are flexible, but they are also protected by hard scales,”explained project lead Professor Stephan Rudykh of the American Technion Society. “The secret behind this material is in the combination and design of hard scales above with soft, flexible tissue below.”

The key is altering the shape and size of the scales depending on what part of the body is being covered; this allows the user to have more protection in areas that require less flexibility and a greater degree of motion than typical body armor would allow. The flexibility ratio was calculated using a new metric developed especially for this project called “protector-flexibility.”


The armor is being 3D printed on the Objet500 Connex from Stratasys which allows for multiple printing materials to be used at the same time. This allowed researchers to experiment with altering the density of the scales until they found an ideal ratio that increased the resistance to penetration by a factor of 40 with only a reduction in flexibility of a factor of five.

And the armor can even be customized to suit the wearer’s body and individual preferences, so users can sacrifice flexibility for durability depending on the specific mission requirements. Mission parameters are going to vary between a sniper hiding in dense foliage to a Navy SEAL engaging hostiles. Current body armor options are made of Kevlar fibers and offers a lot less mission-specific adaptability.

The MIT research was backed by the US Army Research Office, which is clearly looking for alternative combat armor options and the prototype will be tested for military applications and for its effectiveness in stopping projectiles. But because of the flexibility of the prototype, varieties of the new type of scale armor can also be adapted to help protect astronauts from ambient radiation or micro-meteorites while performing actions while on a space walk.

This isn’t the first time that nature has inspired advances in technology and it isn’t even the first time that modern 3D printed scale armor has been researched. However, Rudykh and his team have taken it to the next level by bringing the armor to the prototype stage for testing. It is very likely that our future military personnel and law enforcement officers will be custom fitted with 3D printed body armor that was created specifically for their bodies and individual duties.

“Our findings provide new guidelines for developing simple material architectures that retain flexibility while offering protection with highly tunable properties,” concluded the researchers. “The tailored performance of the protective system – with characteristics that can be tuned according to the required movements at different regions of the body – draws its abilities from the microstructural geometry. The ability for a given microstructure to offer different deformation resistance mechanisms is key to achieving the multifunctional design of stiff plates and soft matrix. We found that careful selection of microstructural characteristics can provide designs optimized for protection against penetration while preserving flexibility.”

What do you think about the latest 3D printed advancement that was inspired by nature? You can discuss it on the 3D Printed Fish Scale Inspired Body Armor forum thread over on

by  | APRIL 8, 2015

Bungee Mummy – successful gaming app!

We’re proud to announce that our partners and friends at Steampunk Wizards have had their ultra successful gaming App Bungee Mummy featured on SWAG, Malta’s Online Men’s Magazine!

   Technology malta,  Video Games malta,  Maltese Gaming App Goes Global malta, Gadgets & Tech malta, Swag Mens Online Magazine Malta
Steampunk Wizards are a group of passionate Maltese game developers currently enjoying their time in the limelight, fresh off the release of their smash-hit, Bungee Mummy: King’s Escape. Available for Android and iOS, it’s an ambitious gaming app which hits almost every nail on the head, providing players with a great mix of platform hopping and puzzle solving.
SWAG was lucky enough to have caught up with Josh O’Cock, Marketing Manager at Steampunk Wizards. Of course, we also spent a fair amount of time playing Bungee Mummy.

The high-production value is evident as soon as the title screen loads up. Greeted by the stars of the game, King Phero and Madu, players will instantly notice the sharp visuals and crisp sound booming out of their tablets/mobiles.

Gameplay is focused on maneuvering Phero, a small mummy shaped like a football, across various landscapes. Wielding a lantern, the green bat-like creature Madu will guide you along your journey as you collect golden scarabs and unlock a variety of powers ups.

Execute your movements carefully, or you may end up victim to a swinging axe, burnt to a crisp by a flaming booby trap or wind up as snake food. For every problem, there’s a solution, and players can’t simply breeze through levels.

Controls are responsive, and the physics are excellent. Generally, you’ll swing around by shooting out up to 3 bandages in a Spider-man like fashion to propel yourself over any obstacles. Should you need to move a box onto a lever to solve a puzzle, you’ll have to attach yourself onto a nearby ledge, hook yourself up to the box and swing it into the desired direction.

The game does a good job of showing you the ropes in the early stages, with simple instructions that you’ll internalize quickly.  Once you get the hang of it, moving Phero around becomes second nature.

However, even with full-mastery of the controls, launching Phero onto the right spot can still be tricky, and you’ll often find yourself stopping for a second to figure out how to solve a puzzle.

As you swiftly cascade from one ledge onto another, dodging enemy slugs, scorpions and sharp spikes, you may not notice the fine amount of detail injected into the game. Character models are superb, backgrounds are impressive and even the faint sound of crumbling ledges are pleasing to the ear.

Catapult Phero into the distance and he’ll let out a worried scream, and he’ll even whimper as he lands. The game’s music is enthralling, and plays to the context well. During a boss battle for example, the fast-paced music is exchanged for a down-tempo, ominous track which adds a nice touch of tension.

The difficulty is well-balanced, so both casual and hardcore gamers should be satisfied. With a number of secrets and extras to unlock, it’s also got its fair share of replay value.

Rarely, I experienced a slow frame-rate on my tablet, and I found myself occasionally getting stuck between a box and a wall, powerless to escape. Luckily, the Steampunk Wizards are on top of the situation, and they’ve already released one major update to the game. Besides those minor issues there isn’t too much to complain about, except the annoying advertisements popping up every so often. However, it’s a worthy sacrifice to make for a great game, and you can always buy the ad-free version for just €1.99.

Besides the addictive gameplay, Bungee Mummy is one of the first games to provide players with tangible rewards, in the form of 3D printable prizes. Steampunk Wizards teamed up with another local boundary breaking company, Malta 3D Printing. The collaboration between the two has resulted in some terrific models being printed. Players can select to print the protagonist King Phero and his green buddy Madu, amongst others.

The 5 Maltese men, 1 Belgian and 1 Briton were rewarded with a top 3 spot in the local gaming charts. Furthermore, it’s also only one spot away from the mega-popular Candy Crush in the Maltese App Store Charts. To top it all off, tens of thousands of users have downloaded the game via Google Play.

SWAG is proud to say this game was developed by a Maltese company. One long and arduous year of blood sweat and tears were poured into this project, and developers are now reaping the rewards.

The sky is the limit for the Steampunk Wizards, who are looking to go from strength to strength. Hopefully, this groundbreaking achievement will only serve to inspire other local developers to follow suit.

Download Bungee Mummy for free from

by Martin Calleja Urry   |  March 14, 2015

3D printing and medicine – ethical debate

An Interesting Ethical Debate About 3D Prinnting and Medicine.…/11/4161675.htm

3D printed titanium heel

3D printing can offer great benefits in medicine, but it also raises a number of ethical questions as the technology develops, says Susan Dodds.

Three-dimensional printing technologies have the genuine potential to improve medical treatments for conditions ranging from bone cancer and arthritis to glaucoma and hearing loss.

Already 3D bioprinting allows orthopaedic surgeons to print artificial bone from a scan of the patient, printing existing surgical materials to precisely the right shape to replace missing or damaged bone. For example, the technique has been recently used to create skull implants for people with head trauma and a titanium heel (pictured right) to replace heel bone that had been eaten away by cancer.

In the future, 3D printing technologies may be used together with advances in stem cell research to print living bone cells from patients’ own cells or functioning organs for transplant (such as kidneys or hearts).

3D bioprinting is one of the latest developments in ‘personalised medicine’.

The technology could enable doctors to tailor treatments to individual patients, rather than developing a treatment that works well for most patients with that condition.

But 3D bioprinting also raises a number of ethical questions that will need to be considered as these technologies develop.

Three ethical issues that are raised are: justice in access to health care, testing for safety and efficacy, and whether these technologies should be used to enhance the capacity of individuals beyond what is ‘normal’ for humans.

Justice and access

One major concern about the development of personalised medicine is the cost of treatments. Until recently it has been thought that advances in personalised medicine go hand-in-hand with increasing disparities in health between rich and poor. Should these treatments only be available to those who can pay the additional cost? If so, then those patients who lack financial resources may not receive effective treatments that others can access for a range of serious conditions.

Personalised medicine is most closely associated with research in genomics and stem cell therapies.

Advantages of personalising medicine are most obvious in cases where the condition affects patients in very different ways and standardised treatments offer imperfect benefits. For example, conditions affecting the growing bones of children are among those where personalising treatments, if these can be adapted to the rapidly changing bodies of children, can make a very big difference in the child’s comfort and capacity to participate in ordinary childhood activities and play.

Until recently, the cost and time required to provide a series of customised prostheses of different sizes for a child who has lost a leg to cancer, for example, has been prohibitive for many patients. 3D printing will bring down the time and cost of customising and producing prosthetic legs. In cases like that of Ben Chandler, printers can also be used for implants, which might avoid the need to amputate the original limb, even where significant bone loss has occurred.

The capacity to use 3D printing technology to substantially reduce the cost of prosthetics, or orthopaedic surgery to restore lost bone structures, means that this area of personalised medicine can avoid the criticism that personalised medicine inevitably increases the cost of health care and puts effective personalised treatments out of the reach of many patients.

Will 3D printing treatments be safe?

A second ethical concern about any new treatment, including the use of 3D printing, is how we can test that the treatment is safe and effective before it is offered as a clinical treatment.

In the case of 3D printing to replace bone, the materials used — for example titanium — are those already used for orthopaedic surgery, and have been tested for safety over a long period and with many patients, so it is unlikely that there are new risks from the materials.

In the future, 3D printing may be used in combination with stem cell derived cell lines.

This could lead to the development of printed functioning organs that can replace a patient’s damaged organ, but without the risk or rejection associated with donor organs, because it uses that patient’s own cells.

How can we know in advance that these treatments are safe? Unlike the case of developing a new drug, a stem cell therapy can’t be tested on a sizable number of healthy people prior to being tested on patients and then, finally, being made available as a standard treatment. The point of using a patient’s own stem cells is to tailor the treatment quite specifically to that patient, and not to develop a treatment that can be tested on anybody else.

Researchers combining 3D printing with personalised stem cell therapies beyond the experimental stage will need to develop new models for testing their treatments for safety and effectiveness.

Regulatory bodies that give approval for new treatments, such as Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), will also need to establish new standards of testing for regulatory approval before these treatments can become readily available.

This means that even if researchers were ready to print a functioning prosthetic organ, it will be quite some time before patients with kidney disease should expect to be offered a 3D printed prosthetic kidney that uses their stem cells as a routine treatment.

Human enhancement

The third issue is whether or not we should use 3D printing for human enhancement.

If the technology can be used to develop replacement organs and bones, couldn’t it also be used to develop human capacities beyond what is normal for human beings?

For example, should we consider replacing our existing bones with artificial ones that are stronger and more flexible, less likely to break; or improving muscle tissue so that it is more resilient and less likely to become fatigued, or implanting new lungs that oxygenate blood more efficiently, even in a more polluted environment?

The debate about human enhancement is familiar to the context of elite sport where athletes have sought to use medical technology to extend their speed, strength or endurance beyond what is ‘natural’, or what they are able to achieve without drugs or supplements. In that context use of performance enhancing drugs is considered to cheat other athletes, unbalancing the level playing field.

In the case of 3D bioprinting enhancement of human capacities could be associated with the military use of the technology and the idea that it would be an advantage if our soldiers were less susceptible to being wounded, fatigued or harmed in battle.

While it is clear that it would be preferable for military personnel to be less vulnerable to physical harm, the history of military technology suggests that 3D printing could lead to a new kind of arms race. Increasing the defences that soldiers have in the face of battle would lead to increasing the destructive power of weapons to overcome those defences. And in so doing, increasing the harm to which civilians are exposed.

In this way 3D printing may open up a new gap in the vulnerabilities of “enhanced” combatants and civilians, at a time when the traditional moral rules concerning warfare and legitimate targets is muddied by terrorism and insurgency.

These three points might just be scratching the surface of new, deeper ethical and social issues that will emerge as the technology progresses.

The future of 3D bioprinting applications holds the promise of better treatment while challenging communities to address emerging ethical questions.

by Professor Susan Dodds | 11 February 2015