We all know the power of 3D printing. If it can produce replacement limbs for animals and even mimic brain tissue, what can’t it do? The answer is simple but equally as frustrating. 3D printing doesn’t come cheap, nor is it very fast. But this metal 3D printer, which is 100 times quicker and costs 20 times less, could change that.
Desktop Metal just developed a new metal 3D printer that is reportedly faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems.
The parts go into a “de-binding bath” that separates a substantial portion of the binding polymer. The parts then go into a sintering furnace. When the product is heated to just below the melting point, the binding agent burns off and a highly dense, sintered metal is produced.
The impressive gadget doesn’t use metal powders or laser technology, making it safer to install. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. It’s reportedly better than NASA and Boeing’s laser-melted printer.
The mass production system is built for speed and definitely delivers. It is faster than machining, casting, forging or other techniques, and each production printer can produce up to 500 cubic inches of complex parts per hour.
The entire system costs around $120,000, which is a steal compared to a $1 million laser machine. Desktop Metal is still taking baby steps, but I’m expecting nothing less than an explosion in the industry.
3D printing is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. With it, researchers can produce anything from teeth to functioning hearts — and they’re not stopping there. An Australian public research university has found a way to treat brain diseases by 3D printing brain tissue.
The treatment is based on the 3D printing of tissue from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are stem cells that have the capability of differentiating into any type of adult cell, including brain cells.
With brain illnesses being the most difficult to treat, 3D printing can consider this one of its greatest successes. Anyone can donate iPSCs. Machines use a custom-designed bioink for printing.
“By developing this further we will be able to generate healthy and diseased tissues for research, identifying better drugs for medicine and replacing or repairing damaged tissues or organs due to injury or disease.”
The range of printable neurons can tackle conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. While we cannot yet print entire brains, there is hope for transplantable organs.
“There’s no doubt that sometime in the future engineering tissues by bioprinting iPSCs will be routinely performed for surgical treatments of patients with damaged or diseased tissue,”
The tissue, which can also be used to screen new drugs, is surely a breakthrough for the books.
Gene harvesting has allowed for the possibility of growing replacement organs. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. A shortage of donors and genetic material mean we can’t just mass produce parts. But maybe we can 3D print them. Swiss researchers have recently proved 3D printed hearts can beat almost identically to real ones.
The silicone heart features left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an additional chamber that acts as the heart’s engine by driving the external pump.
It’s hoped this artificial version can eventually replace mechanical pumps, which are always at risk of failure or causing complications in the body.
With nearly 26 million people suffering from heart failure worldwide, this could be the answer to a pressing issue. The heart is made of silicone and can currently last 3,000 beats. While it’s not quite fit for replacement, it certainly is a promising start.
Meanwhile, earlier this year a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute used spinach leaves to generate functioning heart tissue, complete with veins that could transport blood.
Looks like it’s going to be a favorable year for hearts.
Though a relatively young concept, 3D printing has become the biggest trend of the decade–from building furniture to human body parts, it seems the possibility of a 3D-printed anything could eventually be on the market. This is because 3D printing is exponentially cheaper than using traditional machinery.
While I wouldn’t mind 3D printing an entirely brand-new wardrobe (in fact, I’d probably love it), I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to artificial organs. Most recently, 3D printing has been incorporated in creating blood vessels for alternative root canal treatments.
The findings are expected to have impact on root canal treatments which currently involves removing the tooth’s infected pulp and replacing it with a substance known as gutta-percha. This thermoplastic material is similar to rubber and is used to fill the inside of the tooth but cannot restore function since it removes the blood vessels.
The new approach uses pre-vascularized pulp-like tissue to promote dental pulp regeneration and allow for a better long-term treatment.
In layman’s terms, it is now possible to engineer blood vessels into extracted teeth.
Fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of teeth.
The dental industry holds much promise for 3D printing, although not typically on a biomedical sphere, as some see the technology as the future of crown production.
The Dubai Dental Authority plans to begin 3D printing teeth by the end of the year.
Remember kids–brush three times a day!