For the first time in history, doctors have replaced a patient’s skull by a 3D printed version. A 22-year-old woman from The Netherlands suffered from a rare disease, which made her skull grow. She knew something had to be done to make her survive, so she choose for a risky operation, which lasted as many as 23 hours. The operation at UMC Utrecht however turned out to become a great success, making it the first time in history a patient’s skull was replaced by a 3D printed counterpart.
The woman suffered from a disease, which made her skull grow, causing many headaches and a reduction in her visibility. Without this operation, her skull would have continued to grow, leading to a loss of brain functions, which would eventually have killed her. A tragic disease, but who would have thought a printer would safe her life?
Young Taiwanese researchers recently came up with something highly interesting: a bicycle that can turn garbage into art. They ‘invaded’ the streets of Taipei on a mini-factory bike, called the Mobile Fab. This bicycle uses plastic bags or PET bottles to create 3D printed pieces of art. The time required to print out such objects? Only half an hour. The goal? bringing 3D printing and recycling closer to the people.
The great thing about this project is that the factory-ish bike uses PET bottles and other plastic garbage to create new filament. One of the current problems with 3D printing is still that the filament, which is required for the production process, is still a highly expensive material to buy. Recently, a lot of different companies have been searching for solutions for these problems, leading to inter alia, the invention of the Noztek Pro Filament Extruder. This is a box which converts wholesale bulk pellets into “premium quality” plastic.
Today, we can purchase 3D printed products online at Amazon, and tomorrow websites such as Amazon or Ebay might only be selling files to be printed out on our own 3D printer at home. A lot of benefits are there, such as the advantage of reduced costs due to the absence of physical postal delivery. However, what we still don’t know is whether 3D printing plastics in our living room could become healthier in the future – because research shows today it certainly isn’t anywhere near it.
Did you know that using a desktop 3D printer is similar to smoking a cigarette? Last year’s July, researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, France did a research on the subject and discovered some serious health risks with 3D printing at home. 3D printers release emissions, which contain ultrafine particles (UFPs). Such particles can have a negative effect on a person’s health, as it can settle in the lungs or even the bloodstream. Exposure to UFP’s could cause lung disease or high stress. As you can imagine, especially asthma patients are very vulnerable in this case.
You can’t just print out anything. That sounds a little odd, because 3D printers have the aim to turn the sky into the limit. However, doing so must be safe and not all materials can guarantee a sufficient kind of safety, namely ABS plastics contain some health risks. Let us explain you something about the possible risks of ABS and give you some alternatives.
If you would use ABS plastic to print out something, it will contain BPA: the industrial chemical bisphenol A. Some studies have shown a correlation between the chemical and cancer or heart problems and it can be extra bad for children, damaging their behavior and brains. If you would use this kind of plastics to print out cutlery, you will use the 3D printed cutlery to eat your food, whereby the spoon or fork will be in your mouth for some time. This means your mouth will be in contact with with this chemical substance bisphenol A.
One of today’s biggest environmental problems is the high amount of plastic waste. Although Western countries are gradually taking action with successful recycle programs, Third World countries still have a very high amount of polluting litter lying on the streets. On the other hand there’s 3D printing, where plastic is needed for filament to make certain products. Filament prices for 3D printing are extremely high, with average costs of about 30 dollars for a spool of plastics. Why wouldn’t we combine these elements and turn it into something better, is what a team from the Michigan Technology University (MTU) must have thought.
And so a research group led by Joshua Pearce, a professor of materials science, did a study on plastic waste. And as it turns out, using plastic waste for plastic 3D printer filament is a lot cheaper than recycling it. This is due to the fact that using it for filament costs a lot less energy. If you take into account that one of the biggest disadvantages of 3D printing today is that it’s polluting because it uses so much plastic, than the results from this study are even more amazing.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and London-bases architectural firm Foster + Partners are working on a way to 3D print a lunar base. For this project they will be using local soil – regolith - instead of plastics, in order to reduce the amount of brought materials and lower the overall costs.
The idea is to create a weight-bearing dome with cellular structured walls to provide for shelter against micrometeoroids and space radiation. The base needs to be sufficient to take in up to four astronauts. Since the team is testing the project down on earth, it simulates soil using a mixture of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxide. In addition, they use a vacuum chamber in order to simulate the moon’s surface. After each print, salt is added to harden up the wall and as it seems, the team has already printed out several wall sections.
It is expected that in the future houses will be built with the help of a 3D printer. Southern Californian company Contour Crafting has already been working on a way to build concrete buildings with a 3D printer, but the company has now found a fellow thinker in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. DUS Architects is working on building a 3D printed canal house, which will be opened to the public by March 1.
The project is called 3D Print Canal House and the home will be 3D printed room by room, using a 20-foot-tall 3D printer, called KamerPrinter (translation: room printer). DUS Architects has started using the construction expo at Januari 10, and they have already created items such as a giant bench. By March 1, visitors can also make a visit to the 3D printing construction site during weekdays. The money the company earns from tickets will be used for the project, which somehow turns it into a crowd funding project where Amsterdam citizens altogether pay for a new building in their city.
3D printing can help to make the world more green. Michigan Technology University’s Joshua Pearce conducted a lifecycle economic analysis on 3D printing in an average American household. The main conclusion from his inquiry is that making objects with a 3D printer uses less energy than producing it in a factory.
The work of a 3D printer. Credits: Subhashish Panigrahi.
Pearce is a professor of materials science and engineering/ electrical and computer engineering. With his team he analyzed the process of creating inter alia, an orange juicer and a children’s building block. He analyzed the complete process the analyzed objects underwent and used two possible endpoints of the process: entry in the US (if an item was manufactured overseas) or printing it at home on a 3D printer.
Today, 3D Systems announced the availability of a new plastic injection molding-like material. It is called VisiJet M3 Black and can be used with the Projet professional 3D Printers of 3D Systems. This material can be used for more demanding and end use products. As of now, it is the strongest, most durable Projet material on the market.
Products printed with this material are more likely to be used as end products because of the excellent toughness and flex properties that this material has.
After being inspired by an old 3D printer, Dutch student Dirk van der Kooij got his hands on an industrial robot from a Chinese production line to help him with his graduation project. Designing furniture with the use of 3D printing was the mission so he transformed this robot into a 3D printer called Furoc. This printer can print out furniture as a continuous line and can produce a chair in a variety of colors and designs within 3 hours. This method allows the furniture to be made 40 times faster than the traditional way of 3D printing.
Furoc 3D printer
With his Furoc printer, Dirk won the Dutch Design Award and the DMY award in Berlin. He is currently taking on dozens of exhibitions across Europe to showcase his creation.
The next video shows you how this continuous printer actually works:
To produce the “Endless” rocking chair, Dirk went through 54 prototypes to reach the final design. The neat thing in this process was that each ‘failed’ prototype was shredded en reused in the process of creating the next.
If you are interested in Dirk’s designs or want to know some more about his project, you can visit his website here.