3D printing has given microbiologists and plant lovers the opportunity to understand and appreciate our natural world in greater depth than ever before. Using new materials, we are able to mimic nature with 3D printing techniques.
Thanks to 15 years of advances in the field, 3D printing can now be used to create objects that work in harmony with nature. The majority of 3D printing materials are made from plastic or metal, but a wealth of new biodegradable options has led to a dramatic uptick in experimentation.
Glass, graphene and chitin are three materials which have been getting the most attention lately. As Marianna Papageorgiou writes on the subject of chitin, in Sculpteo:
“Have you ever heard about ‘chitin’ before? Chitin is one of the polymers that you can find in abundant amounts on the planet. Crustaceans, such as shrimps, crabs, butterflies and scorpions produce millions of tons of it every year. The interesting thing about chitin is that the density of this material can change according to where on the animal’s body it is. It can be either stiff and opaque, or light and transparent.”
Following more research and experimentation, it may be possible to replace plastic and metal with eco-friendly materials. We are seeing companies and research centres like MITRE pay great attention to nurturing these new methods, and working in tandem with nature.
Helping us understand nature better
The scientific world has been quick to utilise 3D printing technology. Scientists have worked to create 3D printed hearts along with other medical tools, breakthroughs which may help millions of people. Botanists are following this example.
The OWU Department of Botany & Microbiology in the United States have made significant headway in this regard. Acquiring a 3D printer recently, the department has started to construct custom-made 3D pieces of equipment for research purposes. As such, it has become the ideal tool for students and researchers to gain a great understanding of botany and microbiology. They can use 3D printers to build models of viral proteins, or even actual flowers - although it is currently only the structure which can be recreated. These types of objects are excellent educational tools.
Green city spaces
Although it’s been useful for research and education, 3D printing is also becoming the driving force in creating greener city spaces.
Computer scientist Yuichiro Takeuchi has formulated a design which can create green spaces atop city buildings and skyscrapers. Using a 3D printer and software, he prints yarn encasements that hold plant seeds. These grow into full-fledged plants in just a few weeks!
As the need for eco-friendly techniques and more greener spaces grows, it seems 3D printing will be an integral part of this green revolution.