The evolving world of 3D printing offers an abundance of stories about enthusiasts and corporations using this technology to make the world a better place. From bizarre and compelling pieces of art to medical and architectural applications, 3D printing applications appear limitless. Here are this month’s most exciting 3D printing stories from around the globe.
False ears for children
We’ve seen many successful cases of 3D printing being used to create prosthetics for people and even animals. In this latest story, experts have collected chondrocytes (cells found in children’s ears) and used them to build new cartilage based on 3D models of healthy, functioning ears.
For children born with genetic disfigurements, this news is certainly welcome. Microtia is a rare disease that affects the structure of a child’s ears. Hopefully we’re on the brink of a permanent solution. A handful of children in China have successfully received this treatment, and it’s expected further developments will be made before it hits the mass market.
The Dallas skyline recreated
Metro Block is a company that creates miniature models of city blocks for residents to treasure. This showcases one of the most important features of 3D printing: affordable scalability. Unlike other manufacturing methodologies, 3D printing allows you to create dimensionally accurate, scaled models at an affordable rate, since the objects are constructed additively and no excess materials need to be used. For this reason, 3D printing is widely used in prototyping applications.
In this case, Metro Block has created an awesome miniature model of the Dallas skyline. In the future, the company hopes to expand to other cities as well as produce models of specific areas which showcase popular restaurants and other attractions.
This application won’t be saving the world any time soon, but it’s still very cool (literally). A student from the Tokyo University of Technology in Japan has come up with an ingenious use for a 3D printing machine: creating unique ice structures using liquid hydrofluorocarbon gas to freeze water as it is deposited.
Check out this video to see the additive construction of an ice star. Perhaps the device could be used for depositing novelty ice cubes for those hot summer picnics, or maybe it could create some unique decorations for the famous Ice Hotel in Sweden - who knows?
A 3D printed human heart
Fully functional 3D printed organs have always been seen as the holy grail for proponents of this technology. While it’s still firmly on the horizon, a Chicago biotech startup has recently announced that it will be opening a lab. It will have the specific purpose of perfecting the art of creating 3D printed human hearts.
The process involves scanning a patient’s heart with an MRI machine to determine the dimensions, creating an appropriate heart model using 3D modelling and then creating a bio ink that includes stem cells derived from the patient’s body. With additive construction, a scaffold can be deposited layer by layer to perfectly match the patient’s original heart. Further developments could be on the way.