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3D Printing Promises to Change Everything

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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3D printing is hot right now. The promises of customization and its potential to disrupt the market are of great interest. It’s being exploited by scientists to help them print lab supplies at a reduced costs, because as anyone who has worked in a lab knows, some small specialized pieces of plastic can be ridiculously expensive. Jonathan Eisen has shared some of the 3D printing that has been done in his lab. He has some videos produced by one of his students at his blog that you can check out.

PBS just posted a video that encapsulates some of the potential of 3D printing. It is well produced and worth a few minutes of your time to watch.

They show that there is hope that new organs (including blood vessels) can be printed using cells identical to those in your body. Guiding the 3D assembly of cells in culture to form complex tissues and organs has always been a challenge and this is one way to possibly overcome this, and some strides are being made in this area. I do wonder, of course, about the functionality and strength of the organs that required movement such as the heart, and ability to resist pressure as in blood vessels, if the cells have been passively laid out like this without development in an environment that present the cells with stress and strain to test them.

I’ve been following the work of a company in Belgium called Materialise. They are one of the leaders in 3D printing and have their hands in many projects including the first 3D printed race car as well as assisting with surgeries such as orthopedic and face transplants, to replicating the skeleton of Richard III and luggage innovation. They’ve also paired with multiple fashion designers on their projects and have really helped the world of fashion open up to the potential of 3D printing in creating new wearable items!

This video is the fashion show featuring several objects created by multiple designers from 2012:

I enjoy the work of Dutch designer Iris Herpen who really is quite futuristic in her thinking. Her latest fashion show featured 2 of her 11 pieces as printed in collaboration with Materialise. This work uses a very flexible material, thermoplastic polyurethane, so there is more movement than most 3D printed materials.

You can view her entire collection here.

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at www.joannelovesscience.com, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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