3d Printing

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Silicone 3D printing startup Spectroplast spins out of ETHZ with $1.5M

3D printing has become commonplace in the hardware industry, but because few materials can be used for it easily, the process rarely results in final products. A Swiss startup called Spectroplast hopes to change that with a technique for printing using silicone, opening up all kinds of applications in medicine, robotics and beyond.

Silicone is not very bioreactive, and of course can be made into just about any shape while retaining strength and flexibility. But the process for doing so is generally injection molding, great for mass-producing lots of identical items but not so great when you need a custom job.

And it’s custom jobs that ETH Zurich’s Manuel Schaffner and Petar Stefanov have in mind. Hearts, for instance, are largely similar but the details differ, and if you were going to get a valve replaced, you’d probably prefer yours made to order rather than straight off the shelf.

“Replacement valves currently used are circular, but do not exactly match the shape of the aorta, which is different for each patient,” said Schaffner in a university news release. Not only that, but they may be a mixture of materials, some of which the body may reject.

But with a precise MRI the researchers can create a digital model of the heart under consideration and, using their proprietary 3D printing technique, produce a valve that’s exactly tailored to it — all in a couple of hours.

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A 3D-printed silicone heart valve from Spectroplast.

Although they have created these valves and done some initial testing, it’ll be years before anyone gets one installed — this is the kind of medical technique that takes a decade to test. So in the meantime they are working on “life-improving” rather than life-saving applications.

One such case is adjacent to perhaps the most well-known surgical application of silicone: breast augmentation. In Spectroplast’s case, however, they’d be working with women who have undergone mastectomies and would like to have a breast prosthesis that matches the other perfectly.

Another possibility would be anything that needs to fit perfectly to a person’s biology, like a custom hearing aid, the end of a prosthetic leg or some other form of reconstructive surgery. And of course, robots and industry could use one-off silicone parts as well.

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There’s plenty of room to grow, it seems, and although Spectroplast is just starting out, it already has some 200 customers. The main limitation is the speed at which the products can be printed, a process that has to be overseen by the founders, who work in shifts.

Until very recently Schaffner and Stefanov were working on this under a grant from the ETH Pioneer Fellowship and a Swiss national innovation grant. But in deciding to depart from the ETH umbrella they attracted a 1.5 million Swiss franc (about the same as dollars just now) seed round from AM Ventures Holding in Germany. The founders plan to use the money to hire new staff to crew the printers.

Right now Spectroplast is doing all the printing itself, but in the next couple of years it may sell the printers or modifications necessary to adapt existing setups.

You can read the team’s paper showing their process for creating artificial heart valves here.

Turn your smartphone camera into a microscope with this 3D-printed accessory

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OK, so you can’t bring a microscope everywhere with you.

But you can certainly take this 3D-printed version, designed to clip onto your smartphone and work with its camera.

The device was developed by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) at Australia’s RMIT University, and is the subject of a paper in Scientific Reports.

Requiring no external power or lighting source, the smartphone microscope is slated to be a handy tool for conducting fieldwork in remote areas, especially when bringing a larger microscope is impractical or unavailable. Read more…

More about Australia, Science, Smartphone, 3d Printing, and Microscope

Holography-based 3D printing produces objects in seconds instead of hours

 3D printers are useful devices for all kinds of reasons, but most have a critical weakness: they simply take a long time to actually make anything. That’s because additive manufacturing generally works by putting down an object one microscopic layer at a time. But a new holographic printing technique makes it possible to create the entire thing at once — in as little as a second… Read More

This house was 3D-printed in just 24 hours

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As we start to 3D-print everything — including houses, of all things — it’s pretty impressive that a company built one in just 24 hours.

Located in Russia, this 400-square-foot home (37 square meters) was built in just a day, at a cost of just over $10,000.

3D-printing company Apis Cor built the house using a mobile printer on-site.

Image: APIS COR

Image: APIS COR

The main components of the house, including the walls, partitions and building envelope were printed solely with a concrete mixture.

Fixtures like windows and furnishings were later added on, and a shiny coat of paint added to the exterior of the house. Read more…

More about Construction, Russia, 3d Printing, and Tech

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Crunch Report | Judge Rules CRISPR-Cas9 Belongs to Broad Institute

Verizon is reportedly getting a $250 million discount on its Yahoo deal, judge rules CRISPR-Cas9 belongs to the Broad Institute and not UC Berkeley, Pixar teaches the art of storytelling on Khan Academy and MakerBot cuts 30% of its workforce. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Yes, this detailed 3D-printed model was sculpted in VR, and it's just the start

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Getting people to believe that high-end virtual reality is truly immersive can be difficult if they haven’t tried devices like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive first-hand. 

That gap of disbelief gets even wider when you try to convince the uninitiated that incredibly detailed, near retail-ready 3D-printed models are being born in VR, but this week we got our best example of exactly what’s possible. 

On Tuesday, Oculus character artist Giovanni Nakpil posted an amazingly detailed, 3D-printed model of an ogre modeled in Oculus Medium, the VR sculpting app, and then output via 3D printer.   Read more…

More about 3d Printing, Art, Oculus Medium, Oculus, and Virtual Reality

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