3D Printing News

A note of caution to our viewers: many of these products are only available for pre-ordering and have yet to be manufactured. Others are only hopes/dreams. Hyperbole is the language of choice, so be careful!

Additionally, be forewarned that some of the materials you intend to work with, as well as particles and fumes from the printer itself, may be toxic. You may want to read this article for a further discussion of the potential problems. Additionally, see the updated article at the end of this page for more findings.

Scientists at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi have developed transparent 3D printed rocks that include the natural minerology of nature's rocks. The researchers can now follow in detail how fluids flow through the minute rock pores. It is hoped that this information can be useful in the fields of geothermal and hydrocarbon energy extraction, carbon sequestration, even ice mining and water extraction from the ground. The researchers say that they have used an internal coating to facilitate seeing the structures of the rocks. This process will enable following fluid flows in areas that are difficult to study, like underground sites or even the human body. According to the researchers, "we coated a seed layer of calcite nanoparticles on the inner surface. This facilitated calcite crystals to grow uniformly, resulting in a device that functioned precisely like carbonate rock. We made a ‘real’, yet transparent, rock.”

Engineers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have come up with a new printing technique that they call "reactive 4D printing", allowing soft materials to repeat shift between two different shapes. The process involves embedding two sets of chemical links that control the shape of the object. The initial shape, using one set of chemical links, is then mechanically distorted, shaped and cured with UV light which establishes a second set of chemical links. Either shape can then be activated by heat, electrical current, or mechanical stress. Of particular interest is the field of robotics, since soft robots today cannot easily alter their shape. These new materials, however, increase the ability for soft robotic implants to move and bend with the body, thus eliminating the risk of irritating or damaging body tissues. In the words of a graduate student on the research team, "This opens the door to printing soft robotics that could swim like a jellyfish, jump like a cricket, or transport liquids like the heart.”

Scientists from the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute have quantum dot pixel arrays at a nanoscale, resulting in super-high-resolution displays. This site gives you a detailed explanation of how, and why, the new process works. More information is offered at the ACS Publications site.

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a prototype smart wall called "EMPOWER" has been developed, specifically for indoor use. The wall is said to function as a cooling system which would lessen energy demands at peak times and would keep a room at a constant temperature. Only 5' wide and 8' tall, the machine is low-cost and cable-driven. Within the wall is found a thermal storage and insulation system with an active chiller that functions like a refrigerator. Pipes in the wall move chilled water over the surface, lowering the temperature of the 3D printed concrete inside the wall. The "smart" wall is run by an intelligent, predictive control method which can also interact with a separate HVAC system to turn the heating in the room on and off. Also included is a "smart inverter", connected to an external battery.

The newest ink for your 3D printer made be made from soil in your yard. Researchers have figured out how to remove clay from dirt and mix it with sodium silicate. The new material appears to flow smoothly through a 3D printer and harden rapidly. Since different soils have different components, the engineers have devised a toolkit that analyzes the soil and determines how much sodium silicate needs to be added for 3D printing.

Is it salmon, or is it not? A Danish start-up called Legendary Vish has used 3D printing to create a "vegan meat" of vegetable materials that looks and tastes like salmon. The company's product is based on mushroom and pea proteins, starch, and agar seaweed, combined with bioinks of vegetable origin. Their next goal: tuna.

Now that you are getting hungry, an Israeli start-up called SavorEat is offering a robot that can 3D print plant-based burgers, grill them, and serve them to you in only 6 minutes. The company was formed to produce alternatives to the taste and texture of real meat and yet use only plant-based ingredients.

An article in Manufacturing Net discusses the possible pitfalls awaiting companies that use 3D printing for machines and parts. Under discussion are things like the need for IP (Intellectual Property) protection, inconsistent or substandard objects occurring from human mistakes, accidental uses of the wrong material, poor oversight of large quantities. The author mentions using a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) provider that can hopefully provide automatic and seamless processes to take care of these problems.

A 14-year-old youngster has produced a hand-held device that is able to identify cancer in real-time. Aaryan Harshith, about to enter class 10 in school, got advice from the MakerSpace Program at Algonquin College to create a circuit board and then 3D print some of the parts. Motivated by the death of family members from cancer, the lad developed a light device that is like a portable spectroscopy machine. The device can find cancer much more quickly than the traditional method of sending cells to a pathologist and then wait for the results. Harshith claims that the machine is 99% accurate, and explains that cancer cells reflect light in a manner that is different from healthy cells.

Attention is being paid to a UK National Health Service 3D printed shin bone graft that alleviates the need for amputation in cases of severe bone damage. Rib cage implants have been in use for some time, but shine bones have not. A patient who fell off of a ladder and broke his right tibia and fibula was the first to receive the graft, after 2 surgeries failed. The implanted part is composed of porous metal designed to allow new bone to grow through it. Surgeons say that after just a few days, the patient can bear his full weight and walk comfortably.

A new study of health risks from 3D printers offers suggesgtions to protect users. The report comes from Chemical Insights, an institute of Underwriters Laboratories, and Georgia Tech, who were concerned about ultrafine particles (UFPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can impact human health. These hazardous substances can dive deep into the pulmonary system, producing lung irritation, respiratory problems, and asthma. Long-term use can cause cardiovascular disease. VOC exposure can lead to flu-like symptoms. A further discussion illuminates the products involved and precautions to take.

We review many hundreds of articles each month, culling the most significant for you. We also welcome suggestions from our viewers for products and processes that we may have missed.

c.Corinne Whitaker 2020