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  • Bye, Bye Baubles: New 3D Printers Could Build Implants, Electronics


    by Elizabeth Palermo

    Several new 3D printers showcased at CES 2015 in Las Vegas earlier this month suggest that the 3D printing industry — best known for churning out brightly colored plastic doodads — could be turning over a new, more scientific leaf. Amid the rough-edged replicas of superheroes and army tanks that adorned the expo’s 3D printing space stood a machine that prints tiny medical implants that dissolve inside the human body. Another printer uses a combination of conductive inks and filaments to print quadcopters already embedded with the electronics that allow them to hover in the air. One company displayed a prototype of a 3D-printed medical device that can automatically stitch up patients after surgery.

    The message these companies are sending couldn’t be clearer: 3D printing isn’t just for makers anymore. Increasingly, this trendy technology is turning into a must-have tool for doctors, researchers and engineers, according to Nick Liverman, CEO and founder of Old World Labs (OWL), a Virginia-based company that designs dissolvable 3D-printed implants.] 3D printers are made to print what’s already out there — a model version of the Eiffel Tower or a chess set. But you would use our printer to build things that aren’t developed yet: theories, research. It’s paperwork that now can become real,” Liverman told Live Science.

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  • ‘Pop-Up’ 3D Structures Can Mimic Brain Circuits


    by Charles Q. Choi

    By mimicking children’s pop-up books, scientists can now make complex microscopic 3D shapes that model brain circuitry and blood vessels, researchers say. These intricate structures, which could resemble tiny flowers and peacocks, may one day help scientists electronically control living tissue, the researchers added. Naturally curved, thin and flexible 3D structures are common in biology; examples include the circuits of brain cells and networks of veins. Materials scientist John Rogers, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his colleagues want to create similarly complex devices that can wrap around these biological structures, potentially supporting or improving their function.

    “Our focus has been on the brain, heart and skin,” Rogers said.
    Devices that mimic the complex structures found in nature are very difficult to manufacture on microscopic scales. But now, Rogers and his colleagues have developed a simple strategy for such manufacture that involves flat 2D structures that pop up into 3D shapes. “The analogy would be children’s pop-up books,” Rogers told Live Science. To manufacture these structures, the scientists fabricate 2D patterns of ribbons on stretched elastic silicone rubber. In experiments, the ribbons were as small as 100 nanometers wide, or about 1,000 times thinner than the average human hair, and could be made from a variety of materials, including silicon and nickel. The 2D patterns are designed so that there are both strong and weak points of stickiness between the patterns and the silicone rubber they sit on. After the scientists fabricate the 2D designs, they release the tension on the silicone rubber. The weak points of stickiness break away, “and up pops a 3D structure,” study co-author Yonggang Huang, a professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said in a statement. “In just one shot, you get your structure.” The researchers generated more than 40 different geometric designs, from single and multiple spirals and rings to spherical baskets, cubical boxes, peacocks, flowers, tents, tables and starfish. Scientists could even arrange patterns with multiple layers, a bit like multi-floor buildings. This new pop-up technique has many advantages, the investigators said. The strategy is fast, inexpensive and can employ many different materials used in electronics today to build a wide variety of microscopic structures. Moreover, researchers can build many different structures at one time, and incorporate different materials into hybrid structures. “We are excited about the fact that these simple ideas and schemes provide immediate paths to broad and previously inaccessible classes of 3D micro- and nano-structures in a way that is compatible with the highest-performance materials and processing techniques available,” Rogers said. “We feel that the findings have potential relevance to a wide range of microsystems technologies — biomedical devices, optoelectronics, photovoltaics, 3D circuits, sensors and so on.” The scientists said their pop-up assembly technique has many advantages over 3D printers, which create 3D structures by depositing layers of material on top of one another. Although 3D printers are increasingly popular, they work slowly. In addition, it is difficult for 3D printers to build objects using more than one material, and it is nearly impossible for these printers to produce semiconductors or single crystalline metals, the researchers said. Still, Rogers emphasized the team’s new strategy is complementary to 3D printing, and is not an attempt to replace that technique. The scientists are currently using this pop-up assembly strategy to build electronic scaffolds that can monitor and control the growth of cells in lab experiments, Rogers said. “We are also using these ideas to form helical, springy metal interconnect coils and antennas for soft electronic devices designed to integrate with the human body,” he said.

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  • Bio-Art: 3D-Printed Faces Reconstructed from Stray DNA


    by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer

    Do you know where all your DNA is?
    From stray hairs to wads of gum, people shed their cells in public spaces all the time. And that physical detritus contains a surprising amount of information, experts say.Because DNA can reveal so much about the person who left it behind, its casual presence everywhere could endanger people’s security and privacy, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, said here Friday (March 13) at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival.

    “The very things that make us human — our bodies and cells — become a liability,” said Dewey-Hagborg, an artist and programmer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Faces revealed

    Dewey-Hagborg began wondering how much could be learned about a person from a single strand of their hair.”I began by actually collecting forensic samples in public spaces, monitoring the streets and bathrooms of New York,” Dewey Hagborg said.
    She then took that grab bag of human leftovers to Genspace, a community biology lab in New York City. After analyzing the DNA for identifiable traits, she used a computer model to predict the faces of the people who left them and used 3D printing to recreate those faces. The resulting series of masks were part of a 2013 show she called “Stranger Visions.” Of course there’s no way to know how closely the faces match those of the people who left the errant pieces of debris, but the art reveals the wealth of personal information that could hide in seemingly anonymous pieces of trash. Truly invisible? Dewey-Hagborg argues that this genetic information needs to be protected. “You wouldn’t leave your medical records on a subway for just anyone to read,” she said. ” It should be a choice.” As a follow-up to Stranger Visions, Dewey-Hagborg developed a way for people to wipe away their genetic traces.”If we’re entering this era of mass biological surveillance, we need instruments of counter-surveillance to protect our privacy,” she said. The two-part product, called Invisible, consists of two chemical solutions. The first, called Erase, removes 99.5 percent of genetic information. The second solution, called Replace, essentially scrambles the genetic signal by cloaking it with a kind of DNA noise. The chemical solution is actually on sale, and contains a mix of simple chemicals such as bleach. The recipe for Invisible is available open-source on Dewey-Hagborg’s website, In an increasingly surveillance-saturated world, ordinary citizens who want to protect their privacy may wind up “doing things that might even border on illegal, but might be the same kinds of things that police or corporations might be doing less publicly,” Dewey-Hagborg said.

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  • NASA has successfully created the first 3D printed object in space


    by Ryan Whitwam

    Slipping the bonds of gravity is not cheap, so NASA has to account for every bit of mass it sends into space. Once a mission is underway, the crew of any manned mission needs to be able to keep things in working order, which means replacement parts and equipment are usually part of the mass that gets shot into the heavens. However, what happens if you need an extra thingamabob, but NASA only packed extra whatsits? That’s a problem NASA hopes to fix by perfecting 3D printing in space, and now astronauts have successfully created the first 3D printed part on the International Space Station.

    The machinery used to accomplish this feat of off-world manufacturing was delivered to the ISS back in September by a SpaceX resupply mission. This is not your run-of-the-mill MakerBot, though. The device was designed specifically to operate in microgravity by Californian company Made In Space. Of course, there is a certain amount of guess work designing something for use in space. The company was able to test its printer ahead of time in simulated weightlessness, but no one knew how additive manufacturing would work when done on the ISS. Would the plastic remain in the right shape after extrusion? Would the layers cool evenly? This is what the first round of testing seeks to learn. The Made In Space printer uses thermoplastic ABS like many terrestrial printers, but on Earth we rely on gravity to keep layers in place after they are deposited. It turns out the cooling plastic has enough adhesion to stay in place as it’s laid down by the special printing hardware, but more testing is needed to find the limits of 3D printing in space. Astronauts can’t have bits of crumbled print jobs floating around in the ISS where they could damage instruments. For more details please refer to the link below.

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  • How 3D printing and land reform could help to solve the housing crisis


    by Alastair Parvin

    Since the Industrial Revolution the assumption has always been that the only people who can build homes at scale are large organisations – either state or market – building whole estates; rows of one-size-fits-all boxes for imaginary “average” humans. Form follows finance. In a way, the most extraordinary thing is that this top-down form of development became so normal. Planned communities tend to be, at best, dormitory neighbourhoods and shopping malls, and at worst, empty, economically dysfunctional accumulations of capital; permanent hotels for borrowers with ever larger mortgages.

    The hidden flaw is that in the “current trader” model, the houses built by property developers are not actually designed as places to live, but as financial assets; to be sold to the mortgage lending market. The term “housebuilder” is actually a little misleading. A better description might be “land developer” a company that buys land and seeks to resell it with a 20% margin for its shareholders. So, a sensible property developer sees all the things we might see as valuable about housing – quality, affordability sustainability, community leadership – not as investments, but as costs. No matter how much land we may release to housebuilders, no sensible executive will ever release so many new properties onto the market that they cause prices to fall. Their shareholders would (rightly) sack them if they did. In other words, traditional property developers cannot solve the housing crisis, because they are almost perfectly designed not to. So who can? There is only one group with a direct reason to build homes with – for example – better energy performance, and that is the people who are going to pay the heating bills: us. Unlike property developers, custom builders (individuals or groups who buy land and procure a home for themselves as a place to live) can usually procure their homes at a fraction of the equivalent property market cost. They can also break the cycle of community resistance to new, topdown developments. Custom builders have always been there, it’s just that we’ve never taken them seriously as a scalable force for mass housebuilding. More Grand Designs than volume industry. In the words of one executive, it’s just “too damn difficult”. But what if it were now possible, using digital tools and the web, to make it less so?

    Our first step might be to develop open source tools and platforms that radically simplify the process of planning, designing and constructing customised, high performance, sustainable, low-cost homes, and to put those tools into the hands of citizens, communities and businesses. That is the aim of the WikiHouse project, an open source construction system that allows online self-build models to be shared, improved, 3D printed and self-assembled. But we also need to reform the land market, to make it dramatically easier for those without much capital to buy a plot of land and commission their own homes – either individually or as a group. All political parties pledge theoretical support for custom and self-build, and the government’s “Right to Build”, which allows people to buy council land on which to build their own houses, is a first step. But systemic change is needed to create a market providing land specifically for custom and self-build housing.

    Let’s create a new land use class in the planning system “C5 Custom build”. In effect, that would create a parallel land market that differentiates between a house built as a speculative asset, and a house built as a place to live. Let’s create space for both, and see which works. That is the real economic shift that citizens, with open tools and data will bring to housing. We will move, in the words of housing visionary John Turner, from an economy that invests in housing as a noun – a set of physical objects or financial assets – to one that invests in housing as a verb – a continuous process of maximising our social and economic success. As the cost of the first approach slowly suffocates us, it’s time to make a bet that the second will, on the long run, be worth billions more to all of us.

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