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3D Printing and its amazing applications

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by Startacus Admin

3d printingIt’s always nice to hear about the ways in which modern technology is helping to make a real, measurable positive difference to peoples lives…

We don't mean “Isn't it wonderful, I can sync my phone with my kitchen appliances so my fridge will email me when I'm out of milk” type improvements, but genuinely life changing benefits.

In a move worthy of Willy Wonka, German Food Innovation company Biozoon is developing an appropriately innovative use of new 3D printing technology- a printer which is capable of creating dozens of different meals designed for the elderly or those with difficulty swallowing. What’s special about these meals is that, they look and taste like their traditional counterparts, but being gelatine based literally melt in the mouth of the diner. This removes a significant choking risk and allows those affected to enjoy something more akin to a normal diet.

It might sound like something straight out of a HG Wells novel but, all going to plan, Biozoon hope to have created this miracle of engineering by the end of next year.

A wonderful application for this rapidly developing technology I’m sure you’ll agree and the story really got us pondering and pondering…we wondered if there were many other potentially life changing uses which have come (or will come) from the ever mounting fascination with 3D Printing?

Here’s a quick run-down of the more exciting things we came across;

Body Parts - Not just the obvious things like limbs and facial prosthetics, but mind-bogglingly complex biological structures such as blood vessels, skin, bones and even kidneys! Much to our surprise and delight, these items comprise of actual living tissue which is layered by the printer in the same way as the more traditional plastic substance. There’s quite a way to go yet, but experts are confident that this technology (known as bioprinting) could eventually have revolutionary consequences for human health-care, allowing the printing and implantation of functioning organs, perfectly matched to the recipient’s needs, thus eliminating the need for living donors.

Meat and Animal Products - In something of a Win Win Win move American startup ‘Modern Meadow’ is pioneering research and development of printed meat and leather which can be produced at a fraction of the cost of rearing livestock, in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the environmental impact. Using the same technology developed to create living body parts, Modern Meadows have taken a natural and daring leap but whether or not the public will warm to the notion of such intensely engineered meat remains to be seen.

moonA Moon Base -Yes we know, people have been predicting the construction of a human colony up there for generations, but now could be the time when it actually happens. In a nutshell, the challenges which accompany working on the lunar landscape have up to this point been far too great to warrant much meaningful investigations. The European Space Agency is now researching the potential for 3D printers to be sent to ‘do the hard work’ using a combination of moon dust, soil and broken rock, called regolith, which would be used to form a concrete-like building material.

Tailored consumer products - This may not sound like a particularly impressive feat when you consider it alongside a printed kidney, but this is one of the aspects of 3D printing which is likely to have the most significant impact upon our lives. This is especially true for those with movement and mobility issues/disabilities as once inaccessible expensive bespoke equipment can now be made in the home at the touch of a button at minimal costs. Some of the items already being created include tailored cutlery, bespoke wheelchair ramps, pen holders and plenty more everyday items.

The most basic amenities for developing nations - For the time being, the vast majority of 3D printers are only capable of creating relatively small items, which means that their application for solving the problems of lack of basic amenities in developing nations such as buckets to transport water, or sanitary toilets simply isn't there. We were very pleased to discover re:3D a company that has created “GigaBot” a 3D printer 30 times the size of a regular desktop model which is more than capable of handling such larger items. But wait, that’s not the most exciting part - eventually they expect that ‘GigaBot’ will recycle plastic from local landfill as its building material potentially helping to solve another massive issue.

We often say it, but rarely do we mean it with such emphatic enthusiasm “We are really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next!”

If like us you are fascinated by all things ‘tech’ then why not take a look at some of this recent stuff we’ve been writing about...

The internet of things- What's that all about then?
Robotiky- The little robot that turns computer programming into child's play
Talking taxidermy and breathing stones- Object Sandbox Announces its winners

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Published on: 15th April 2014

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