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New developments in 3D printing

16th April 2019

3D printing is about much more than homemade figures for war games. Here, our in-house expert Jack Dempsey takes a look at the latest cool developments in the world of 3D printing

Science shows its heart

Hot off the press is news that researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel claim to have made the first ever 3D-printed heart with human tissue and blood vessels.

It's only the size of a cherry and it cannot pump blood, but it is being hailed as a major medical breakthrough all the same.

This amazing little print out has cells, blood vessels and chambers. Scientists now hope to begin work on a heart which can pump blood within a year.

It is possible, we are told, that fully working printed hearts could be being routinely transplanted into patients within a decade.

A preposterous oesophagus

But 3D printing is not just about hearts - the race is apparently on to try and print every part of the human body.

A team of Japanese researchers has now successfully transplanted a 3D bioprinted oesophagus into rats.

The oesophagus not only maintained its structure after the transplant, it even grew to be covered by natural tissue.

Take off for 3D printing

One of the big advantages of 3D printing is how strong finished product can become due to the mixture of materials that can be used, and the way they are compounded together.

This makes 3D printing very interesting to NASA, which has worked with the Glenn Research Center (GRC) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to develop GRCop-42, a copper-based high strength alloy with high conductivity.

Using powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printing, NASA researchers successfully 3D printed near-fully-dense GRCop-42 components that are resistant to deformation and remain strong even at elevated temperatures.

Further tests will follow, but it could be a major breakthrough for engine performance.

Wolf dog back from the dead

A historical group in Scotland has used 3D printing to reconstruct a 4,000-year-old Neolithic dog found in a tomb in Orkney.

The skull was scanned and printed to reveal a creature which looks similar to a European grey wolf.
It's believed the dog was ritually buried along with eight humans and 22 other canines.

And finally…

A Boston company believes it has come up with a way to drastically increase the speed of 3D printing by 100 times.

It has the potential to open up 3D printing into mass production.

Normal 3D printers melt metal with the laser, but the process is too slow. The new Desktop Metal system uses metal powder from vats. The powder is laid down in thin layers - printing one layer every two to two-and-half seconds.

The powder is fixed with a glue to create a 3D object. It's a way to mass produce metal objects in a cost-effective way.

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