Ultra-Strong Spider Silk Material Shows Potential for 3D Printing

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screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-1-11-29-pmWhether you’re utilizing 3D printing technology for applications in healthcare, aerospace, or any other industry in between, the need for more advanced and functional materials remains across the board. Though you might think that the world’s strongest materials are developed within the confines of a laboratory, some of the best candidates for materials with high tensile strength can be found in abundance throughout nature. Last year, MIT researchers 3D printed spider webs to reproduce the mechanical traits of silk, which is biomaterial that is recognized as one of the strongest materials on Earth.

Now, the Los Angeles-based biotech company Spidey Tek has announced their plans to produce real spider silk material for a variety of production purposes. Though spider silk has been known to be an exceptionally strong material for quite some time, the main issue has always been finding ways to harvest enough to make it commercially viable. Spidey Tek has solved this issue by utilizing specialized spider cloned microorganisms in customized bio-reactors to rapidly produce large quantities of spider silk.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-1-19-01-pmSpidey Tek’s patented Spider Silk production process is founded on genetic code for the production of spider silk that are cloned into specialized microorganisms and placed in a bio-reactor. This process harvests real spider silk proteins, which can then be mixed with various chemicals and can also be used to create real spider silk fibers. According to Spidey Tek, the addition of these proteins can effectively enhance the mechanical properties of 3D printing materials.

These spider silk proteins and fibers can be blended into 3D printing materials like PLA and ABS, as well as polyurethanes, polycarbonates, polypropylene, and resins. The biotech company is confident that their patented Real Spider Silk can be utilized to replace a number of other widely used materials, including carbon fiber, steel, and aluminum.

To prove the validity of their ultra-strong silk material, Spidey Tek recently debuted the Spidey Bat drone. This VTOL unmanned aerial vehicle is said to be exceptionally lightweight and strong, allowing it to carry larger payloads and fly further then other commercial drones. They also have plans to develop a larger version of the Spidey Bat with a 10-foot wingspan, which would be geared towards commercial and military tasks.

spidey_drone

The Spidey Bat drone

Spidey Tek claims that their Spider Silk exhibits a tensile strength of 40,000 MPa, which is 10 times that of natural spider silk and 100 times that of carbon fiber. Their spider silk can also provide the same weight reduction benefits that carbon fiber is reputable for. For now, it’s unclear how this extraordinary tensile strength will translate once these spider silk proteins are mixed with PLA or ABS for 3D printing. But just as carbon fiber reinforced materials have become increasingly popular for 3D printing, Spidey Tek’s Spider Silk could stand to increase the technology’s capabilities immensely. Discuss in the Spider Silk forum at 3DPB.com.

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