10 Recent Ways 3D Printing is Changing the World – Fall 2014 Edition


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“And in today already walks tomorrow.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

One of the most exciting aspects of the additive manufacturing industry is that right now it has nowhere to go but up. Rapidly. The technology of 3D printing is still being refined, discovered, ‘molded,’ and is enriching the world in so many ways–in commerce, of course–but this industry is accentuating and enriching so many different processes already in place—and right behind it, peripheral devices and accessories are sprouting up to propagate its growth.

1.  Dear Future Engineers…

All this new technology at your fingertips has got to be so much fun!

Photo courtesy of Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin.

Photo courtesy of Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin.

Science is in, and with so many programs, expos, and free information out there for the kids, 3D printing definitely makes learning about technology and manufacturing cool. There are programs bringing 3D printing into schools in hopes of furthering STEM education and nurturing along the future engineers, designers across the board, as well as people interested in pursuing careers in manufacturing. This is happening all over the world, with universities developing intense, creative projects for students with groundbreaking devices like 3D printing vending machines like Innovation Station. This device is a 3D printing vending machine created at UT Austin where students can use the machine for free, 3D printing their own CAD designs (click here for 3DPrint.com article).

tctshowMany programs are also happening in major, traditional trade shows and educational venues like EuroMold 2014, which is hailed as one of the prime design, application, and mold-making trade show events in Germany annually–and where TCT Bright Minds will be making its debut this year in expanded efforts to offer German pupils exposure to the latest 3D technologies and technical innovation. In a classroom built with ultra-modern glass walls, TCT Bright Minds will offer a program consisting of workshops where students learn about CAD 3D printing technologies using equipment from 3D Systems. With access to 3D Systems’ Cube printers, 3D scanning technology, as well as a haptic based 3D mouse and the new iterations of the Cube and the CubePro, it’s complete immersion into 3D printing and 3D design. Euromold 2014 is held this year from November 25-28, 3014. See the full article here.

Not only are these future innovators being plied with technological advances to learn about, they are seeing them in action at places like Florida Southern College, home to the largest collection of structures built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Architects were able to use 3D printing to restore intricate concrete blocks designed to look like jewelry boxes, at the Annie Pfieffer Chapel on campus. The technology of 3D printing made the project financially feasible after many years of watching some of the architecture fall into disrepair. Click here for more.

Annie Pfeiffer Chapel

2.   How’s your Health?

Just ask 16-year-old Bradley White of Ohio, who was able to see a 3D-printed replica of the tumor inside his heart that has been challenging him since he was a toddler.  He has been enduring and recovering from multiple open heart surgeries over the years (click here for more detail). It was even more helpful that doctors were able to check out the 3D-printed model, produced by Materialise, to determine a course of action, realizing it was too risky to operate, and helping them to choose another form of treatment. They were successful, and alleviated the irregular heartbeat being caused by his tumor.

Bradley White

Bradley White

Materialise professionals created the 3-D printed model by uploading the data from Bradley’s CT into their Mimics Innovation Software, which allows them to customize which parts of the anatomy they need to print. This technology is evolving almost faster than we can write about, as directly after the Bradley White story came out, Materialise was in the news right away, again, with news that they are now no longer just working with CT scans and X-rays, but are actually converting them right into 3D printed guides.

Orthopedic surgeon Roger Jaeken, of the AZ Heilige Familie (Holy Family General Hospital) in Reet, Belgium, has successfully performed the first total knee surgery that was preplanned by means of the Materialise X-ray knee guide solution, the latest in helping medical personnel, doctors, and surgeons pre-plan for an array of procedures, as well as major surgeries—like knee replacements. To read more on this particularly story, click here.

3.  Have you got Game?

No one needs to wonder that about recent groom Andrew Johnstone, one of the lead designers for the ‘Burning Man’ icon at the Burning Man festival. If you are thinking about proposing to your girl, you might have trouble following a move out of Johnstone’s playbook–as his idea was one of a kind. Taking inspiration from a piece of a meteor that was embedded in the Burning Man’s underpinning, he contacted the same supplier and purchased a rare, actual piece of the moon for the wedding stone, which has a 3D printed setting, cast in white gold, in the shape of a hand holding the ebony moon rock.  The ring was created by a boutique production house call Mind 2 Matter. Check out the full story here.

The 3D Printed Ring Holding a Moon Rock

The 3D Printed Ring Holding a Moon Rock

4.   Taking it to the Runway, baby!

We have covered a lot of stories on 3D printing in fashion this year, but in just recent weeks alone we are seeing haute coutoure in Russia, a dress made almost expressly with a 3Doodler pen (another story in itself is this 3D printing pen), cool duds, and a wide array of 3D printed accoutrements—including 3D printed optical wear from Spexy Me to Oak and Dust, made with cork. We are seeing the integrated work of designers like Francis Bitonti (designer of the 3D dress burlesque star Dita von Teese so famously wore last year) who are skilled with fashion design as well as 3D printing and aim to revolutionize the way they design and manufacture, taking the reins themselves in the production process. Bitonti’s latest project, ‘Molecule,’ is a line of 3D printed shoes meant for women and designed to be sold commercially. “My design process is a collaboration with artificial intelligence,” Bitonti explains.  “We’re transposing these ideas from design methodologies to tangible consumer experiences.” (For more on our recent article, see here.)

3D printed shoes created by Bitonti, unveiled at the London 3D Printshow, September 2014.

3D printed shoes created by Bitonti, unveiled at the London 3D Printshow, September 2014.

The 3D design and printing process in fashion is a very clear demonstration of how individuals are educating themselves with accessible, affordable technology that allows them to take over the prototyping process, as well as making quick revisions, and ultimately—manufacturing. The whole process is interesting to their clientele as well, offering good marketing and sales that generate sincere enthusiasm–and revenue.

5.  Seen Any Good Movies Lately?

The 3D Printed BoxTrolls

The 3D Printed BoxTrolls

My kids are all over this one. We’ll be taking to the movie theater on September 28th to check out what 3D printing has done for the stop motion movie, BoxTrolls. 3D printing has really added to the talk about this movie. Using a full-color ProJet 660Pro 3D printer by 3D Systems, artists at Laika were able to put the 3D printer to work in making face plates for the characters, offering consistent artistry and more variety in faces, but with exact replication each time. Taking the 3D excitement even further, fans are encouraged to print their own BoxTrolls at home, or through Cubify’s cloud printing service. The files are free to download and available in the soon-to-be favorite characters: Shoe, Oil Can, Fragile and Fish. See full article.

In the more ethereal, independent film-making arena, try to catch re-belief and explore your dreams, in a short film by Ray McCarthy Bergeron, featuring 3D printing and animation through the use of zoetropes, where the artist’s artistic and technical abilities and aspirations meld. The film is busy making its way around the globe, and you can find more information at spunkydog.com. See our recent article here.

From the big screen to the short film, our eyes are feasting on incredible special effects created by producers, individuals, and artists who are brave enough to incorporate revolutionary technology and take on the work of learning how to do something new. The efforts pay off with appreciative audiences.

From re-belief

From re-belief

6.   What’s cooking in your printer?

While it’s become more common to hear about in the news, this is the one 3D printed item that seems most extraordinary to me, as well as delicious! ZMorph’s printer, which allows different types of materials such as chocolate and even icing is one 3D printer I’d like to see in action. Users are able to print cake and icing (see more here). Sugary confections are one of the 3D printed items that tend to make headlines because, of course, it’s amazing that anyone can 3D print this sweet stuff—and it looks delicious–right about now!

The Sky Kitchen concept.

The Sky Kitchen concept.

Coming down the pike soon will be highly decorated, ornamental cakes, full meals—and perhaps even fully customized meals on planes, if students at the Department of Design at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati have their way with Sky Kitchen, where those in flight might be able to order a customized, 3D printed meal (see more here). How do you like those additive manufactured apples?

7.   Taking it to the Galleries

3D printing seems to already be ubiquitous in the art world, from manufacturing of fine jewelry to clay sculpture, and structures such as Quake Column, exemplifying an architectural structure that could dispel seismic activity (see here for more). All over the world, shows and exhibits are displaying 3D art, and even inviting the public to join in with workshops and get immersed in the new technology—with one such exciting October exhibition that we just reported on at The Usher Gallery in the UK, which allows the public to download and 3D print or transform images from the Lincoln 3D Scans work by Oliver Laric.

One of the scans available for download - Venus kissing Cupid.

One of the scans available for download – Venus kissing Cupid.

8.  Lighten up a Little, says Ben Franklinstein

The technology of 3D printing has many serious, scientific, intellectual applications, some even downright dull and robotic at times (we are dealing with machinery here, folks), so it’s refreshing and fun to see projects that combine brevity with intricate 3D design and 3D printing, and reach fruition through crowdsourcing such as Ben Franklinstein and George Crowdsourcington, both projects put together this year by WeTheBuilders (a 3D printing collective brought to us by Todd Blatt. also of Tinkerine) with replicas being made of busts of both founding fathers and then unveiled and displayed in venues such as Maker Faire 2014. Click here for our latest story on WeTheBuilders.

Ben Franklinstein is unveiled.

Ben Franklinstein is unveiled.


9.  Take the Trash our of the Ocean!

What about converting plastic garbage from the sea into 3D printer filament? Talk about a great way to ‘take out’ the trash, and recycle it. Studio Swine, is a London based design studio run by Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami, who developed their own way to make 3D-printed furniture by collecting plastic trash washing up on shore in the UK. They built shredding and extrusion machines and began creating filament. Taking this progressively to the solar element, they began working with Andrew Friend to develop a solar powered plastic extruder that can be used to melt plastic anywhere.  They are working on further funding on Kickstarter. See our full article here.


Solar 3D Printer

Solar 3D Printer


10.  3D Printing Has Taken to the Heavens!

On September 23rd, the SpaceX Dragon supply freighter, loaded with 5,000 lbs. of supplies, locked in to the ISS and delivered, among other very interesting items, the first 3D printer to be used in space. It’s hoped that this little device many have a lot to do with helping us progress in being able to survive under pressure in space on future missions, as well as being able to help build outstations say, perhaps, on Mars.

Created by Made in Space, a Northern California company, the Zero-G 3D printer was put to the test by NASA with over 20,000 print hours of testing. It performed so well and tests were completed early, allowing the printer to be delivered a month ahead of time.

The 3D printer, barely a foot tall, 9½ inches wide and 14½ inches tall, will be installed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) on the station, where its job will be printing demo parts such as tools and parts which will be viewed on video, with the objects it churns out to be later assessed for viability and strength. (For the latest on this, see here.)

Dragon is now Attached to the ISS. 3D Printing in space is soon to commence!

Dragon is now Attached to the ISS. 3D Printing in space is soon to commence!

What groundbreaking events in 3D printing over recent weeks interest you most? Have you seen any of the products or been to any of the events mentioned in this article? We would love to hear your thoughts at 3DPB.com.

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Recent News

Navy’s Afloat Additive Manufacturing Program Creates Scalability Model for 3D Printing Industry

UW-Madison Engineers 3D Print RAM Devices in Zero Gravity with NASA Funding


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