House 3D Printing, Bacterial Materials, and More Awarded by 3D Pioneers Challenge

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The 3D Pioneers Challenge awards the best and most innovative breakthrough projects in 3D printing. This year, the jury selected projects from around the world across several categories, including medtech, design, architecture, mobility, sustainability, and more.

Hyperloop Brake

Of course, the hyperloop is a bit of a marketing dream/scam at the moment, but who knows if it will become a reality. If it does, it will need brakes. A team made up of members from ETH Zürich and inspire AG have come up with a compact, 3D printed brake that still works in case of a power failure.

The project describes the brake operating such that “by pressurizing a bellow, a compliant system is forced apart. This generates a gap between the guide rail and the brake. When pressure is released, immediate braking is initiated by contracting the bellow. The integrated gyroid structure absorbs the braking forces and air channels assist in releasing the brake.” And all of that intricacy is done inside of one single component, showing off 3D printing’s ability to make a complex integrated part. 

WASP’s Additive Construction

WASP won in the sustainability and architecture categories with its TECLA habitat and its concept store for Dior. The company made the TECLA with natural materials and its huge Crane WASP 3D printer. Combining earth, clay and modern techniques points to a digital clay future. The jury noted, “WASP, pioneer of the 3D-printed house, is convincing in its use of local clay and with the archaic principle of building a house from the ground. It’s good to see global brands like Dior putting a focus on this sustainable principle and making it a reality for everyone to grasp.”

Living Products

The best student project was by Shuyun Liu and Stefanie Putsch, of the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle. In the “GlasKlar” project, the pair encouraged and managed the development of bacteria on specific materials. By producing a living product with bacteria, the project is a far cry form the sterile world of mass production. 

3D Printed Motors

The electronics winner was from the U.K.´s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). The MTC showed off its FEMS3, a 3D printed motor with high power density. In the engine, the team reduced mass by 65% while also cutting the number of parts and assembly steps. Seals and other components were eliminated, as well. What I like about the project is that here we saw three different materials being used for 4 parts, which were then turned into a single 3D printed part. 
“Leveraging the advantages of additive manufacturing to design and manufacture a bespoke element of a complex product and thus system integration at such a high level is very impressive. Weight reduction of a functional electric motor – sustainability in the overall concept. Motors consume a huge portion of energy in industry. Ideas to improve electric motors by additive manufacturing is a great lever towards higher performance and thus improved sustainability,” the jury noted.

Multi-Axis Bioprinting Robot

The medtech winner was a multi-axis robot used as a bioprinter created by the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Innovation Academy of Seed Design, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing CHINA // University of Manchester UK // Beijing National Research Center for Information Science and Technology, Department of Computer Science and Technology, Tsinghua University. Of course, we’ve seen such a concept before. For instance, the BioAssemblyBot 500 is a six-axis bio printer. However, the team also prints in an oil bath, which should preserve tissue. The platform can also use multiple robots at once. The team claims that it can print “vascularized, contractible, and long-term survived cardiac tissues.”


Schubert Additive Solutions won in the Digital category with the PARTBOX. This is a concept whereby the PARTBOX does not require any 3D printing knowledge and through streaming data directly to the box over mobile networks, rather than the public internet, it can receive parts to print out. 

A 3D Printed Boat

Dutch firm RAW Idea tried to replace unsustainable, fibre glass boats with 3D printed boats made out of recycled material, resulting in the “Tanaruz Boats.” At the end of life, the whole craft can be recycled. The vehicle can also be 3D printed on demand, with a shorter turnaround time than via traditional means.

Geo Slate

“Geo Slate” by Daria Biryukova, Eric Geboers, Matteo Baldassari and Peter Hoendermis takes a critical look at the traditional material slate. The team transformed slate sludge waste into a 3D printing material for binder jet. They are currently making upcyled roofing tiles out of that material. 

The 3D Printed SETAE Jacket

Designed by Julia Koerner and printed by Stratasys, the “SETAE Jacket” was made on a J750 printer and is inspired by the microscopic structure of butterfly wings. The ability to 3D print polymers onto fabric is now available to Stratasys customers more generally through the release of the J850 TechStyle 3D printer
These projects differ from pure concepts to real-world projects. As exciting as all of them may be, it will be much more exciting to see how they play out when introduced to the market.

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