3D Printing News Briefs, November 26, 2022: 3D Printed Coral Reefs & Moon Habitat & More


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In today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, Carbon’s bioabsorbable elastomer platform is biocompatible in vivo, while researchers in Germany and Australia developed a 3D printing resin and dedicated printer that enable ultrafast 3D microprinting with crossed laser beams. Branch Technology 3D printed a moon habitat, and a tiny 3D printer that runs on a power bank was funded on Kickstarter. Nearly 50 3D printed coral reef units have been installed in Australia, and a Rotterdam research and design studio 3D printed playground equipment using plastic waste.

Carbon’s Bioabsorbable Elastomer Platform Biocompatible in Vivo

Carbon has announced that its developmental bioabsorbable elastomer platform demonstrates biocompatibility in vivo, which is a good sign for the platform’s future use in biomedical lattice applications like nerve conduits, soft tissue repair, temporary mechanical supports, wound dressings, and more. The company’s bioabsorbable elastomer already has impressive mechanical performance, including an absorption rate that can be tuned to fit several potential applications, and now all of its samples have been designated as non-toxic and exhibiting tunable times for full absorption. This makes the platform great for multiple medical and biomedical uses. In addition, current in vivo studies have shown desirable healing responses, and necessary tissue tolerance, for an implantable device through 26 weeks.

“We’re very pleased to announce that Carbon’s developmental bioabsorbable elastomer platform has demonstrated biocompatibility in vivo. These intricate structures made with Carbon Digital Light Synthesis technology may hold the key to addressing the longstanding challenge of optimizing the mechanical properties and degradation rate of an implant. It’s a milestone, and we look forward to working with interested partners to further develop applications for this resin,” said Jason Rolland, SVP of Materials at Carbon.

Special Resin & 3D Printer Quickly Build Microstructures 

For light sheet 3D printing, red and blue lasers are used to print objects precisely and quickly at a micrometer scale. Photo credit: Vincent Hahn, KIT.

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia and Germany’s Heidelberg University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed a special 3D printing resin, which is irradiated simultaneously by crossed red and blue laser beams and, when paired with a dedicated 3D printer, can enable ultrafast printing of an entire microstructure. Their technique, called light sheet 3D printing, differs from most methods, which only require one color of light to solidify the resin; this method of polymerization uses red and blue laser lights for simultaneous irradiation of microscale objects. The team also created a printer that can exploit the resin’s fast relaxation time, using blue laser diodes to project images via a high-resolution display with a high frame rate. The red laser forms into a thin light sheet beam that crosses the blue beam vertically within the resin. According to Vincent Hahn of KIT’s Institute of Applied Physics, the 3D printing process is “almost too fast to observe.”

“The blue laser projects layers of the 3D object and switches the resin from its pristine state to an inert intermediate state. The red light sheet-shaped laser beam then kicks off the solidification process. But in all locations not exposed by the red laser, the resin eventually relaxes and returns from the intermediate state back to its pristine state,” Hahn explained.

“The resin we present relaxes within less than a millisecond, which is more than three orders of magnitude faster than previous resins.”

Branch Technology’s 3D Printed Moon Habitat

Tennessee-based Branch Technology combines additive manufacturing, prefabrication, and digital technology to construct complex design structures, such as building façades, outdoor band shells, and lunar habitats. Recently, the company partnered with NASA, Foster + Partners, Stanford University, and Sky Factory to create a Lunar Habitat Demonstration Structure, which was recently unveiled at Branch’s manufacturing facility in Chattanooga. This extremely detailed habitat is what Branch called an “in-kind representation,” which means it’s just an example of what such a structure could look like if NASA actually 3D printed it on the surface of a moon.

Using the company’s proprietary AM technology, the lunar base was 3D printed in a hexagonal shape that is “meant to mimic that of a honeycomb that you would find in a beehive. The idea behind that is that it is repeatable, so it can be built out for however many structures were needed by astronauts who are using it.”

Tiny Kickstarter 3D Printer Needs Just 5W of Power

Three mechanical engineers from Hong Kong launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for the TinyMaker, a palm-sized, MSLA resin 3D printer that weighs only 600 grams and supposedly runs on just 5W of power; a power bank could actually run the itty bitty machine. Measuring just 100 x 115 x 155 mm, it’s a truly mobile printer, and you can even buy a carrying case as an add-on, along with a tiny wash and cure station. The TinyMaker features a build volume of 30 x 40 x 60 mm, with 320 x 240 pixels, so it certainly won’t be making great-looking prints, but the idea of a portable printer that you can take to parties is definitely interesting. The team behind the TinyMaker said they spent more than two years designing, prototyping, testing, and optimizing the resin printer, which is said to be open source, with an estimated delivery date of February 2023.

The website states, “We believe that everyone should have the freedom to make. So we’re building a series of desktop machines that are simple enough for everyone to use. You can take control your own production from start to finish. The TinyMaker 3D Printer is our first.”

3D Printed Modular Coral Reef Units Installed in Australia

The Reef Design Lab (RDL), an Australian organization dedicated to the creation of artificial reefs, recently installed its latest creation. The Dell Eco Reef, consisting of 46 modular units and designed by Alex Goad, was installed in Clifton Springs, Greater Geelong, Victoria. The city of Greater Geelong is actively pursuing environmental sustainability work, and the 3D printed reef modules, which took several years to develop, will create a vital marine habitat, as well as help reduce erosion and wave energy. The formworks were 3D printed in RDL’s Melbourne facility, and cast by partner SVC Products using a low-carbon concrete mixture, which includes a “locally sourced shell aggregate that was exposed on the surface to aid with mussel and oyster colonisation.”

“RDL collaborated with Geelong council’s Senior Environmental Engineer Ralph Roob to design and build a series of wave attenuating reef modules that provide coastal protection, habitat enhancement and a dynamic snorkelling destination for the community. Some of Port Phillip Bays best and most accessible snorkelling and diving sites are human made structures and this project is set to become another great spot for the summer road trip,” Reef Design Lab explains on its Instagram.

“RDL designed the modules with cutting edge eco engineering principles that incorporate habitat complexity using a design language that pays respect to the natural environment they are placed.”

The New Raw 3D Prints Play Furniture from Plastic Waste

The New Raw, a research and design studio in Rotterdam, also uses digital manufacturing for sustainability purposes, using discarded materials to create new products in a 100% circular process. Its “Print Your City” project began in 2016 as part of the Circular City Program, and the studio’s new GLYPH collection of 3D printed sustainable play furniture is part of it. The collection, which involved over 700 regional children from the ages of 5 to 14, looks at applying robotic 3D printing to plastic waste as a way to redesign vacant lots and other urban spaces in the industrial city of Elefsina. The basic principles of a circular economy were the focus of an 8-week study on the GLPYH play furniture system.

After an educational tour about recycling plastic waste, the children were asked to make drawings, which were then scanned, digitally processed, and etched into the monolithic play furniture. Plastic waste collected for the project was separated, washed, and shredded, before being melted and compacted with color pigments to print the eight self-standing, swinging benches. It took between 5 and 7 hours to print each piece, and a total of 240 kg of plastic was recycled during the project and made into the lightweight benches, which are portable enough to be arranged in different ways to create a colorful outdoor playground. The shape of the benches allows them to sway, but is also symbolic, as it honors the archetypal shapes of the building blocks in the city’s ancient ruins.

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