The International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) recently expanded the scope of 3D printing technology to include the animal kingdom in the list of the beneficiaries. Using micro-controllers along with 3D printing, ICBP is trying to learn about an endangered species of vulture and what it needs to survive.
In a bid to prevent the extinction of the bird species, researchers have created 3D printed vulture eggs with hidden micro-controllers to pass off as real in a nest. ICBP partnered with Microduino for the venture, which specializes in Arduino compatible modules and micro-controllers.
After a lot of research and development, the Microduino team was able to produce a 3D printed vulture egg called EggDuino. The shell was made using SLS 3D printing with a PA2200 nylon material and contains a wood enclosure that holds the electrical components. The egg was then equipped with a Microduino core, a Bluetooth Low Energy module, a multisensor 10DOF module that included a gyroscope, accelerometer, a magnetic field strength sensor, and a barometer, fourteen DS18B20 temperature sensors, and a SHT21 humidity sensor. The egg module is powered by a 1800-miliampere/hour battery and is enabled with transmission of its data to a WiFi enabled Raspberry Pi.
When the 3D printed eggs are created and assembled, they are placed inside the vultures’ nests with the terminals placed away from the animals to receive data transmissions through Bluetooth. The terminal can also monitor weather conditions outside the nest and save its data. Using this innovative technology, researchers are able to use the printed eggs’ data to ascertain their temperature gradient.
Once the project is finalized, the ICBP will officially deploy its 3D printed eggs in India and Africa within the next month.
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Adding to 3D printing’s growing list of impressive feats, researchers at Kansas State University recently developed a 3D printed device that can detect anaemia within seconds. The low-cost diagnostic device works when paired with a smartphone app and is beneficial to people with only limited access to healthcare. It can also be a revolutionary point-of-care solution for the developing countries, where more than half the pregnant women and preschool children are reportedly anaemic.
The diagnostic device is made of 3D printed plastic slides that contain microfluidics. Users only have to add a drop of their blood on the slide and attach it to the smartphone. Within 60 seconds, the app can produce an accurate result using a color scale based test. Just as is the case with pregnancy and glucose tests, the process does not require a physician to make the diagnosis.
The device was developed by Kim Plevniak, a Master’s student in biological and agricultural engineering at the University and Mei He, assistant professor for the same course.
The 3D printing technology has enabled the researchers to keep production costs low. The team spent over a year designing a relatively inexpensive 3D printed prototype for the device. Recently, they also won the approval to conduct clinical tests on patients from the University of Kansas Medical Center, allowing them to further improve on the device and optimize it for real-world diagnostic performance. They have also applied for an invention disclosure with the Kansas State University Research Foundation for the proof-of-concept device.
Once fully developed, the 3D printed device will help diagnose the disease and save millions of lives worldwide, proving the real-world applications of 3D printing yet again.
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A surgery involving a 3D printed organ recently created history, once again reminding us of how 3D printing technology is already affecting our lives in significant ways. An Australian neurosurgeon performed the first surgery of its kind by replacing a cancerous vertebrae in a patient with a 3D printed one.
Ralph Mobbs performed the surgery late last year on a 60-year old patient suffering from a rare type of cancer affecting the bones in the spine and skull, called chorodoma. The patient could potentially have been left paralysed had the 15 hour surgery failed. Replacing the patient’s vertebrae was a tricky feat because of their position – any implants had to be a perfect fit. To tackle this issue, Mobbs went for an unusual approach; he decided to 3D print the replacements. He closely worked with Anatomics, which manufactures medical support surfaces and positioning devices, to design the titanium implants.
Source: Uber Gizmo
The patient’s tumor is removed but he will require rehabilitative treatment before he is able to eat and speak on his own. Other doctors and scientists are also increasingly experimenting with 3D printed body parts. Recently, scientists proved the feasibility of the technology by growing a 3D printed ear on a rat’s back, a procedure they claim can be extended to human transplanting. Anatomy students at the Australian Monash University have also started training for implanting 3D printed organs.
Before the surgery took place, the company also printed anatomical models identical to the patient’s head for Mobbs to practice on. In Mobbs’ words, 3D printing is “the next phase of individualised health care”. He believes medical science is pushing boundaries by incorporating 3D printing technology at this scale.
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The car of the future looks like it’s arrived. Local Motors, an Arizona-based car maker is planning to debut its new LM3D this year, making it the first 3D printed car to hit the roads, available for about $53,000.
3D printing is gaining popularity at such a rate that the auto industry is jumping on the bandwagon too. While making a 3D printed car for the masses appears like a challenge on first sight, Local Motors has open sourced its experiment, collecting over 200 designs for the car online. The firm then went for Kevin Lo’s winning entry from Portland.
The design was selected in July and the model was complete by September. The car can seat two to four passengers and has an open top. The company believes this could be the great turning point for the auto industry. In case of damages or mishaps, the damaged part can be replaced quickly by just printing, maybe even at one of the company’s planned “microfactories”. One car could potentially last a lifetime if this were to happen.
Currently, around 75% of the car’s parts are 3D printed, which the company plans to take up to 90%. The materials used are made of 80% ABS plastic and 20% of carbon fiber. With just about 50 individual parts, the car is significantly different from a traditional car that has about 30,000 parts.
Starting in Spring 2016, Local Motors will launch a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo to reach its 90% 3D printed parts target. The company is also paying the utmost attention to the safety bit of the vehicle and testing its safety rigorously.
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3D printing is progressively finding its way into all kinds of technical applications. Spare parts for ships will soon be printed onboard to safeguard against minor breakages and issues, solving the long-standing problem of not being able to find replacements for warships in the middle of a journey. The U.S. Navy recently placed fabrication labs onboard two Navy ships fighting against the Islamic State – the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the assault ship USS Kearsarge.
Wrenches and custom dust caps are among the first objects to be 3D printed on the ships, with a 3D printed oil cup being devised by a sailor onboard. And there has been a steady inflow of ideas, with innovations continuously happening with the printers. With two 3D printers and a computer system, sailors are able to design components of their own using CAD software in Navy “Fab Labs”. While the sailors are able to produce small devices on the ship, they can also design larger components with designated CAD software that can be 3D printed ashore and then delivered to ships.
Aboard the two warships, the 3D printing installation was an experiment that seems to have taken off. The machines were only installed in the last minute. When the ships return from duty, the Navy will have to evaluate the benefits of the Fab Labs on the ships as against their costs. Sailors have been generous in their positive feedback, proving 3D printing’s utility in wide-ranging applications. The day when 3D printers will be found in just about every ship does not seem too far in the future.
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