Mark Lee’s Top 5 3D Printing Advances

By | June 8, 2021

This year has passed, and with it, there has been a flurry of technological and creative advances in 3D printing. With such an abundance of news and ideas, I thought I might share the 5 advances I found most impressive. So, in no particular order:

1.) JuicyPrint (aka: The Orange Juice & Bacteria 3D Printer)

That’s right, an orange juice and bacteria 3D printer…but it doesn’t print orange juice…or bacteria, it prints cellulose. You know, what wood and paper are made of. The idea is that specially modified bacteria are used to produce 3D objects by feeding them orange juice as a printer. You can read the details on the London Biohackspace website. So simple, and yet so adaptable, for so many uses. Imagine the scalable possibilities, if it goes global!

2.) 3D Printed Car

If your mom was honest with you, she’d tell you that size matters. The cute printed gloss on the desktop has turned out to be bad, but otherwise useless, plastic toys that collect dust on a shelf. Local Motors changed that with the Strati (one of these) the world’s first 3D printed car… and no one could argue it was a worthless toy.

By increasing 3D printing, in a publicly visible way, Strati has helped 3D printing really go mainstream. Check out the complete Local Motors concept, including his “Microfactory” idea: https://localmotors.com/3d-printed-car/.

3.) Child Prosthetics

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that a child’s life should be a happy time. But for some children, their childhood is full of challenges and adversities due to the missing of a limb, due to a birth defect, accident, or disease. And don’t get me wrong, technology is great, but unless it’s useful… who really cares? Here 3D printing and the better part of the human spirit have come together to make technology truly useful.

The e-Nabbling the Future project started with two people who wanted to 3D print a prosthetic arm for a child… and then surprisingly spiraled out of control. Now people from all walks of life, from all over the world, are giving their time, talents and 3D printers to help make the world a little better. “It’s great,” you might say, “to help those poor third world kids.”

And you’d be right…many children who have and will be helped are third world nations…but many children are from first world countries as well.

You see, kids who are missing a limb can find it really difficult to make prostheses, even in the United States. Why? Because traditionally manufactured prostheses are expensive, and babies grow so fast… most insurance companies don’t want to pay for them. Low cost 3D printed… no problem, and the kid can even help with the design to suit his or her personal taste.

4.) Touchable Yearbook for Visually Impaired Students

I know, another heartwarming kid story…but, hey, light up Scrooge. You probably take your high school yearbook lightly, but imagine if “standard” books were of no value to you because you lacked vision. You still have the same mental and emotional wants and needs as any other child, so why should you go without? Well, a small Korean company called 3D TEK set out to fix this discrepancy.

They collaborated with the Seoul National School for the Blind to print out a three-dimensional “yearbook” of students’ faces with integrated Braille name tags. While it is not a “book” in any real sense, but rather a collection of 3D printed busts, it is a similar yearbook. And one is that these students can come over and over again just like you.

5.) World’s smallest sculptures

Then there’s the story of Jonty Hurwitz’s 3D printed nano sculptures. A tale of epic emotional highs upon their creation and the inevitable crash when someone suddenly noticed they were missing. Reminds me of the panic when my mom (sometimes) says, “Nobody moves, I’ve lost touch.”

Why is this story amazing? Because Mr. Hurwitz created very detailed 3D sculptures of people that were similar in size to human sperm. Wrap your head around the irony.

These sculptures were so small that you needed a scanning electron microscope to see them. As anyone involved with 3D printing knows, resolution is the key to accuracy and here we looked at both. Now, it’s done, it can be repeated, but this time perhaps in those long-awaited nanobots we’ve all heard a lot.

Yes like that. OK, okay, so not that, but I only had five to choose from, so those are the ones I’ve chosen. Thank God there are so many of us in this community that we can all keep a close eye out for the next amazing story. Feel free to post your favorite below. And happy new year!

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