The personalisation of healthcare devices has been a growing trend in the maker-sphere. From gold-plated hearing aids, neon walking sticks, and sparkling blade prosthetics to 3D printed arm casts, people with disabilities are no longer waiting for health services to catch up – they are dragging their medical devices into the future on their own.
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Three dimensional printing turns bits into atoms. The technology is simply amazing. These machines draw on programming, art and engineering to enable people to design and build intricate, beautiful, functional jewelry, machine parts, toys and even shoes. In the commercial sector, 3D printing can revolutionize supply chains as well. As the public interest group Public Knowledge wrote once, “It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up.”
Mataerial is a new 3D printing method that uses extrusion technology and a two-component thermosetting polymer to build up objects on any working surface that the polymer can adhere to, including floors, walls and ceilings, without the need for additional support structures. While other 3D printing methods build up objects by successive 2D layering, this process truly builds up objects in all three dimensions: a script takes 3D models designed by the user in CAD software, converts them into 3D curves and then these 3D curves are converted into paths that are fed to the robotic arm. By combining these 3D curves, a variety of shapes can be achieved that would be impossible with other 3D printing methods.
Above, researchers at UPenn and MIT print blood vessels, using sugar. Once the sugar hardens, cells suspended in gel are added. Once the gel solidifies, the sugar is dissolved and removed. Below, another video shows a process where powdered stainless steel is printed using a binder (weak glue), then infused with bronze.