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3D Printed Microscopic Robotic Fish

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3D Printed Microscopic Robotic Fish



Nano-engineers at University of California,  San Diego have been able to 3D print microscopic robots.  They developed tiny robots shaped like fish.  These are called microfish and are smaller than the width of human hair.  Nanoparticles are added in various parts of the microfish to make them functional.  Platinum nanoparticles installed in their tails help them propel forward.  Magnetic nanoparticles installed in their head can be used to steer them.

The microfish are developed using a 3D printing technology called microscale continuous optical printing.  This technology allows 3D printing hundreds of microfish within seconds. The shapes of the microbots to be changed, for example, to experiment with different shapes of fish such as sharks vs. ray fish, or experiment with other shapes such as birds.

According to Wei Zhu, a researcher developing the technology “We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications.”  For example, toxic neutralizing particles can be included in the microfish to use them for detoxifying liquids.  In future, this technology may allow delivery of medicine to specific parts of body via a blood stream.




3D-Printed Artificial Microfish. Advanced Materials. 2015


UCSF Researchers 3D Print Human Tissues Using DNA Programming

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UCSF Researchers 3D Print Human Tissues Using DNA Programming


Researchers at UCSF have developed a technique to build tiny models of human tissue called organoids.  The technique uses DNA to guide the assembly of cells into organoids. This technique is called DNA Programmed Assembly of Cells (DPAC.)  The research team created several organoid arrays mimicking human tissues such as mammary glands.  The research was published in the journal Nature Methods on Aug. 31, 2015.

This technique incubates cells with snippets of single strands of DNA  The DNA attaches to the cell’s outer membrane.  The incubated cell attaches to other cells that are incubated with  matching DNA strands.  In other words, the cell doesn’t attach with other incubated cells if their DNA sequence does not match. A cell can be incubated with more than one type of DNA cells.  This allows the cell to attach to different types of cells.  This technique is similar to playing with legos.  A lego piece can attach to other lego pieces if they have matching sides.  This simple trick allows lego pieces to be combined to build a very large variety of toys.  Similarly, DPAC uses DNA strands attached to cells to create different types of organoids.

This technique can be used for therapeutic drug screening.  According to Professor Gartner of UCSF, “One potential application would be that within the next couple of years, we could be taking samples of different components of a cancer patient’s mammary gland and building a model of their tissue to use as a personalized drug screening platform. Another is to use the rules of tissue growth we learn with these models to one day grow complete organs.”

Inside 3d Printing Conference and Expo 2015 in Shanghai

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Inside 3d Printing Conference and Expo 2015 in Shanghai



Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo is the leading B2B trade show in 3D printing.  The 2015 Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo is from December 8-10, 2015 in Shanghai. It includes two days of conference sessions, and three days of exhibitions presenting the latest 3D printers and services. The session topics include business, manufacturing, medicine, aerospace, among others.  Inside 3D Printing provides valuable networking opportunities.  It show cases an exhibit hall with latest 3D printing materials, services, and products in action.






Carnegie Mellon University Researchers 3D Print Tissues Using MakerBot 3D Printers

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Carnegie Mellon University Researchers 3D Print Tissues Using MakerBot 3D Printers


Human body can repair small tissue damages by itself.  However, human body has its limits and cannot fix several types of damages.  For example, human body is unable to fix several heart, problems, kidney problems, liver problems, and so on.  These problems are fixed by performing organ transplants.  Thousands of Americans are on waiting lists for various organ transplants.

Professor Adam Feinberg’s group at Carnegie Mellon is performing research that one day could make it unnecessary to transplant organs.  Instead, the required organs will be 3D printed.  Professor Feinberg’s group  is using MakerBot’s 3D printers for 3D printing tissues.

The technology can best be described in the words of Professor Feinberg, “The challenge with soft materials — think about something like Jello that we eat — is that they collapse under their own weight when 3-D printed in air.  So we developed a method of printing these soft materials inside a support bath material. Essentially, we print one gel inside of another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it’s being printed, layer-by-layer.”

One important aspect of this research is that it is based on use of off-the-shelf 3D printers and not conventional bioprinters.  These off-the-shelf 3D printers cost in the range of a thousand dollars which is much more affordable compared typical bioprinters that cost in the range of hundred thousand dollars.  Also the research group is using open source software and releasing their 3D printer designs under an open source license.

Magnetic 3D Bioprinting from Nano3D Biosciences

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Magnetic 3D Bioprinting from Nano3D Biosciences


Magnetic 3D bioprinting uses magnetic nanoparticles to 3D print cell structures. The magnetic nanoparticles are biocompatible, i.e., they can be in contact with living cells without causing adverse effects.  The process makes cells magnetic by tagging them with magnetic particles.  Once the cells become magnetic, external magnetic forces are used to 3D printed the cells into specific cell structures.  A technique called magnetic levitation is used to levitate cells in a container using a magnet above the container.  Levitation of the cells causes the cells to aggregate rapidly.


The first 3D bioprinting system was commercially made available by Nano3D Biosciences.  This technology is targeted for use in pharmaceutical industry.  This technology can be used for building simple cellular structures such a spheroids and rings as well as complex structures such as aortic valves.

Mushtari: A 3D Printed Wearable Skin from MIT Mediated Matter in collaboration with Stratasys

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Mushtari: A 3D Printed Wearable Skin from MIT Mediated Matter in collaboration with Stratasys


Professor Neri Oxman of MIT Media Lab revealed a 3D printed wearable at TED2015 in May 2015 in Vancouver.  The wearable is designed to host living matter and was called Mushtari, meaning giant.  Mushtari was 3D printed using a color multi-material 3D Printer developed by Stratasys. This is the world’s first wearable that combines multi-material additive manufacturing and synthetic biology.

photosynthesis to convert sunlight to sugar.  The compatible microbes consume the sugar to

Mushtari is based on synthetic biology.  It uses a symbiotic relationship between a photosynthetic microbe and compatible microbes.  The photosynthetic microbes use generate substances useful for the wearer such as pigments, food, fuel and scents. In future, the wearer could trigger the production of these substances.


According to Neri Oxman, “This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganisms. Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari hosts synthetic microorganisms, a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun. Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before.”

3D Printing Materials: Glass

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3D Printing Materials: Glass


3D printing using glass is difficult because of the high temperatures required to melt the material used for 3D printing. Technologies for 3D printing using glass exist so far mainly in research labs and Universities.  Some of these efforts are described below.

In 2009, researchers at Solheim Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory of University of Washington developed a process called Vitraglyphic.  In this process powdered glass is mixed with an adhesive materials and loaded into a 3D printer.  A binder is deposited into the powdered mixture and used for 3D printing shapes.  These shapes were put in a kiln so that the layers of glass fuse and create a solid glass object.  The team used similar procedure to 3D print ceramics objects.

In another effort, researchers led by Professor Neri Oxman of MIT’s Mediated Matter Group developed a 3D printer that extrudes molten glass.  The 3D printer maintains a nozzle through which the glass is extruded at temperatures of about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. This is significantly higher than the temperatures used for other 3D printing, for example, plastic.

An Israel based company Micron3DP has also announced that they have developed an extruder that can 3D print using molten glass at temperatures as high as 1640 degrees celsius.




Micron3DP Develops Technology for 3D Printing Using Molten Glass

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Micron3DP Develops Technology for 3D Printing Using Molten Glass


An Israel based company Micron3DP has announced that they have developed technology for 3D printing objects using molten glass.  Micron3DP specializes in high end extruders, hot ends, and accessories for 3d printing.  They have developed an extruder for extruding extremely hot molten glass.  The extruder can 3D print objects using soft glass or soda-lime glass at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius. The extruder can even extrude hard glass or borosilicate glass at a temperature of 1640 degrees Celsius.  Micron3DP is looking for investors to invest in their glass 3D printing technology.





Solar Sinter: A Solar Powered 3D Printer for Making Glass Objects from Sand

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Solar Sinter: A Solar Powered 3D Printer for Making Glass Objects from Sand


SLS (selective laser sintering) is one of the processes used by 3D printers.  The SLS process uses powdered raw material such as plastic, glass, metal, ceramic.  A laser is directed at the powdered material to selectively fuse the material.  Layers of the fused material are created to form a 3D object.

Markus Kayser, a designer and researcher born in Germany used the idea behind the SLS technology to develop solar sinter, a 3D printer that uses sand as the powdered raw material and solar energy to produce glass objects.  Both solar energy and sand are available in abundance for free.  So once a solar sinter is made, an unlimited supply of 3D objects can be created for free.

The first solar sinter was manually operated and tested in the Moroccan desert in 2011.  A larger and fully-automated computer driven solar sinter was subsequently developed and tested in Egypt, near Sahara desert in 2012.  This is a brilliant and thought provoking experiment.  According to Markus Kayser, “The machine and the results of these first experiments presented here represent the initial significant steps towards what I envisage as a new solar-powered production tool of great potential.”

Solar Sinter Project



LUXeXcel: 3D Printing Functional Optical Components

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LUXeXcel: 3D Printing Functional Optical Components


Conventional 3D printing techniques are not able to 3D print functional optics.  These 3D printers may be able to 3D print transparent materials but fail to achieve optical properties such as surface roughness and scattering.  LUXeXcel, a company based in The Netherlands has developed printoptical technology that can 3D print fully transparent, smooth and optically functional optical components such as lenses.

LUXeXcel uses a photopolymer material for 3D printing.  LUXeXcel created world’s first 3D printed reading glasses including the frames and the lenses for the Dutch Monarchs.  However, their services are not limited to the royalty but available to general public as well.  LUXeXcel’s website  allows users to upload designs and order 3D printed optics.  The design can be uploaded in a variety of file formats and has to conform to their design guidelines.  They promise to 3D print a design within 5 working days of placing the order.  The printoptical technology has uses in automotive, medical, lighting, aerospace, and other industries.

LUXeXcel’s Website

3D Printing Industry’s article on LUXeXcel





3D Printing Material: Metals

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3D Printing Material: Metals


3D printing using plastic has limited scope due to the fragile nature of plastic.  Any serious manufacturing is not possible without using metal.  3D printing using metal or Metal Additive Manufacturing has seen significant growth recently. Metals are 3D printed by melting metal powder using a laser beam to fuse it into a solid part.  Metals used for 3D printing include stainless steel, aluminum, bronze, copper, silver, gold, alloys of titanium, cobalt, titanium, nickel, among others.

3D printing of metals is used in several industries including aerospace, automobile industry, jewelry, medical, among others.  Medical industry, for example, dental and orthopedics benefits with the ability to customize parts for specific individuals.  The quality of the 3D printed metal objects is comparable to objects made by conventional manufacturing processes.  Manufacturing based on 3D printing results in very little waste compared to conventional manufacturing.  Therefore Metal Additive Manufacturing continues to grow and become a significant part of manufacture.

Audi 3D prints Grand Prix Racer

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Audi 3D prints Grand Prix Racer


Audi has used 3D printing to produce a scaled model of a historical Grand Prix racer Auto Union Type C from the year 1936.  Audi 3D printed different pieces of the model and assembled the car.  Audi used a 3d printer that uses aluminum or steel powder.  The3D printer uses a laser to melt the metal powder.  Layers and layers of the metal powder are melted to form parts of the car.  This process allows creation of parts having complex geometries that are very difficult to produce using conventional manufacturing techniques.  With the technology used, the 3D printer can produce objects that can be up to 24 cm long and up to 20 cm high.

Audi is looking forward to using this technology for mass production.  According to Dr Hubert Waltl, head of toolmaking for the Volkswagen group shown in the picture  below driving the replica car, “We are constantly exploring the boundaries of new processes.  One of our goals is to apply metal printers in series production.”