IKEA wants to scan your butt to make the perfect chair. The company is partnering with eSports group Area Academy and 3D printing medical …
In the near future, building a new home may be as easy as printing out an airline boarding pass.
At South By Southwest today, New Story, a Y Combinator-backed charity that works to build houses for people in developing nations, and Icon, a robotics construction company in Austin, Texas, unveiled what is believed to be the first 3D-printed house that is fully up to code and permitted for people to inhabit.
The two organizations came together to show that it’s feasibly possible to build an easy-to-replicate house in under 24 hours. They plan to take this proof-of-concept and start producing small houses for families in countries like Haiti and El Salvador. The 800-sq-ft house cost around $10,000 to build using Icon’s proprietary Vulcan printer, but the company plans to eventually bring that price down to around $4,000. Theoretically, it could soon print one of the houses in about six hours, a representative for New Story told Quartz. But the process is still being ironed out—the house in Austin is the only one built so far.
Icon’s house printer, the Vulcan. (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
The Vulcan printer was also on display, in the yard next to the lot where the house was printed. Massive, but still portable, the printer excretes a custom blend of concrete that hardens as it’s printed. The concrete is laid in 100 roughly one-inch-thick strands that hold their shape as they harden. Icon cofounder Evan Loomis told Quartz that the strength of the printed walls is stronger than cinderblocks after a few days of hardening, although the house is entirely habitable after it’s been set up.
Each house features a living room, bathroom, a bedroom, and a study (which can be another bedroom). (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
After the walls are printed, New Story crew members come in and install windows, a wooden roof, basic plumbing, and electrical wiring which can be drilled right into the walls. The entire setup, including the finishing, takes under a day.
In the future, Icon would like to be able to develop robots that could automatically install the windows after the Vulcan finishing printing, and drones that could spray-paint the exterior walls. It’ll explore the possibility of printing roofs as well, but the technology for suspending concrete as it prints isn’t really feasible yet.
The house is made up of about 100 lines of concrete, and a wooden roof. (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
There are other groups working on printing houses, including Apis Cor in Russia, but the group in Austin believes its structure to be the first printed house that’s been deemed inhabitable by a local government. Icon hopes to eventually commercialize its house-printing technology in the US, where housing shortages are reaching severe levels in some larger cities. “Affordability is important,” Loomis said, “regardless of whether you’re in Austin or El Salvador.”
In theory, families could customize the design, arrange for a printer to come plop down on their land, and have a readymade house to move into a day later. Even the average Amazon delivery takes longer than that.
The advent of 3D printing has been a great aid to the medical community since it was introduced to the public, producing everything from low-cost prostheses to synthetic medicines to medical models and heart valves. However, the latest innovation in bio-industrial 3D printing might be the biggest step we have toward creating fully-functional man-made organs yet: 3D-printed blood vessels that are more or less dead ringers for the real thing.
In a report published by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), scientists detailed their steps to producing synthetic blood vessels, all with the help of bioprinting. Like 3D printers, bioprinters produce three-dimensional models with the use of a preloaded blueprint and synthetic materials, but unlike the former, which use polymer liquids, resins or other bases of that ilk, the latter use “bio-ink,” materials that are “compatible with the human body”:
This process takes a while, so initially, tubes are printed out of cells and other biomaterials to deliver essential nutrients to the surrounding printed environment. Eventually, the self-assembled capillaries are able to connect with the bio-printed tubes and deliver nutrients to the cells on their own, enabling these structures to function like they do in the body.
Monica Moya, one of the lead researchers and principle investigators on the project, said that the combination of biology and engineering allows for finer resolution of printed tissue and that, with the body’s natural ability for self-directed growth, the end result is truer to physiology.
While the bioprinted vessels aren’t viable when it comes to transplants, they’re useful for studies that have to do with toxicology or general medical treatment, which decreases the necessity for animal testing.
The LLNL’s research might also be a key step in one day producing man-made organs; the precision and high resolution quality that go into creating synthetic blood vessels is also necessary for creating larger works, or even “organs on a chip,” shorthand for “synthetic human organs that are simulated on chips.”
“It’s going to change the way we do biology,” concluded Moya.
Learn more about how a bioprinter can produce synthetic blood vessels in the video below.
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has proven that its project to 3D-print a base on the Moon is possible. In a latest video the agency shows how 3D-printing robots may be used to build the base using lunar material.
The ESA started investigation of the lunar base possibility in 2013, working alongside its industrial and architectural partners. The creation of the reliable semi-spherical structures on the surface of the moon could be fulfilled within the next 40 years, and 90 percent of the materials needed would be derived from the moon itself.
The latest details of the new concept, which is, however, still “firmly on the drawing board,” were discussed at a conference this week at ESA’s technical center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” Scott Hovland, of ESA’s human spaceflight team, said in a statement.
“The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy,” he said.
As planned, the location of the settlement would be at the “peak of eternal light” – that is, along the rim of the Shackleton Crater on the south pole of the moon. This location was also chosen previously by NASA for its intended human settlement base, as it would mean near-constant solar power.
The structure of a living pod would be formed by the habitation capsule and a dome, which would be covered by a protective shell made of lunar dust “cement” by two 3D-printing robots. It will be vital to protect people – up to four astronauts would become the first moon settlers – from radiation, meteoroids and temperature jumps – functions that on Earth are carried out by the atmosphere.
The moonbase plans are by no means the first attempt to apply 3D-printing to space technologies. This September, the International Space Station welcomed a high-tech 3D printer, aimed at creating tools and supplies for astronauts.
The cost of the instruments needed to run a hospital or a lab is often exorbitant — but what if doctors and scientists could simply print their own tools from an open library of designs? That’s what a paper published today suggests.
What if a scientist could simply go to an open-source library of tools, select the one he or she needed, and print it out within a few hours? It’s not all that far off, as the Michigan Tech researchers behind a paper called Open-Source Syringe Pump Library, published today in PLOS One, explain.
To prove it, they carried out a test case. The team created a whole library of open-source syringe pumps — the devices used to give patients a dose of a medication or fluid — that can be downloaded, customised, and printed by anyone, for just the cost of the materials. They also hooked the 3D-printed pump (created on a RepRap) up to a Raspberry Pi so they could control it remotely. Here’s how one author on the study, Joshua Pearce, described it in Michigan Tech News:
That way, you can link the syringe pump to the network, sit on a beach in Hawaii and control your lab. Plenty of people can have access, and you can run multiple experiments at the same time. Our entire single-pump system costs only $US50 and can replace pumps that run between $US250 and $US2,500.
Remote-control labs are great, but what’s really important about the idea is how little it costs. 3D printing has already driven down costs within medicine, say the authors of the paper, from reducing the price of “neural circuit reconstruction” to applications within nanotechnology. But that’s just the beginning.
“Even greater cost reductions for science, however, can be found with the application of open-source hardware,” the authors argue. “The development of open-source hardware has the potential to radically reduce the cost of performing experimental science and put high-quality scientific tools in the hands of everyone from the most prestigious labs to rural clinics in the developing world.”
We’ve seen how engineers and doctors have used rapid prototyping to create smarter, faster tools for patients in rural or poverty-stricken parts of the world. But what if doctors and scientists could benefit from all that combined knowledge simply by accessing it from an online database? [ Michigan Tech News; PLOS One]