LLNL, Harvard team 3D print nanoporous gold; revolutionizing electrochemical reactors

Combining 3D printing through extrusion-based direct ink writing and an alloying and dealloying process, researchers were able to engineer the …

The World's First 4D Printed Ceramics Take Shape Thanks to a Team of Mechanical Engineers

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WSU team 3D prints drug-delivering contact lenses

Just weeks after Newcastle University researchers made headlines for their world-first 3D printed corneas, it appears a team at Washington State University (WSU) has also been keeping its eye on 3D printing’s potential in making medical treatments for the visually impaired.

After receiving an 18 month exploratory research grant, WSU researchers have created a kind of 3D printed contact lens that could be used as a cheaper alternative to laser eye surgery.

Alternative eye therapies needed

According to recent estimates from the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI) over 35 million people in America were affected by age related eye disease in 2010. By 2050, the institute expects this figure to double.

Diabetic retinopathy, which will affect around one third of world’s diabetics in their lifetime, is one example of such diseases. In people aged 65 and over, the condition affected around 7.7 million people in 2010.

The estimated number of American citizens over the age of 65 affected by diabetic retinopathy in 2010 and 2050. Image via the National Eye InstituteThe estimated number of American citizens over the age of 65 affected by diabetic retinopathy in 2010 and 2050. Image via the National Eye Institute

Introducing: microneedle arrays

It is always challenging to treat such delicate conditions. At WSU, researchers propose a direct treatment method using microneedle arrays.

A technology that has been around in medicine for some time, microneedle arrays have been proven as an effective means of controlling drug delivery into the body.

Unlike a hypodermic needle, microneedles create small, shallow invasions in the skin. As an array, in this case of around 25, the microneedles are created to gradually deliver drugs into the body over an extended period of time. Treatment this way improves drug effectiveness, and reduces the risk of side effects.

Insertion of a hypodermic needle vs. microneedle array. Image via Clinical and Experimental Vaccine Research 2014/Korean Vaccine Society.Insertion of a hypodermic needle vs. microneedle array. Image via Clinical and Experimental Vaccine Research 2014/Korean Vaccine Society.

Controlled drug delivery

WSU researchers propose to make their eye microneedle arrays using 3D printing, meaning that each one could, in effect, be custom-made for specific patients and conditions.

To achieve the fine resolution required for these devices, a vat photopolymerization technique, such as SLA, DLP or even nanolithography, is likely the best route of fabrication.

The plan is to apply the drug-loaded arrays directly to a patient’s eye. The microneedles would be left there potentially for up to a month. Then, thanks to the WSU assistant professor Kuen-Ren “Roland” Chen’s  “locking” and “unlocking” technology, they would be removed afterwards causing minimal damage and discomfort.

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Featured image shows a 3D printed prototype of a programmable microneedle array for the eye. Photo via WSU

3D printing increases efficiency for ETSEIB Motorsport team

3D printing is giving a Spanish university team the edge in the annual Formula Student competition.

The ETSEIB team is comprised of engineering students nearing the end of their studies at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) Spain. Working with 3D printers from local manufacturer, BCN3D Technologies has streamlined the manufacturing process.

Since 1998, the Formula Student competition, has pitted international university students against each other to produce, construct, test and then race small-scale formula style racing cars. The event is organized by The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, (IMechE) to promote innovative engineering.

The team has over four years of experience in manufacturing combustion and electric cars.

Redefining workflow with 3D printing

The forty student engineers of ETSEIB Motorsport are using 3D printing to reduce costs and improve logistics during day-to-day operations. Specifically, ETSEIB Motorsport has improved their workflow in three main areas.

First, 3D printing is helping with design validation and component iteration times. Using the open source BCN Sigmax, in-house allows the engineers to print their CAD designs overnight; this radically reduces validation and iteration times boosting efficiency and decreasing dependency on external suppliers. This leaves more time for new concepts to be developed.

Secondly, 3D printing allows cost-effective manufacturing. The ETSEIB Motorsport students are manufacturing both end-use components and tooling for the car. These 3D printed parts include brake ducts, cable ties, and molds for carbon fiber bodywork.

3D printed cooling brake duct (left) and carbon fiber steering wheel made from a 3D printed mold (right). Photo via BCN3D.

Finally, overall car cost and lead times were reduced thanks to 3D printing. The team produced parts at a faster rate at lower costs when compared to traditional fabrication methods, particularly, the design of complex pieces. By cutting car costs through 3D printing, the team saved thousands of euros on car development which enabled them to pay back their initial investment within the first months of usage.

ETSEIB Motorsport formula racing car at the starting line. Photo via BCN3D.

3D printing in the automotive sector

While mass production using additive manufacturing is still on the distant horizon, as previously reported, the application of 3D printing in the automotive sector is increasing. Italian car manufacturer, XEV teamed up with 3D printer filament manufacturer Polymaker to manufacture a 3D printed low-speed electric vehicle (LSEV) destined for (relative) mass production. XEV reports that using 3D printing to manufacture a car has eliminated processes such as stamping, welding and painting of metals and rubber.

Local Motors is another company using 3D printing in the transport sector and have produced a 3D printed car.

ETSEIB Motorsport was placed in the top ten in three international Formula Student competitions—in Austria, Germany, and Spain. The team was awarded “Best Spanish Team” at the Montmeló circuit in Barcelona. The finals take place between 11-15th of July, 2018 at Silverstone racing track in the UK.  

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Featured image shows ETSEIB Motorsport Formula Student racing car. Photo via BCN3D.

CoEP team makes 3D, metal printers

Pune: The College of Engineering Pune (CoEP) took up a challenge to indigenize 3D printers and train students in making them, resulting in production of 3D printers in less than half the cost of their original value.

The innovation doesn’t end here. The production department at the college has even made a metal printer for Rs 35 lakh. Its market price is above Rs 3 crore.

“The 3D printers are widely used in various industries now to streamline the design process, thereby lowering the cost of the product. From a market price between $500 and $800, the college now has made a printer which will cost $250 and aims to further lessen the cost to $150. The professors are now trying to lower the cost further by making the circuit board in the printer themselves, which is the only imported component in the printer currently. This will further bring down the cost,” said B B Ahuja, director, CoEP.

The quest to make a 3D printer started in January 2015 when a team from the college went to Colorado to see a 3D printer. The high cost of buying an equipment made the teachers try their hand at fabricating one. Soon, the design available on the internet was studied and within six months, the CoEP with help from Geometric Limited had its own 3D printer. Till now, two workshops have been conducted for students to teach them 3D printing and assembly of Fuse Deposition Method (FDM) printers.

“But, we soon discovered that the design had flaws. Like the base plate had to be recalibrated every time a new thing is to be made making it a bit less user-friendly especially if it is a new user. Then, the end product was porous and this being an open system leads to interference from the environment affecting the end product,” said Arati Mulay, associate professor, department of production engineering and industrial management. Her team consists of lab manager Sandesh Patil along with three postgraduate students namely Kartik Bakshi, Ravikiran Shinde and Sharadchandra Bansode.

While the team is working on making the base plate such that recalibration every time someone has to use it doesn’t arise, it has already successfully made a post processing equipment which makes the end product a bit plasticized on the surface leading to decreased porousness on the surface of the end product.

Metal printer, an equipment that costs Rs 3 crore outside was built for just Rs 3,535 lakh in the CoEP lab. “Metal printer using selective laser sintering technique was also made by the team by looking up the design available and then modifying according to their needs. The cost of the laser was the highest as we have to import it. While in industries, they use metal powder as the model material, here in the lab we use brass plus polymer powder,” said Mulay.

While the quality of the end product is lesser than the industry standards, the equipment is of immense importance for the students, said Mulay. “Instead of buying actual components, students can manufacture the components in extremely less cost in the 3D printing lab and then assemble them to check if the design works. In case it does, then they can buy the authentic products. This saves a lot of production cost and is a very safe method too,” said Mulay.