Yesterday I went up to the London 3D Print Show in the Angel Business Centre. We were hoping to see the Prof. Anthony Atala presentation, but unfortunately it was cancelled. Instead we focused our attention on the 3D Printshow Hospital to look at some of the applications of 3D printing in medicine. These varied from useful anatomy models to help visualise and experiment with different parts of the body, to implantable regenerative organs, to lifelike cosmetic prosthesis. One thing that I’ve been struck by is just how creative some people have been with technology that many people walk straight past. One example is Tom Fripp (pictured here with our man Hamish Glover Wilson) who’s been using a zcorp 510 to print lifelike prosthetic noses for patients who’ve had disfigured features. The thing that Tom’s done very well is the research and development to ensure that the colours are matched between the software and the skin tones required by the patient (for more info click here). Clearly an eye dropper on photoshop doesn’t cut it in matching colours from software, through to printed models to match skin tones, so Tom’s worked hard to produce software to correct errors in the existing software to get it just right. He’s also gone the extra mile to patent a silicone 3d printing technology to allow the prostheses to transition neatly with the patient’s skin and facial features. Not to mention the application of this technology to prosthetic eyes, all done with great intentions to provide usable, helpful solutions. Surely in the years to come this will be a very successful venture for him, very clever stuff.
We were also up there to scope out the Makerbot 2X machines from Robosavvy. We’re looking to get a couple of these machines and use them on early stage concept experiments rather than going straight to the more accurate, more expensive Stratasys Fortus machines that we have. We like these machines because you can get many colours to go with them, you can print using 2 heads at once, and you can also use dissolvable support materials. They’re flexible, they print in ABS just like our Fortus machines and they’re (hopefully!) quite reliable.
Some of the stuff on show here at the 3D print show is really quite astonishing. The scale of some of these machines is huge! the ingenuity and graft that some people have shown to get the post processing right, or the development processes right to come up with very visually appealing (like the chrome finished plastic) and structurally robust products (like the enormous meshed vases) is really quite impressive. The variety of materials available has grown massively, as indicated on the imaterialise stand which showcases their museum-like display of 17 materials and some of their applications, from clear acryllics, to stainless steels, to soft rubbers…and blends of materials too! The technology is now clearly becoming more robust, more capable, and more impressive.
Some of the structures that can be created using algorithms to convert a solid or surface based model into a porous or grid model was really impressive. I’ve been working with Dr Karina Rodriguez in our computing division to do just this in the past few months and experiment with wall thicknesses of these grid structures to get models as lightweight as possible, and exploring different grid and joining patterns to see how we can make them look as stylish and intriguing as possible.
I’m also always taken by the figurines that can be made, the superheros, the chess pieces, the small scale scanned and printed people. I know it’s gimmicky, but it is great fun!