In early 2016, the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center (UMOPC) teamed up with Stratasys and Altair Engineering to form the CYBER team, which was funded by America Makes and aimed to leverage 3D printing and Industry 4.0 to make better Ankle Foot Orthotics, and more specifically to address the orthotics needs of veterans. The work the CYBER team did paved the way for a new project: UMOPC recently implemented a new cyber manufacturing system that was developed by the University of Michigan College of Engineering, in an effort to quickly design and 3D print custom, better-fitting orthotics and prosthetics for stroke patients, amputees, and people with cerebral palsy.Currently, when a patient needs a custom assistive device like orthoses (braces used to protect, improve, or align function and stability to injured limbs) or prostheses (devices used to replace a lost limb), they have to wait for days, and sometimes even weeks, for one to be fabricated. The UM clinicians and engineers who designed the system said it will create custom, lightweight devices much faster, and additionally can improve the fit, function, consistency, and precision of each device.
Albert Shih, project lead and professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, said, “Eventually we envision that a patient could come in in the morning for an optical scan, and the clinician could design a high quality orthosis very quickly using the cloud-based software. By that afternoon, they could have a 3-D printed device that’s ready for final evaluation and use.”
The team is currently focused on one specific device: ankle foot orthoses, generally prescribed to help stroke patients regain the ability to walk independently. There are 700,000 stroke victims in the US each year, and over two-thirds of these need long-term rehabilitation, which can be helped with custom orthotics like the ones UM is working on. Children with myelomeningocele and cerebral palsy can also use these types of devices to regain stability while walking.
To make the custom assistive device, the patient will first have to undergo a 3D optical scan, and the orthotist will then upload the scan data to a cloud-based design center and use software, specially developed by Altair Engineering and Standard Cyborg, to design the device. A set of electronic instructions is created by the software and transmitted directly to the orthotist’s facility, where an onsite Stratasys Fortus 400mc 3D printer will create the device itself in a matter of hours.
This is a “major departure from current methods” of creating assistive devices, according to Jeff Wensman, director of clinical and technical services at UMOPC. The current labor-intensive process, which usually takes about two weeks, needs a highly trained staff and large shop to complete all of the steps, which include:
- Wrapping fiberglass tapes around the patient’s limb, which will harden into a mold
- Filling the mold with plaster to make the model
- Vacuum forming heated plastic around the model to make the device
- Smoothing the edges by hand and attaching mechanical components, such as straps
The new process developed by UMOPC only needs three pieces of equipment on-site: a handheld optical scanner, a computer, and a 3D printer; as the Fortus 400mc is only about 4′ x 3′ x 6.5′, the lab or shop itself won’t even need to be that big. So in the future, even smaller clinics located in more rural or remote areas could better accommodate patients who need these types of custom devices.
The system, developed by UM mechanical engineering PhD student Robert Chisena, utilizes a new type of infill pattern: a wave, or parse structure, which creates a wavy, continuous infill pattern, and makes the orthotics partially hollow. This not only saves weight while retaining strength, it also helps increase the machine’s efficiency.
Wensman said, “Traditional hand-made orthotics are solid plastic, and they need to be a certain thickness because they have to be wrapped around a physical model during the manufacturing process. 3-D printing eliminates that limitation. We can design devices that are solid in some places and hollow in others and vary the thickness much more precisely. It gives us a whole new set of tools to work with.”
The new process is also more consistent than existing methods, since it utilizes computer-based models instead of hand fabrication. So any clinic that owns a 3D printer will be able to create the exact same device over and over again. Doctors will also be able to see how a patient’s shape and condition are progressing, as they have access to computer models of previously used orthotics for the patient. Shih says the device is already creating and testing prosthetics and orthotics, and the team is working on a plan to show how their new process will be able to improve both efficiency and service, as well as reduce the overall cost. So other healthcare providers are able to benefit from their work and develop similar systems, the team will be making their system specs and software available for free.
Shih said, “Without America Makes and Manufacturing USA, we would not be able to bring a state-of-the-art 3D printer to the prosthetics center with the traditional research project. Without the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for Innovation and cyber manufacturing grants, we would not be able to have PhD engineering students working at UMOPC to develop the system. I am very blessed to have all three projects funded and started at the same time to create this first-of-its-kind demonstration site at UMOPC for the Michigan Difference in advanced manufacturing and patient care.”
Check out the 3D Printed Orthotics video to learn more:
[Source/Images: University of Michigan]
Another day, another major corporation entering the 3D printing space – or at least expanding its presence. Henkel Adhesive Technologies, a division of multinational corporation Henkel, has announced its intention to begin focusing more resources on the development of 3D printing materials – in particular, resins for SLA/DLP 3D printing. Henkel, which just celebrated its 140th anniversary this year, is a leading supplier of light-cured acrylic, epoxy, and polyurethane resins for applications ranging from medical and electronic devices to automotive assembly. It’s not too far of a jump to begin developing 3D printing materials – the resources and expertise are already there.
3D printing isn’t entirely new to Henkel, whose partnership with Dutch architectural design studio DUS Architects has resulted in the production of a 3D printed tiny house, the partially 3D printed Europe Building, and additional projects. Henkel’s hotmelt adhesives were instrumental in the creation of the sustainable bioplastic material used to 3D print the structures. The recyclable material was created from Henkel adhesives, which are based on sustainable raw materials, then injected with concrete for structural stability.
DUS Architects is currently in the process of building the Canal House, a three-year project on which Henkel is also listed as a partner. The Amsterdam canal house will be 3D printed in 2017 using a massive 3D printer to create the façade and interior walls, which will include 42 components. The project will showcase the novel construction methods and sustainable materials developed by the multiple partners involved in its development, and according to DUS Architects will present new solutions for housing and construction across the world.
In addition to the light-cured resins that Henkel Adhesive Technologies is developing for SLA and DLP 3D printing, the company is currently working on the development of filaments and powders for SLS and FDM 3D printing as well. Given the success of Henkel’s hotmelt adhesive materials – which are also commonly used in the assembly of filters and medical devices, as well as electronics protection – in the DUS projects, it’s no surprise that the company is turning its focus and resources to the creation of a wider variety of 3D printing materials.
“Thanks to our broad material portfolio and our large customer base across different industries, we have the access and ability to enable 3D printed solutions for all kinds of functional applications. We believe strongly in the future of additive manufacturing and expect that its full potential will come by identifying the right customer application and focusing the right materials, with the right printing process and leveraging the right software,” said Mike Olosky, Corporate Senior Vice President and Global Head of Innovation and New Business Development at Henkel Adhesive Technologies.
The first of Henkel Adhesive Technologies’ new light-cured 3D printing resins is expected to be commercialized in 2017. Discuss in the Henkel forum at 3DPB.com.
Mar 19, 2016 | By Andre
Did you know that some ants spray a type of acid called formic acid for self defence? I didn’t, and if you’re the same, odds are you don’t know that “formica” is the Latin word for ant. I didn’t know either of these things.
I also didn’t know that this ant acid may one day be responsible for replacing the fossil fuels in our cars and even provide a more practical (and carbon neutral) solution to the electric and hydrogen based vehicles that are currently leading the green energy automotive boom.
This future might unfold thanks to a group of researchers (known as Team FAST) from the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands that have come up with a formic acid based fuel system already capable of running a 3D printed 30 Watt Remote controlled car and have successfully demonstrated the concept this January.
The reason Team FAST is putting their energy into formic acid vehicles is threefold. Petroleum based transportation can’t be considered as part of any long-term solution; electric battery powered vehicles have limited range; and hydrogen based fuel systems are inherently dangerous because of their pressurized holding tank.
And just as is the case with so many innovations taking place around the world today, 3D printing had an integral role in developing the team’s formic acid powered prototype vehicle.
By using an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer, the team was able to make quick revisions to the design of their demo unit as research progressed into 2016. The ability to create custom mounts, fittings and jigs on the fly saved them weeks compared with the alternative of relying on custom milled parts.
This speedy prototyping is somewhat extraordinary considering the idea of developing this formic acid fuel system was only first developed in September of 2014 and that they’re now building a full sized bus that they hope to have finished by the end of 2016.
The reasons for moving forward with their technology as an alternative to the current alternatives go on and on. By relying on a liquid fuel system, our current gas station based refuelling infrastructure can easily be retrofitted with formic acid based fuel. On top of this, their system is completely carbon neutral.
The advantages are vast and the team acknowledge this by saying that, “we believe formic acid brings solutions to existing and future problems. These problems will not be solved by hydrogen or the electric car but formic acid possesses qualities that are inherently better than the former options.”
Team Fast continues to live up to its name. In addition to working on a full scale bus powered by their fuel system, they recently moved onto the next round to the Philips Innovation Award challenge (the largest student-entrepreneur award in the Netherlands). This speedy progress wouldn’t have been possible without the help of 3D printing.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Scientists from ETH Zurich has pioneered a 3D printing process that makes it possible to manufacture transparent electrodes to make touchscreens far more responsive than they are today.
In order to make any glass touchscreen responsive, such as those used on smartphones and tablets, transparent electrodes need to be applied to the glass so the device or machine can detect exactly where a finger has touched it.
But what if you could make touchscreens lightning fast in terms of responsiveness? To achieve this, researchers from ETH Zurich used 3D printing techniques to create a special type of electrohydrodynamic ink-jet printing whereby tiny drops of gold are printed out to form ultra-fine gold walls that gradually build up to form a whole grid of nanowalls.
These nanowalls create the transparent electrode and they are so thin that they can barely be seen by the naked eye and are far more transparent and conductive than the touchscreen electrodes made today out of indium tin oxide.
The researchers say the more transparent the electrodes, the better the screen quality, and the more conductive they are, the more quickly the touchscreen will pick up finger movements.
Gold electrodes beat indium tin oxide for responsiveness
“Indium tin oxide is used because the material has a relatively high degree of transparency and the production of thin layers has been well researched, but it is only moderately conductive,” said Patrik Rohner, a PhD student in the team.
So in order to make their electrodes more conductive, the researchers opted for gold and silver, which conduct electricity much better, but the shortfall is these metals are not transparent, so the scientists had to look at using much thinner amounts of the metals to construct a grid with walls that were only 80 to 500 nanometres in thickness.
To build the grid from such tiny metal walls, the researchers used a 3D printing process called Nanodrip that they invented in 2013. The process involves using inks made from metal nanoparticles in a solvent. An electrical field draws out super tiny droplets of metallic ink out of a glass capillary, which functions as the print head, and on the printbed, the solvent evaporates quickly so tiny walls of metal are built up drop by drop.
3D printing much smaller structures now possible
ETC Zurich says its 3D printing method is special because it enables tiny structures to be printed, since the droplets that come out of the glass capillary are about 10 times smaller than the aperture itself.
“Imagine a water drop hanging from a tap that is turned off. And now imagine that another tiny droplet is hanging from this drop – we are only printing the tiny droplet,” said Dimos Poulikakos, professor of thermodynamics at ETH Zurich.
The scientists next need to upscale the printing process so it can be implemented on an industrial scale, and they believe the technology could be hugely useful and cost effective to print these tiny transparent gold electrodes compared to the production process used today for indium tin oxide electrodes. The technology could also be used in solar cells to harness even more electricity, as well as to further the development of curved OLED displays.
Pandorum Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a biotechnology start-up focused on tissue engineering, has made India’s first artificial human liver tissue with the help of 3D printing technology.
The tissue performs critical functions of a human liver tissue including detoxification, metabolism and secretion of biochemicals such as albumin and cholesterol.
“The tissue can grow and survive up to eight weeks,” Arun Chandru, co-founder and managing director, said on Tuesday.
Chandru along with Tuhin Bhowmick, researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, founded Pandorum in 2011 to make artificial human organs on demand.
To build liver tissue of 5 mm size Pandorum needed 10 million liver cells, which were arranged in three-dimensional architecture, a bio-material made up of glucose, proteins and living cells extracted from a particular type of insect is used as ink, which is placed in three interchangeable dispensers of the printer’s head controlled by lasers.
Pandorum sourced a million liver cells from a bio-bank and multiplied them in its laboratory.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Bhowmick, referring to Pandorum’s ultimate aim of printing complete organs.
Bhowmick holds a PhD from IISc, with expertise in structure based design of macromolecules, and biomaterials with focus on drug delivery and tissue engineering.
3D printing technology has the potential to save lives of patients with liver failure, Bhowmick said.
While the current 3D printing technology is able to make small slices of tissue, producing a complete organ such as the liver with 300 billion cells may take several years, analysts say.
As of today, 3D printed living tissues are used for testing drugs in the early-development phase.
“Liver toxicity and drug metabolism are the key hurdles, and contributors to failed human trials,” Chandru said. “Our 3D bio-printed mini-livers that mimic the human liver will serve as test platforms for discovery and development of drugs with better efficacy, less side-effects and at lower costs.”
Pandorum said it is trying to reach out to contract research organisations that work on early-stage drug discovery.
Pandorum is supported by grants from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council and is incubated at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, Bangalore Bio-Cluster.
This article was first published on Livemint.com
Sep 15, 2015 | By Benedict
Just last week we took a look at Fusion’s portable, ultra-affordable RepRap 3D printer. Now, a RepRapper going by the name of RevarBat has developed the ‘Snappy’, a 3D printer able to print 73% of its own components, making it possibly the most self-replicating RepRap machine yet.
The RepRap ‘Snappy’
RepRap, a 3D printing community project, ‘is about making self-replicating machines, and making them freely available for the benefit of everyone.’ In the years since their inception, they have become the number one budget 3D printer for general additive manufacturing needs.
Although RepRap 3D printers and their community of users and developers are not solely concerned with self-replication, the concept of a self-replicating 3D printer caught the imagination of many members of the additive manufacturing community.
The first ever RepRap machine, the ‘Darwin’, was made almost entirely from threaded rods, with successor ‘Mendel’ having a slightly higher proportion of 3D-printed parts. RevarBat’s Snappy is, however, clearly focused on the original RepRap goals: the 3D printer, built almost entirely from 3D-printed parts, uses a ‘snap together’ assembly method, reducing the need for non-3D-printed components such as screws and bearings.
The RepRap ‘Darwin’
RevarBat’s RepRap 3D printer utilises components which fit together with snap fit connectors. The entire frame of the Snappy 3D printer is built from interlocking small parts which form complex components.
Another of the tricks RevarBat has done is reducing the number of non-3D-printed parts in his machine. “This design needs no rods, belts, or pulleys, and no screws outside of the motors or extruder hot-end. This means that you should be able to put one together for under $300, including the price of plastic to print parts,” RevarBat notes. He is using a rack and pinion system and the snap fit connectors, made entirely from 3D-printed parts. The rack and pinion system eliminates other ‘vitamins’ (non-3D-printed parts) such as various belts and bearings.
Specifications of the Snappy RepRap 1.0:
- 3D Printed Parts: around 61 different parts, not counting cable chains.
- Non-Printed Parts: Motors. Electronics. Glass build plate. One 686 bearing.
- 3D Printing Size: build area of about 7.5″ x 7.5″ x 7.5″ or 19cm x 19cm x 19cm
- Material Cost: US$ 85
- Cost: About US$ 300 (all parts, including plastic)
- Precision: about 0.05mm, all three axes
- Speed: 100mm/sec (position), 60mm/sec (printing)
The full list of non-printable parts for v1.0 are:
- 1 Power supply (12V, 120W)
- Controller electronics (RAMPS is cheap!)
- 3 mechanical limit micro-switches
- 5 Stepper motors (NEMA17, 40mm long, 1.5A/phase)
- 1 Bearing (686)
- 2 cooling fans (40mm)
- 1 Standard J-Head MkV extruder hot end
- 1 Extruder drive gear
- 1 Borosilicate glass build platform (about 200mm x 200mm)
- 4 mini binder clips
The files for the printable parts of the Snappy are available here, at RevarBat’s repository.
Posted in 3D Printers
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