Although commercially available for decades, 3D printing technology is now becoming much more affordable for small companies and personal use. With implications ranging from life-saving tissue and organ synthesis, to deadly handgun manufacturing, the possibilities for 3D printing technology are as exciting as they are dangero
With a potential manned mission to Mars in the works and an imminent worldwide food crisis on the horizon, NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program has given Anjan Contractor of Austin, Texas a $120,000 grant to develop a 3D printing food synthesizer. This technology would combine essential carbohydrates, proteins and minerals into edible and nutritious foods. By using dehydrated ingredients and powders with a shelf life of up to 30 years, these 3D food synthesizers could sustain long, one-way trips to Mars and also open up possibilities for worldwide food synthesis and sustenance programs.
In more immediate and tangible news, Kyle and Liz von Hasseln of Southern California have setup the Sugar Lab, a shop in Los Angeles that sells 3D printed edible confectionary and desserts. Using a water and alchohol mixture, they have created structurally rigid and extremely intricate 3D sugar sculptures that can be used as cake decorations or eaten individually.
Using materials such as ceramic powder and titanium, which have been used for decades in reconstructive and plastic surgery, several scientists around the world have found ways to create 3D printed prostheses and replacement organs for patients. Using 3D printed ceramic bones grafts and titanium prosthetics for low and high-load bearing bones, respectively, Dr. Susmita Bose and Dr. Amit Bandyopadhyay of Washington State University have successfully created replacement bone fragments for injured patients around the world. By scanning injured areas and accounting for possible allergic reactions to materials, doctors can create a CAD file which can be used to print precise bone structures. With further advancements being made with ink containing cultured cells utilized in a temperature-controlled environment, scientists at San Diego’s Organovo have successfully bio-printed a working, human liver. Additionally, as CAD files for these organs and bones fragments can be sent anywhere in an instant and parts can be readily in any location equipped with a 3D printer, patients would not have to wait for a donated organ to be shipped from a local area.
3D Printed Guns and Bullets
With the market about to explode with more sophisticated and much cheaper personal 3D printers such as the Zortrax, the Buccanneer and BotObjects, owning and designing complex objects usually reserved for multi-million dollar corporations will be easier than ever. Although there are many positive and beneficial uses for this technology, there are also some much more dangerous possibilities which are already emerging. As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already warned, advancements in personal 3D printing and the wide availability of digital schematics for 3D guns has made it possible for almost anyone to print and produce fully operational handguns. In the last week, Jeff Heeszel, known as “Taofledermaus” on YouTube has uploaded a video displaying his 3D printed plastic bullets. Although these bullets do not have the same impact as metallic rounds, they can still inflict deadly bodily injury at close range.
Guest Post from Ryan Harris. To quote Ryan’s Twitter (@harrisryan30) profile, he likes to “talk tech news and moon landings, but mostly tech news.” Ryan is currently a designer with a few websites – including HighSpeedInternetProviders.com – who’s working to expand where his writing can be found. If Twitter isn’t your thing, please feel free to send Ryan an email with your comments – harrisryan30 @ gmail . com.