Green Line Solutions News

Bioprinting

Thomas Topp - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kinko’s Can’t Print This:

The Adaptation of ALM for Bioprinting  


The previous article discussed advancements in additive layer manufacturing (ALM, more commonly known as 3D printing), resulting in the creation of entire architectural structures. Understandably, this development had many 3D-printer-enthusiasts excited, due to the scale of the project and the attraction of a more mainstream audience; yet perhaps the most life-altering application for this technology is the use of ALM to produce bones, organic tissues and cartilage in a process known as bioprinting.

These body parts are produced in a manner similar to all 3D printed objects, except the medium used is known as a bio-ink and must be “printed” in a more mild manner and at cooler temperatures to preserve the integrity of bioactive molecules and macroproteins, and ensure compatibility with living cells. The bioink is similar to hydrogels used in other ALM processes, but is often derived from algae or gelatin as opposed to plastic or synthetic polymers; however, biodegradable plastics are often used in the initial printing phase to help maintain structural integrity.

By using biomaterials, scientists reduce the risk of the implant being rejected by the host and are able to forgo designing and producing a complex piece of machinery in lieu of a functioning organ or limb. The process is able to produce soft tissue and muscle, but also cartilage and bone, allowing patients to receive everything from lab-grown ears and vaginas, to jaw bones, noses and windpipes.

Beyond saving lives via transplant, scientists are also using printed tissues to test the efficacy and safety of various drugs. An article posted by The Economist in January of this year explains, “it will please animal-rights activists, as it should cut down on the number of animal trials. It will please drug companies, too, since the tissue being tested is human, so the results obtained should be more reliable than ones from tests on other species.”

Currently, transplants require a donor, either one who is living (as is common for a kidney) or a victim of accident (as for a heart), and there are millions of people waiting for such an opportunity. Yet even when such a patient gets lucky, there is the possibility of the tissue or organ being rejected by the host’s body; however, because the bioprinted object will be made using the patient’s own pluripotent stem cells, the rejection rate of such transplants should be virtually zero.

Bioprinting will allow patients to receive brand-new body parts made from their own DNA, as with organs, or parts designed to fit their exact body shape, as with a jaw bone or vertebrae.


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3D Printing

Thomas Topp - Sunday, April 16, 2017

Although household 3D printers are a relatively new fad, the process, which was originally called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), developed during the 1980’s. During this time, the main use of ALM was “Rapid Prototyping,” which allowed manufacturers to create representative models quickly and inexpensively out of plastic polymers.

For those unaware of the process, ALM creates a solid object by stacking layers, slice by slice, from the bottom-up. By creating objects this way, the layers can be very complex which allows ALM to produce moving parts, like hinges and wheels. Modern machines are capable of printing one object from several materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, and even chocolate!

There are several methods for manufacturing products by ALM; the most common for home printers is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), which produces an object by extruding melted material that immediately hardens after leaving the nozzle. On an industrial level, a common method is Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a single mass.

In the early 2000’s, Loughborough University, UK, began a project to create the first printed building. Rupert Soar formed the Freeform Construction Group to explore how existing technologies could be expanded to large scale construction. In 2005, the group secured funding to build a machine that would use components like concrete pumping, spray concrete, and gantry systems to print an entire structure.

In 2014, Chinese company WinSun took this technology a step further by printing the first multi-story building (five levels and 11,840 square foot), complete with decorative elements inside and out, at Suzhou Industrial Park. The machine was developed by Ma Yihe, who has more than a decade of experience in designing 3D Printing Arrays, and is 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide, and 132 feet long.

“The machine uses a mixture of ground construction and industrial waste, such as glass and tailings, around a base of quick-drying cement mixed with a special hardening agent,” CNET reports. The parts are produced in large pieces at WinSun's facility and the structure was “then assembled on-site, complete with steel reinforcements and insulation in order to comply with official building standards.”

By using this technology, construction waste can be reduced by more than a third, while production time and labor costs can be decreased by almost three quarters. Using recycled materials also eliminates the need for quarried stone, which is better for the bottom-line and for the environment.


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Exoskeletons

Thomas Topp - Monday, March 20, 2017

Exoskeletons: Human Performance Augmentation

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