Big 3D Printing Ideas in the Real World

From Ideas to Realities

Take a look at some of the biggest real-world examples of 3D printing in 2018.

In the world of prosthesis, 3D printing has made much headway, becoming the biggest applications for 3D printing to impact the medical field. Courtesy of veterinarians, from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, a dog that was attacked by another was recovering from severe facial injuries with the help of a 3D printed mask. From the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, a mouse gave birth to healthy pups with her 3D-printed ovaries.

For homes and other buildings, a 400-square-foot house was constructed in a Moscow suburb with 3D printing technology, in less than 24 hours. An entire two-story house was 3D printed from concrete in Beijing in just 45 days from start to finish. Researchers from Germany even 3D-printed a house of glass, in miniature size, and were the first to figure out how to 3D print with glass.

3D printing can also be edible, Choc Edge Ltd is a technology company in the UK, provides ALM chocolate printing solutions to businesses and individuals who wish to design and produce creative chocolates. Since chocolate hardens quickly at room temperature, it’s an ideal edible material for 3D printing, but companies have printed other edible creations from ice cream, cookie dough, marzipan and even hamburger patties.

Musical instruments can also be 3D printed. From violins, to flutes and banjos, several musical instruments and parts of instruments such as mouthpieces have been created using a 3D printer. In fact, the world’s first live concert with a 3D-printed band (drum, keyboard, and two guitars) took place at Lund University in Sweden.


Anything You Can Imagine in Seattle

3D printing offers so much more and its only limitation is your mind. Consider coming to 3D Composites, your reliable 3D printing company in Seattle and know what we’re talking about.


3D Printed Skull Cap: Helping A Dog Fight Cancer

A Story of Courage and Potential

This is a fascinating and caring story about how 3D printing can also save animal’s lives. It’s the story of a 9 year old dachshund, named Patches, who developed a bump on her head the size of an orange that turned out to be cancerous. Patches’ owner was referred by her veterinarian to Cornell University‘s veterinary program, which in turn pointed her toward a veterinary surgical oncologist with the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. The doctor had been studying the use of 3D printing technology for dogs.

The dog’s tumor grew right through her skull which normally both tumor and part of the skull would be removed, and then a titanium mesh would be fitted in place. The procedure has some risks – it’s imprecise, costly and lengthy. But Patches was perfect for another new procedure – a 3D printed, custom titanium skull cap.

The skull cap took about two hours to design, the final print was ready in about two weeks with holes in it for fitting screws on. The surgery proceeded with taking out of 70% of the skull and then the entire tumor. The procedure took about four hours, and within 30 minutes after waking up, Patches was taking a walk outside.

This development is the first of its kind in North America, to be published in the upcoming months after the surgery. There’s a similar case treated in Texas earlier but that did not use a full skull cap but a titanium mesh instead. Sadly, the dog passed away from complications after the surgery. The oncologist who helped and designed the full skull cap created a cutting guide to follow during the surgery. She said there’s very little room for error, talking less than two millimetres or else the plate wouldn’t fit.

Patches, though, is doing well, despite a separate incident a week after the surgery when she suffered a slipped disk that paralyzed her hind legs. She is in good spirits, however, and otherwise healthy and cancer-free.

It was said that Patches’ owner was nervous about the prospect but decided to go ahead with the procedure. She felt her pet would recover and become a part of cancer research to help humans help animals.

Making A Difference with 3D Composites Seattle

Contact 3D Composites Seattle and let’s talk about making a difference. If you have an idea to help others, we’re all for it at 3D Composites. Let’s get started!


3D Printing and its Misconceptions

Myths About 3D Printing

3D printing, like all fast-developing technologies has its share of misconceptions. People have made up their minds about the technology and no matter what, have no desire to change it. And so there have been persistent myths about 3D printing, four of them are the most common.

3D printing is slow and expensive.

Early 3D printing was painfully slow, equipment and materials were expensive, and the trial-and-error phase was tedious. Back in 2015, some analysts say that 3D printers are still slow, inaccurate and generally only print one material at a time. But there are new techniques for 3D printing with printers that are cost-competitive, printing in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of units and making products in minutes, not hours. Many of the newest printers also use lower-price commodity materials, decreasing prices all together.

3D printers are limited to small products.

3D printers are not huge equipment by design, needing an airtight build chamber to function, so are no larger than a copy machine. Some say that plastic filaments used by the printers can’t make anything too sturdy, further limiting the size of printed objects. But some techniques work in the open air and can generate highly resilient pieces, from automobiles to jet fighters. A new method for building involves a roving “printer bot” that gradually adds fast-hardening materials to carry out the construction, such as a house.

3D printers only produce low quality products.

To come up with a good-looking product is the hardest part of 3D printing. When printing layer upon layer, one doesn’t get the nice smooth finish of conventional manufacturing. Back in 2015, the high post-printing costs were predicted to keep 3D printing from expanding beyond customized or highly complex parts. But some new additive techniques can generate a high-quality finish from the start, because they aren’t based on layering. The products are monolithic – they emerge smoothly from a vat of liquid. Other printer manufacturers are building automated hybrid systems that combine 3D-printed products with conventional finishing.

Real 3D Printing at its Best in Seattle

Our team at 3D Composites informs our clients upfront what to expect from great ideas for 3D printing. We render precise, high quality and aesthetically acceptable products to our customers’ satisfaction.

human eye

3D Printed Bionic Eye: No Longer Science Fiction

The Eye of the Future

We have always been fascinated with popular lores of humans with robotic or bionic parts manifesting super powers. It’s the stuff that science fiction is made of. However, seriously, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota has made the first step toward creating a “bionic eye” that could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better. They were able to fully 3D-print an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface.

With a hemispherical glass dome, the researchers used their custom-built 3D printer, starting with a base ink of silver particles to dispense ink that stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface. Using semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, these convert light into electricity. The entire process takes about an hour and surprisingly, there was 25 percent efficiency in converting the light into electricity which they achieved with the fully 3D-printed semiconductors.

The team is proud to say that their 3D-printed semiconductors are now starting to show that they could potentially rival the efficiency of semiconducting devices fabricated in microfabrication facilities. Besides, they also proved that unlike those facilities, they can easily print a semiconducting device on a curved surface.

The University of Minnesota team are known for integrating 3D printing, electronics, and biology on a single platform. They received international attention a few years ago for printing a “bionic ear.” They have 3D-printed life-like artificial organs for surgical practice, electronic fabric that could serve as “bionic skin,” electronics directly on a moving hand, and cells and scaffolds that could help people living with spinal cord injuries regain some function.

For the bionic eye, the next steps are to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient. They might also find a way to print on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye. The research is published in Advanced Materials, a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering materials science.

Looking to the Future in Seattle

The future of 3D printing is towards amazing possibilities in many field applications, especially in medicine. While we might not be printing bionic eyes yet, for your other medical- related needs, see us at 3D Composites in Seattle for a sit-down on your next bright idea.


metal sheet

The Coming of Metal 3D Printing

The Dawning of Metal

We know plastics have predominantly been the material of choice when it comes to 3D printing. Commercially, other materials have been tried – concrete, bio-ink and dough – were proven successful. There’s one material, though, that presents some degree of challenge. Metal. Industrial printers are up to the task, but we’ve yet to see a commercial 3D printer that can create objects out of metal with the same ease others print with plastic.

Researchers from Yale University think they’ve found a way to make 3D printing metal objects easier than ever before. They published their study in the journal Materials Today recently. Actual metals, being not in a printable state – meaning they can’t easily be soft enough to form into different shapes – were not used in this study, but instead bulk metallic glasses or BMGs.

What is a BMG? It’s a metallic material that doesn’t exhibit the same rigid atomic structure as most metal alloys. They can soften more easily than most other metals, but they are still strong with high elastic limits, fracture toughness, and corrosion resistance, which are qualities typically associated with metals.

The researchers focused on a readily available BMG containing zirconium, titanium, copper, nickel, and beryllium. They used the same conditions to 3D print with plastics by forcing rods of their BMG through a feeding system heated to 460°C to soften the material. As a result, they found they could print a number of different shapes out of the high-strength metal material. They have also used other types of BMGs. The next step is making the process more practical and commercially usable.

The applications for 3D printed metal parts are limitless. The automotive industry could use them, and so can aeronautics and space, engineering, medical and dental fields, housing, and many more. What this research proved is that commercial 3D printing is not too far off from the era of plastics to that of metal.

Anticipating the Metal Era in Seattle

It certainly is going to look rosy (or gray, if you will) when metal becomes the new printing material of choice in 3D printing. Until that time, there are other dependable materials we can use for 3D printing. So when you’ve got an idea for a project of yours, come consult us at 3D Composites in Seattle.