3D-Printing Complex Bio-Organs: The Lungs

3D Printing Parts That Breathe

3D bioprinting body organs may now look doable as advances in technology make mention those parts that have seen printing already – eyes, skin, heart, bone, among others. However, the more challenging aspect is how to print artificial versions of the body’s complex vascular networks, which mimic our natural passageways for blood, air, lymph, and other vital fluids.

Of late, scientists from the Rice’s Brown School of Engineering have already successfully printed the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues, such as the lungs. The team is the first to develop bioprinting technology that addresses the challenge of multivascularization in a direct and comprehensive way. They know that the vascular networks, like the lung’s blood vessels and airways, and the bile ducts and liver blood vessels are interpenetrating networks. They are physically and biochemically entangled, and their architecture is intimately related to tissue function.

SLATE, which stands for “stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering”, was developed by the scientists which prints one layer at a time from a liquid pre-hydrogel solution which, when exposed to light, solidifies. They tested a lung-mimicking structure, complete with airways and blood vessels, that held up to recreate the breathing process.

What is the impact of creating functional tissue replacements in the medical field?

For one it is a high scientific priority because of its potential impact on organ donations. In the US alone there is a shortage of organ donors; at least more than a hundred thousand patients are on the transplant waiting list. Furthermore, there is the danger of organ rejection for even a successful transplant procedure. Bioprinted organs should be able to address the shortage of organs and the risk of organ rejection.

Reprinting human organs has other potential uses apart from as transplants. Scientists are using 3D printed organs to better understand how they are affected by cancer.


3D Printing Possibilities in Seattle

While 3D printing bio-organs are the next best possibility in some future time, our team at 3D Composites Seattle can be approached for your other immediate 3D printing needs. Contact us and let’s talk ideas.

old shoe

The Advent of the 3D Printed Material That Repairs Itself

Self-Healing Materials: The Correct Mix

Out of the University of Southern California (USC) researchers have developed a 3D printed rubber material that has the ability to repair itself. The rubber material, an elastomer, is able to potentially decrease manufacturing time and increase longevity for shoes, tires, soft robotics and electronics. The self-healable materials were 3D printed using a customized photopolymerization process. Photopoly- merization is a technique that uses light (visible or ultraviolet; UV) to initiate and propagate a polymerization reaction. It is a practical approach to produce micrometer sized 3D structures. In this process laser light excitation hardens an appropriate photopolymer.

The researchers say that self-healing and polymerization are two different behaviors. There is actually a competition between the two, but the researchers were eventually able to find the ratio that can enable both high self-healing and relatively rapid photopolymerization.

This research focuses on the photopolymerization reaction of the alcohol-analogous thiol chemical group present in the rubber materials. An oxidizer was added to the process which transformed the thiols into a different group of chemicals called disulfides. The new chemicals have the ability to reform when broken, enabling self-healing. However, when they gradually increase the oxidant, the self-healing behavior becomes stronger, but the photopolymerization behavior becomes weaker.

Healing Time & Temperature

Part of the research is a study where the material’s ability to heal on a range of rubber products. The different items were cut in half, and after 2 hours, at 60 degrees Celsius, the products were able to heal completely. The repair time is variable depending on the temperature. Under different temperatures – from 40 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius – the material can heal to almost 100 percent.

There have been studies on self-healing materials that are 3D-printable. There’s the conductive self-healing hydrogel developed at the University of Manitoba; it came from chitosan, which is found in the shells of crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans. At the University of Melbourne, a team found that synthetic benzaldehyde, typically obtained by extraction from cinnamon oil, was a key ingredient to developing a 3D printable healing gel. From the University of South Carolina a study was published titled Additive Manufacturing of Self-healing Elastomers about self-healing materials.


3D-Printable Ideas in Seattle

If you’ve got an idea and you think it’s printable, contact our team at 3D Composites. Possibilities are endless.

People inside building

The World’s First 3D Printed Meeting Space

Not Your Typical Meeting Space

If you are somewhere in Amsterdam and looking for a meeting place, we know just where you can find one. And it’s totally 3D printed. The building will be called De Vergaderfabriek, Dutch for “the Meeting Factory.” The structure is 1,000-square-foot but was originally supposed to be bigger and taller. It isn’t ready yet for occupancy, but it will be soon.

The Meeting Factory is located near a small airport and was designed to look like the rotating blades of a jet engine. The walls are curved to create a sense of equality and safety that will enhance communication. Those who will use the room or the “tent’ as they like to call it, will be able to choose from different 360-degree video projections set to their specified music. It’s not going to be a room with bare walls. There will be 12 ribbed walls in total.

The builders created a specific type of mortar that hardens within a day and that won’t shrink, expand, or collapse. They developed special algorithms to the double-curved walls, pre-researched to determine if they were feasible.

Those who operated the printer, controller, and mixing device were deep in concentration as they have only one chance to get it right. They prepared and checked everything – the temperature, the consistency of the material, the location of the wall, the electricity and water – before they finally press the button to go. There were many regulations to hurdle in order that a structure, just a hundred square meters in size, would be built.

How long did the construction of the Meeting Factory take? It was expected to take 10 days but it took a few more days longer. It is expected to finish imminently. It wasn’t the goal to do it as fast as possible. It was more important to do it right. In any case, the whole process will be much faster and cheaper next time. Several houses are set to be 3D-printed later this year in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, and the creators of the Meeting Factory believe 3D printing will become a reasonably standard building method within a short time.


Buildings of the Future to Rise in Seattle

While it might take a while for 3D printed structures to be common in key cities in the US, your 3D printing company in Seattle looks to the future that someday soon 3D printed buildings will change the landscape of city life.


3D Printing: Golden Age in Materials, Processes and Buildings

3D Printing Material: More Than Plastic

Researchers and innovators around the world keep coming up with opportunities and discoveries in 3D printing making the technology brand new when it’s actually decades old. Out of imagination and creativity, people experiment with new materials, developed processes to create objects previously impossible to print, and come out with new building typologies. Where materials are concerned majority of print material used is still plastic.

However, a product designer from the Netherlands have developed a method using wet paper fibers which are stronger and durable than regular paper. It uses a natural binding agent and is recyclable.

Steel is also the next promising material. The world’s first 3D-printed stainless steel bridge was announced at Dutch Design Week in October of 2018 by a robotics company. The Iowa State University developed a 3D-printed ceramic facade that can be integrated with a building’s mechanical system to control light, airflow, and privacy, also providing evaporative cooling benefits.

Another material is glass, considered even dangerous to work within 3D printing, involving heating the glass to 1,000 degrees Celsius resulting to coarse-textured products. The German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology used a standard 3D printer to produce liquid glass. The acrylic solution had dispersed silica in it and when the object was printed ultraviolet light hardened the material. It was then exposed to high temperatures and as the material burned away, the silica particles fused into smooth, transparent glass.

The internal and external structure of materials like wood have been developed at New York’s Columbia University using a scanning technique combined with 3D printing. An actual wood block was used as a guide to create the model that was first sliced at exact intervals; the images then made by these slices were prepared for 3D printing. The meaning of this success is that other objects with complex internal structures can be 3D-printed. Concrete is another material worth mentioning. The U.S. Marine Corps recently created the world’s first 3D-printed concrete barracks, all of 500-square- foot barracks in 40 hours.

An Italian company WASP has created a 3D-printed house from natural materials in the surrounding area – namely earth and the waste products from rice production. A large-scale 3D printer was used. It has just a few wooden components, took 100 hours to build and has no ecological impact.



Largest 3D Printed Bridge Over Shanghai

Modern Takes Ancient Inspiration

Across the Shanghai Wisdom Bay Pond spans the the world’s longest pedestrian bridge that’s 3D-printed.It’s a single-arch bridge designed and developed by Professor Xu Weiguo from the Tsinghua University (School of Architecture) – Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture. It measures 26.3 meters long and 3.6 meters wide, similar and inspired by the ancient Anji Bridge in Zhaoxian, China.

The structure created used a 3D printing concrete system integrated digital design, cost efficiency, smart technology, and architectural dynamism. The bridge’s handrails are shaped like flowing ribbons on the arch, creating a light, elegant movement across the pond. Made out of 44 hollowed-out 3D-printed concrete units and the handrails are divided into 68 units. The bridge’s components have been printed from composite materials, containing polyethylene fiber concrete to match the structural performance of conventional materials.

The scale of the physical model of the bridge is 1:4 which aims to prove that the bridge could hold all the pedestrians on the entire bridge surface. On actual construction, two robots printed the concrete components over the course of 450 hours. No templates nor reinforcing bars were used which contributed to 33% savings compared to the conventional process of construction. Additionally, there’s a monitoring system installed in the bridge that gives data drawn from vibrations of the stresses and the strains in the embedded wires.

The information gathered will allow for a greater understanding of the practical performance of new concrete materials, and the structural properties of 3D-printed components.

3D printing technology has brought about major changes in the use of concrete as printing material, but it’s not the only material. Columbia University has developed a new technique for 3D printing and scanning, producing a product with the look of timber, having authentic interior grain. Meanwhile, the world’s first 3D-printed steel bridge was recently unveiled at Dutch Design Week.


Building Bridges of the Future in Seattle

In Seattle 3D-printing bridges is still a thing of the future, but not impossible. Today, at 3D Composites, we turn your small ideas into realities. When you’ve got an idea in the works, talk to us and let’s build.