engineering prints

A hairy situation

Software from an MIT Media Lab-led research team has successfully enable quick and easy 3D printing of hairs, furs and other dense arrays of fine features on a conventional 3D printer, bypassing the use of CAD software to draw thousands of individual hairs that require lengthy computational time.

The software, titled Cilllia, allows the user to define the angle, thickness, density and height of hairs quickly.

The MIT team, led by graduate student Jifei Ou, argue that 3D-printed hair could fulfil tasks that have evaded previous 3D-printed materials including adhesion. To demonstrate the adhesive qualities, the team printed array that act as Velcro-like bristle pads.

Ou commented, ‘The ability to fabricate customised hair-like structures not only expands the library of 3D-printed shapes, but also enables us to design alternative actuators and sensors. 3D-printed hair can be used for designing everyday interactive objects.’

IDEO designer Kelly Schaefer remarked, ‘Perhaps more inspiring than any single output from this team is the idea of rethinking the 3D printing process itself, and the purpose of 3D-printed objects. The Cilllia team has challenged some of the current constraints of 3D printing processes, which makes me wonder what other constraints can be challenged and potentially eliminated.’


A Seahorse Tail Could Inspire Better Robots, Surgical Tools

by Michael Keller

An advance in understanding why the seahorse’s tail is made of square plates could inform the next generation of robotics and armor. In an engineering study that looked at the mechanics of how the fish’s tail works, researchers found the structure’s shape is optimized to resist crushing and to grasp while bending and twisting.

An international team modeled the stresses and strains of the tail bones with a computer and 3-D printed prototypes to subject them to engineering tests. They believe that the superior resistance to compression is an adaptation to protect the fragile spinal cord that runs the length of the tail.

One of their primary questions was why evolution would select for square prisms in the seahorse skeleton when other animals that do similar things with their tails have developed cylindrical ones. Learn more and see images below.

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Prosthetic Limbs can be prohibitively expensive for those who unfortunately are without the normal set of 4. It’s especially prohibitive for children who quickly outgrow the prostheses, which deters insurance companies from covering the costs.

Students at UCF in Orlando Florida got together and decided they could help solve this problem using 3D printing.

While high-tech prostheses can range from $20,000 to $100,000. These 3D printed arms/hands with articulated fingers can be manufactured for $200 to $1000. Nearly 99% less expensive.

Check out the video to learn more.

New 3-D Bioprinter Stacks Cells To Build Simple Tissues

by Txchnologist staff

Bioengineers are developing a new tissue-building printer that stacks bunches of living cells on top of each other to create complex arrangements. 

The Brown University team say the device they are building is faster than other 3-D tissue printers being developed. They hope it will also be able to build replacement organs because their process of picking and placing groups of cells should be able to produce more complex tissues. These tissues might get past a major organ-engineering stumbling block–delivering blood through complex living architecture to nourish cells and remove the byproducts of cellular activity.

“For us it’s exciting because it’s a new approach to building tissues, potentially organs, layer by layer with large, complex living parts,” said Brown’s Jeffrey Morgan, a professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology. “In contrast to 3-D bioprinting that prints one small drop at a time, our approach is much faster because it uses pre-assembled living building parts with functional shapes and a thousand times more cells per part.”

See image and video below.

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Graphene Ink 3-D Printed Medical Implant Grows Nerve Cells

There is no shortage of excitement for the possibilities of 3-D printing. The manufacturing technique uses a machine that squirts layer upon layer of material to build three-dimensional objects. The prevailing vision for 3-D printing is that one day we’ll be able to make smartphones, sensors, drones or other complex machines right in our homes.

But if we’re ever to have desktop devices that can output things like consumer electronics or novel biomedical devices, there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome. Today’s consumer units most commonly use hot plastic that quickly solidifies to build shapes. This material is neither particularly strong nor is it electrically conductive, a characteristic necessary to build electronic components into devices.

Researchers all around the world are looking for materials that can unlock some of 3-D printing’s bigger promises. Now Northwestern University researchers say they have created a 3-D printing ink that is stronger, electrically conductive and biocompatible using another material that has been generating much excitement over the last decade–graphene. See more gifs and learn more below.

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Engineering Tissues to Rebuild Bodies

Imagine a world where people can get new limbs, even organs, grown just for them! Watch this new Fast Draw video and see why ‪NSF-funded‬ tissue engineers are so passionate about the ultimate growth industry!


Will future surveillance missions start with spools of plastic filament, pop-in components and a 3-D printer? It would certainly save valuable space aboard the naval, coastal patrol and research ships that are often the platform from where drones are launched.

Engineers at the University of Southampton in the UK recently demonstrated the concept by launching their small 3-D printed SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle off the deck of a Royal Navy warship. The almost seven-pound, five-foot-long drone flew 1,640 feet to shore after being catapulted off the HMS Mersey. Learn more below.

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I made Madoka Magica stickers for Midwest Media expo!!! Me, @steemie, @jessosketch, and @soupoftheday will all be sharing a table in the artist alley–so come check us out!

For anyone who can’t make it, I’ll be opening up a redbubble very soon!