Archives for May 2014

US Navy Looks Into 3D Printing for Drones

US Navy Looks Into 3D Printing for Drones

The military will not want to be the last one to be updated with 3D printing. The US Navy carriers will soon be equipped with 3D printers. These will help in creating replacement parts, including miniature combat drones.

The advances of the 3D printing technology are happening so fast. Because there are a lot of uses to the 3D printers, it’s becoming a really useful tool.  This is why the Navy officials want these printers on board.

Issues with 3D Printing On Ships

However, there are several concerns with using the printer on the ships while at sea. The powders used in printing titanium and aluminum are highly flammable which is a problem, at the moment.

Aside from that, they are still figuring out which shop to place the 3D printers. Currently, these printers are used in a stable environment on land and not while at the sea in a more dynamic location.

Lt. Ben Kohlman, from the Rapid Innovation Cell of Chief of Naval Operations, said that the printers can’t be subjected to the forces and movement of the ship.

They are trying to figure out the safest way to move in the printer while managing the external forces that may affect it. Kohlman added that this makes the entire process similar to designing. They are currently working on different ways to go around the problems.

Although the technology is not yet ready for ships, the processes of doing so will soon be figured out.

Uses of 3D Printers in the Navy

Kohlman noted that having a 3D printer inside the ship would allow the carrier to mass produce combat drones in case it encounters an enemy. Having hundreds of these drones can saturate airspace and also destroy the enemy’s radar stations.

It’s won’t take a lot of time before the 3D printers are inside the ships. What’s more is that the printer isn’t only just for printing spare parts or building a drone. There are already researches done in printing working human organs and body parts through the technology. This is also something that the US Navy would want to tap.

Instead of rushing a soldier or a sailor to a hospital on land during emergencies, the needed organ can be printed on the ship. The surgery can also be done on the ship which in turn can save lives and not disrupt the service.

3D Printing in the Military

The 3D printers are already used in the army for a few years now, especially in combat. 3D printers were deployed to Afghanistan together with rapid equipping force of the army. Engineers are working on the 3D printers in order to develop solutions without needing parts to be shipped to Afghanistan. This allows the army to produce everything within the country.

With the fast development of 3D printers, the military might be integrating 3D printers for missions and other military operations. It uses may also expand significantly in the coming years. This might even become an indispensable military tool against the enemy.





Afinia has proven itself a leader in the consumer 3D printer space over the last few years. Their newest offering, the Afinia H-480 continues with this tradition by delivering an accurate and easy to use printer with a reputation for excellent customer support. The only question mark is whether or not the price tag of $1,599 is worth it for a machine with a very limited build volume.

The Afinia H-series of 3D printers has been around for a couple years now and based on recent news and upgrades, it appears to be making inroads as a major player in the field.

After winning the Best Overall Experience and Easiest Setup categories in Make Magazine’s 2012 3D printer edition, Microboards Technology (maker of Afinia printers) was able to secure distribution deals with major retailers to sell their machines in North America. This means you can order online, or in some cases walk in and take a printer home directly from your local Best Buy, Tiger Direct or Staples store.


Unfortunately, they’re also dealing with a hiccup that comes in the form of patent infringement allegations by 3D printing giant Stratasys. Stratasys claims that patents involving infill control, heated build platform, its extruder and portions of Afinia’s coding practices were infringed upon. These are all fairly integral components to any 3D printing experience to be sure.

I should also note, the H-480 is in most practical senses, a rebranded version of the UP Plus 2 printer. My understanding is that it the Afinia is targeted more towards a North American market with customer support and warranty services in mind.


Printer Type Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Build Volume 140mm x 140mm x 135mm
Minimum Layer Height 0.15mm
Material Type 1.75mm Afinia Brand ABS PLA Filament
Software Version Afinia 3D 2.1

While the new specs are nearly identical to its predecessor, the H-479, in terms of print quality and build volume, the new model has auto platform calibration and nozzle height detection tools. Both of these additions should go a long way when trying to cater to an audience that may not have the patience to tweak the machine manually.


Another unique feature of the printer is its detachable perforated build-plate. The reason behind this swiss cheese is to allow the raft to melt through the holes to provide for better adhesion and to avoid peeling. While doing this makes sense for that reason, it sort of eliminates the ability to print cleanly without a raft.

As advertised, the H-480, with its sleek look and sturdy feel, is easy to set up.

From a packaging perspective, It was packed securely with all the listed parts / tools accounted for. This is good news for anybody that has ever ordered a printer kit only to find half the screws missing.

The included instructions were clearly detailed and the supplementary setup videos available online gives credence to its plug-and-play ambitions.

Assembly consisted of the removal of some bits of plastic meant to keep things in place during transport. Then there’s the installation of a provided build plate; and the power and USB cables.

All said, the unpacking and set up experience was a breeze, taking half an hour tops.

Once everything was unboxed and plugged in, it was time to test their software to finalize the H-480’s setup.



The initialization portion of the Afinia 3D software went off without a hitch. Loading a spool of filament was as painless as one could expect in the realm of consumer 3D printing. The filament melted out through the nozzle clean and consistently and I never experienced any problems during my time with the machine when loading and unloading is concerned.

What excited me the most about reviewing the machine had to be the auto-leveling and nozzle height detection tools. The platform leveling mechanism clipped magnetically onto the extruder and measured nine different points on the build platform and communicated this info to the printer.

Then, after scratching my head for a few minutes to figure out what cord had to be plugged in where, the nozzle height detection process was similarly unique. In this case, the nozzle slowly lowered down along the z-axis until making contact with a mechanical endstop attached to the heated bed.

For manual leveling, there is a familiar set of three dials at the bottom of the print-platform.

With everything hooked up and calibrated, it was time to see what else the software is capable of.

Like most modern hardware products, software is just as important as its physical counterpart and Afinia 3D is no exception. Available for both Mac and PC, the bulk of the screen space is dedicated to a virtual print-platform and minor adjustment tools. These include the ability to scale, rotate, mirror and move multiple STL files onto the platform and the interface is very intuitive from the start.

Unfortunately, and this might have to do with the easy-to-use philosophy behind the H-480, the ability to fine tune the output gcode / print file is limited. While there are basic infill and layer-height configuration options, there were a few noteable features absent. This includes the lack of advanced print temperature and speed controls, but more importantly, there was no way to turn off support materials altogether.

The lack of these settings might be intentional to save new-users from tinkering to the point of damaging the machine. It’s true that setting the temperature too high can indeed damage an extruder if limits aren’t set. And that printing too fast can cause jams or imperfect prints. It’s also true that printing without supports in certain cases can leave a spaghetti mess of extruded filament in place of a printed object.

I still do see these lack of features as a negative. It would be nice to see an advanced user section with these sometimes essential features. And we may see changes soon, some online sleuthing suggests that future versions of the software will offer support-free printing.

At the end of the day, the software was easy to use and straightforward enough that someone jumping into the 3D printing space for the first time will have little difficulty in starting a print within an hour after unboxing.

Once calibration was complete and I was familiar enough with the software, it was time to load a file and get printing.


I went ahead and printed a file to stress test the machine at 200 micron layer height and loose infill. For the purposes of review, I used as little support material as possible (software activated at 10 degree angles or less) and pressed print.

And after a few unexpectedly alarming beeps, the machine started doing its thing.

The tests that finished while using the auto-calibration tools did produce clean prints with little to no peeling on the corners. So I’ll have to conclude that these tools now available to the H-480 are indeed a worthy addition to the series. I predict similar features to become commonplace in consumer range printers in the coming years.

Minor negative observations include the fact that the printer will start printing before the bed heats up all the way. This almost defeats the purposes as surface peeling is bound to happen if the bed isn’t heated all the way up from the start. This is a minor issue as you can preheat the machine with the click of a button. I do believe it is something I feel should be addressed considering the consumer-friendly focus of the machine.

All said, when the printer was properly calibrated and fed, it did run very reliably at as high a quality as one can expect in its class.






As for results, a few failed prints did occur early on. This came in the form of a familiar clicking sound where the extruder would try pull on the filament but nothing would come out. While this is bound to happen occasionally, I stress to suggest it happened before I fully figured out the auto-levelling tools mentioned above. So it is unclear whether or not an early effort to manually level things caused the failed prints or not.

Furthermore, I was unable to reproduce the print using PLA filament. I ran some Makerbot PLA filament through and switched the software to its default PLA settings but was unable to print without extruder jams on the few attempts I gave. This might be an example of how being able to adjust the print extruder temperature on the fly would help.

Lastly, while testing third-party ABS filament, I quickly realized it was almost impossible to remove the raft. The Afinia website suggests that using their premium filament is the solution as it is perfectly tuned for their machine and therefore highly recommended. This is fair as their material does produce nice results but at the same time difficult to digest when other, similarly capable printers on the market have no issue accepting generic filament types.

Now onto the test print itself.

As mentioned in previous printer reviews, the file is designed to test the printer’s accuracy in terms of dimensional, overhang and bridging accuracy. Because of software limitations, the bridging part was not applicable because supports had to be on. The same was true with the 90 degree overhang test.

Aside from this, the H-480 put out very clean and accurate prints. The overhangs didn’t become messy until around the 70 degree range and I haven’t tested a machine that performed any better in that reagard. It easily outperformed the now archaic 45 degree rule while printing with overhangs.

The Afinia H480 filled the top surface nicely and the text and spiral pattern came out as well as I’ve seen on any consumer grade machine I’ve worked with in the past. I noticed a few tiny gaps in the spiral pattern, but based on how well the text filled in, its likely that minor blip was a slicing issue more than a printer issue.

All said, passing grades across the board where print quality, speed and accuracy is concerned.


As someone that has worked with a great number of consumer / prosumer grade 3D printers in the past, I will happily say the Afinia H480 is a very capable, sleek, and easy to use machine. The addition of the automatic levelling and nozzle height detection tools should prevent any headaches from those new to 3D printing.

In terms of quality, providing you use the Afinia premium filament, it is a very accurate printer and the raft and supports are easily removed. Most of the drawbacks in terms of print limitations seem to be from the software side. Having a few more advanced options to control temperature and print speed would allow more experienced printers get the most out of the machine.edit

It would also have been nice to see a slightly larger build volume on the upgraded machine. Coming in at a cost of $1,599, the 140mm x 140mm x 135mm print space is too small. All said, reliability and ease of use is sometimes worth the extra cost and this should be considered when deciding on what machine is best for you. At the end of the day, if you are already a happy owner of a previous generation H-series machine, you won’t have much need to upgrade here.

If, on the other hand, you are new to the 3D printing world, this is definitely a printer worth considering.


The Toy Story in 3D Printing

The Toy Story in 3D Printing

The 3D printing technology is currently challenging the manufacturing industry. Be it manufacturing cars, machines, and even toy, 3D printing is starting to change how people think about producing items.

Aside from that, the 3D printer has allowed great customization for a lot of businesses and consumers. It’s now easier to create custom items depending on one’s preference. It’s also more affordable and quicker when done through 3D printing.

This feature has fueled many people to create custom toys and items through 3D printing. The possibilities are endless with 3D printers.

Barbie’s Armor

Mattel is not taking back the kids to the olden days with an armor suit for Barbie. Although Barbie has been a doctor, a police, an astronaut among many other professions, being a warrior is a new one for the beloved toy.

Jim Rodda, a designer, started a crowdfunding campaign to create printed accessories for children’s toys.Rodda is a 3D printing hobbyist and is active in online communities.

The idea came about when Rodda was looking for a present for his niece. He wanted to create a unique design for her birthday.

Rodda first started to consider creating glitter canons for My Little Pony. However, the engineering for the accessories turned out to be too difficult for him. His inkling towards medieval themes prompted him to create armor for Barbie.

The Faire Play

The project surpassed its target funding of $5,000, getting $6,000 from 290 backers. The funding covers the replacement printer parts and including biodegradable plastic for the prototype printing.

Rodda’s goal is to distribute the design files to interested people, especially the backers. People can modify and redistribute the files as long as Rodda is credited as the original designer.

The design is set to fit the standard Barbie doll sizes. It’s from the French and German armor style that fits Barbie perfectly. The armor is composed of 30 different pieces, including the shield and sword.

The digital files are expected to be polished and sent to backers by July and August this year. Backers can print their own armor at home with the files. It will be distributed under the Creative Commons License.

3D Printing in the Toy Industry

The technology is opening doors and windows to a world of collectables and customization. Although purchasing a 3D printer may still be a tad bit expensive, it won’t be long before it will be mainstream. Although 3D printing can only create as much as static models and parts, a fully-articulated toy may be on its way in the coming years.

Retailers who use 3D printers in allowing customers to tailor toys will become an important aspect in the coming years. The technology is expected to earn $300 billion in the manufacturing of goods, including toys.

Lego is even considering the possible implications of 3D printing in their business. Other toy manufacturers, like Hasbro, are developing new toy and play experiences through the help of 3D printing specialists and manufacturers. Soon, 3D printers will change how kids play with their toys.

10 Cool Creations from the 3D Printer


The 3D printers are starting a revolution in manufacturing and how people make business. It can now print jet parts on location and create chocolates in a single go. Aside from that, the technology promises lesser costs in production, removing the middlemen, and minimizing the transportation costs.

Customization before was costly. One would need a minimum order of hundreds or thousands. This can be too costly for someone who’s just looking for a single custom item. With 3D printer, this can be done easily and cheaply.

Here are some of the coolest custom creations that one can do with a 3D printer:

1.    Eyewear. Smashing expensive eyewear can be heartbreaking. Through a 3D printer, one can already create new pairs of eyeglasses in various designs and colors. This is less hassle and also cheaper than buying frames every time. It’s also easier to find a design that matches one’s look.

2.    Screws. Losing those extra screws for the furniture is frustrating. 3D printers can print spares on demand without any problem. Plus, the colors are endless. Everyone wants that neon pink screw on, right?

3.    Plant pots. Printing gardening tools and labels is now quicker and cuter. This will surely leave an impressive mark in one’s garden or porch.

4.    Clothes peg. Knowing whose clothes are hung outside is easier with custom clothes peg. No white shirt will get lost in the laundry filled with other white shirts.

5.    Guitar picks. There are many uses to cool guitar picks aside from playing the instrument. This is also a good promotional and marketing gift. Others even create business cards as guitar picks. It’s a cool way to state one’s business.

6.    Custom dice. Custom board designers to those in financial institutions are interested in customized dices. One can get 8-sided dice up to even 20-sided ones. One can put a name or the brand for a different type of promotion.

7.    Buttons. Branding buttons is now quicker and cheaper with 3D printers. Emerging fashion designers don’t need to spend a fortune branding buttons, like the big names in the industry. From coat buttons to shirt buttons, these can be made with a 3D printer.

8.    Phone cases. These are few of the many things that many people would like to be customized. It’s like a blank canvas that everyone carries. There are so many possible ways to customize them, like printing one’s name, picture, or even a favorite line from a song. There’s no need to purchase one that’s highly priced. It’s also a great marketing strategy for startups and musicians to test the waters. 

9.    Poker chips. For those who enjoy having a poker night at home, one can do so with style. Having branded gambling chips surely makes one feel like a real winner. Customizing poker chips will surely be the envy of fellow poker players.

10.  Door stops.This might be a bit boring, but with 3D printers doorstops can now be made fun. There’s no space for a dull door stop at home when one can create them in different colors like teal and pink.


Seven Great and Weird Uses of 3D Printing

3D-printingAs the 3D printing continually develops and evolves, so does its uses. From just churning out plastic replicas or models of figures, it can now do many things. Different industries are taking advantage of 3D printers and integrating them into business and manufacturing processes.
Here is a list of the incredible yet weird uses of these 3D printers:

1.    Missing appliance parts. Many electricians have left many homes after a trial fixing saying they need to get the missing parts of an appliance. This is a common problem that many homeowners encounter especially with broken home appliances. Many of the manufacturers do provide manuals online, so publishing files for spare parts will only be a small stretch. This can be useful for tradesmen to print out the necessary parts in-demand, instead of waiting for a few hours.
2.    Fixing Bones. The 3D printers allow great customization when it comes to printing various things. One of its biggest uses has been in the medical field and in fixing bones. Just this year, a pelvis was printed out for a patient who lost half of his real pelvis to cancer. The 3D printed titanium pelvis was coated with a mineral that allowed the remaining to grow. The patient can now walk with a walking stick.
3.    Printing clothes. High fashion is utilizing 3D printers in coming up with complex and fashion forward designs. This also helps in making clothes that fit perfectly to the model. It’s also a cheaper alternative compared to using the traditional sewing. The technology will soon be used in creating the perfect-fitting clothes for every consumer.
4.    Food for the elderly.Dysphagia is among the many concerns of the elderly. This condition is also one of the causes of malnutrition because they lose their love for food. Soft and liquid meals are what they’re because these are easier to digest.With 3D printing, food can be printed to make it look and taste like real food instead of puree. These also melt in the mouth while meeting the nutritional needs of the patients.
5.    For wars. Aside from the printed plastic gun, the military is now looking at ways to use 3D printers in operations. The British defense company, BAE, has successfully flown a Tornado jet that used 3D printed parts. The parts of the landing gear and the cover of the radio cockpit have been created using a 3D printer. This has made the process quicker and cheaper saving the company thousands.
6.    Heart transplant.Studies are ongoing with using the 3D printer in creating human organs. The benefits of effectively doing so are numerous as it can help in saving lives and make medical care affordable in developing countries. This also ensures that the organs are custom-made for the patient. However, the ethical debate for this sophistication still increases.
7.    Drones.3D printing technology can create objects without needing any screws. This makes the output lighter. Because of this, 3D printing is suitable for building drones. Southampton University researchers made a drone with only a two-meter wingspan that can fly 90 miles per hour. It’s also quick to assemble.


Microsoft Works on Technology for 3D Printout of Faces

Microsoft Works on Technology for 3D Printout of Faces

Technology giants have obviously been captivated by the 3D printing technology. The popularity of the printers is propelling developments in software and hardware that complements the advancement of the technology. The more research and development done on the technology, the more available it becomes to the consumer.

A big company is currently working on a technology that allows users to face scan through mobile phones. The scans can be used in 3D printing a high-quality image of the user’s face.

Microsoft’s Skynet UI

With the rollout of the Windows phone, Microsoft is bringing about a new feature that will change mobile phones. The company is researching on technology that allows the phone to scan faces using the Windows phone camera.

The process is called 3D reconstruction and Windows is making it as easy as taking a picture. This technology will be called Skynet UI and is designed and researched by Zhiwei Li, Jiawei Gu, and Richard Cai.

The Skynet UI is aimed to enhance the user experience while lessening the barriers between 3D reconstruction and the users.

3D Reconstruction

The project was first unveiled October 2013. This is a tool that allows users to change physical objects to 3D models. This also supports 3D printing. The challenge is offering visual guidance to users who are capturing the entire surface through natural ways.

Initially, the research and development team mapped the application to have a UI frontend and a systematic backend. An augmented reality allowed the sphere to blend in and cover the targeted object.

Through the technology’s feedback and user guidance, the user can cover all the needed surface in order to create accurate and high quality 3D models.

How it Works

In order to get a 3D image of a face, one has to take a 360-degree photo. It’s very much similar to taking a panoramic photo where the UI cues the user on how to move around the face. The entire process is described as: tap start and tap end interaction.

After scanning the object, the user can move around the 3D model on the screen. The presentation is maintained and is accurate. Once the file has been hooked up to the 3D printer, the user can already create a 3D model of the person’s face.

The technology is not just for 3D printing selfies, but also for scanning other objects and spaces.

The team also demonstrated the technology in a short video including how to scan a face with a Windows phone.

Applications of the Technology

The developers are seeing the technology to be used in e-commerce, object recognition, and furniture industry. However, it is expected that new uses would come out for the technology once it has been released into the market.

The technology will be an incredible addition to the Windows phone once it’s out. It will change the game on mobile phones and how mobile devices are used by consumers. Soon enough, phones will be more equipped with features that will complement the 3D printing technology.


Food Printer for the Elderly

Food Printer for the Elderly

The 3D printing technology has evolved quickly over the last few years. From churning out plastic objects, the machine can now use a variety of materials like chocolate and even steel. This has allowed the technology to be used in various industries and purposes.

Just recently, a German company developed a technology that can create easily dissolved food. This allows people to eat the food quickly.

For the Elderly

The company, Biozoon Food Innovations, is building a 3D printer extruder that produces solid food for the elderly. The printed food will melt quickly in the mouth. It is also designed for those suffering from dysphagia, a condition that makes it difficult for people to swallow.

Those who are limited to soft and liquid food find these kinds of meals less enjoyable. Biozoon is hoping to change the situation and create a wide variety of meals that through the 3D printer.

Biozoon Food Innovations

The company was founded in 2001by engineers and scientists and is based in Germany. The company aims to innovate the gastronomic industry, especially in the nutrition segment. They successfully launched their first product in 2006 with positive responses.

They ensure that they have the right technical skills in order to produce high-quality products for the market. They target athletes, chefs, the food sector, and those in the hospitals and elderly care. They also provide workshops for clients on a wide variety of topics including tips on using their products.

Since Biozoon started, it has continuously grown and expanded.

The SeneoPro

This is the powder mixes that will be used in the printer. The seneoPro can easily be used to prepare food for different nutritional needs. The powder is made by renowned chefs Herbert Thill and Markus Biedermann. It has four kinds of food texturizers that will meet the demands of the senses.

These powder mixes are used for printing in order to get the right food fit for the elderly and those suffering from dysphagia.

How it Works

The printed food will be created through the seneoPro powder and solidifies during printing. However, the food dissolves quickly in the mouth.

The printer works the same way as other 3D printers. It uses a liquefied food for its ink. Instead of having cartridges for different colors, the ink cartridges contain liquefied carbohydrates, vegetables, and meat.The machine has 48 nozzles in its printing head. The 3D printer creates the food layer by layer until the final food output is done.

The printed food can also be customized with texturizers and colorants to make them taste and look like real food. The company is also planning full customization of the printed food depending on the nutritional requirements of the patient. This allows the meals to be printed depending on the diet of the person.

The technology is targeted to be used in kitchens of nursing homes and hospitals to provide the right nutrition to the elderly and the other patients. Soon enough, this may also be used right at home.


A Micro 3D Printer Tops Crowdfunding

A Micro 3D Printer Tops Crowdfunding

3D printers are popping out everywhere. From big manufacturers to startups, it seems like everyone is starting to invest on the technology. The 3D printing technology is also fast improving. From bulky machines, these have printers have evolved to smaller and more convenient ones.

Many startup companies are now developing breakthrough 3D printers through crowdfunding. This allows them to get enough capital for mass manufacturing.

One of the recent crowdfunding success stories has to do with 3D printers. M3D’s micro 3D printer successfully reached their startup goal through

M3D in Kickstarter

The 3D printer was launched in the crowdfunding site on April 7. Its initial capital goal of $50,000 was reached in less than a day. After a month, the campaign reached more than $3 million in funding from 11,855 backers.

The M3D team noted early on the campaign that they were psyched with the news and how the backers would allow them to create more Micros.

Every dollar that was given to the project would let the team hire more staff in order to create more printers faster.M3D is expecting the finished printers to be delivered to the early adopters between this October and February 2015.

For those who missed the chance to back the project but are interested in owning a Micro printer, the team is accepting preorders on their site,

The Micro

This 3D printer is advertised as the first 3D printer that’s truly consumer. It is a lightweight device that’s USB compatible. It can be used with Linux, Mac, and Windows.

The printer is a cube and is roughly 7.3 inches in every side. It has five colors that interested buyers can choose from: green, blue, silver, black, and red/orange. It also promises the lowest energy consumption among all of the 3D printers that are in the market.

The printer is made to be compact to fit both beginners and experts in 3D printing. It is designed to fit different types of uses, which makes it a suitable 3D printer for everyone. Micro is built with a special technology called the micro motion technology. This is a system and sensor in the print head that allows it to auto-calibrate and auto-level.

Micro is also proudly made in the US. The printer is designed to be produced in the country with a combination of imported local components, which will be assembled in Maryland.

Different materials can be used with the printer. Users can choose ABS, PLA, or the Micro filament.

The M3D Team

M3D is a company based in Bethesda, Maryland. The printer came about after two years of debates and research. The team is composed of engineers, production experts, and artists who all want to bring about change in 3D printing.

The company was founded by David Jones and Michael Armani. Jones is a robotics engineer and software programmer. Jones, on the other hand, has PhD on materials engineering.

With more than enough funding, it’s safe to say that M3D will grow to staff and ready the production and delivery of the printers.


3D-Printed Human Heart: Better Than Normal

3D-Printed Human Heart: Better Than Normal

The 3D printing technology is developing at a fast rate. From plastics, the machines are already capable in using different materials. Cells are among the newest materials that can be utilized by 3D printers for medical purposes. Organs and other body parts are now being printed and researched together with the technology to save more lives.

Researchers on 3D Printed Human Heart

A group of researchers from University of Louisville are looking into a 3D printed heart that works better than the average human heart. This machine-made human heart will also last longer. They are using collagen and fat cells to print the hearts.

Dr. Stuart Williams, the Bioficial Heart program chief, said that they are using 3D printing as well as similar biological manufacturing strategies in order to create the different parts of the heart.

The program is part of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in University of Louisville in Kentucky.

The team has not yet put together a working heart. They are still focusing their efforts on printing working parts of the heart.

The Process

Williams said that they are doing the research like building an airplane. These are built from the wheels up. The parts are made one by one and are assembled together.

A plane is very much like a human heart since it can’t be created at once. Being a complex muscle, the different parts, like the valve, electrical conducting system and blood vessels, have to be built first.

They used a detailed 3D printer in creating the heart. Collagen and fat cells are utilized in recreating the parts of the heart. A liter of fat cells can already give the researchers a lot of cells to work on.

Williams added that they are isolating the regenerative cells and mixing these cells with the collagen for printing purposes.

The Heart Printer

The researchers are using a six-axis printer. The machine can print one section of the heart at a time. It can build certain parts and just move around to print the correct position of the muscle.

This is a unique 3D printer that can only be found in the university. It is made specifically for bioprinting. Williams dubbed it as the bioassembly tool.

Earlier Researches and Future Undertakings

The researchers in the university has 3D printed a heart model of a toddler to help doctors in analyzing and treating his condition. The surgery and the project proved to be successful.

Their lab has printed a patch for the human heart. This is among the earliest clinical trials in bioprinting human heart. The patch is intended to mend certain parts of the heart and will be useful to pediatric patients since the patch will also grow.

The team is also working on bioprinting other projects for the cardiovascular system. Williams has also worked with pancreas, bone tissues, and kidney tissues for other patients.

The ultimate goal for Williams and the team is a fully-functional human heart that can keep patients alive for a longer time and would work better than the average heart. They are also looking into extra blood vessels in the heart as backups in case of clogging.


3D Printing Saves Costs for Autotransfusion Machine

3D Printing Saves Costs for Autotransfusion Machine

The 3D printing technology is becoming a useful tool in the different types of industries. One of the biggest use of 3D printers is in prototyping. Businesses and startups can easily prototype their products with 3D printing. Its rapid prototyping capability allows businesses to cut costs while speeding up the production.

A company based in the UK recently prototyped a new autotransfusion machine through a 3D printer.


Brightwake prototyped its machine called the Hemosep using printed parts from the Stratasys’ Dimension 1200es. This helped in reducing the costs of the company up to 96 percent and saved more than £1,000 for every model.

The Hemosep consists of a bag with a mechanical aggregator and chemical sponge. It helps in sucking drained blood during a surgery and recycles it back to the patient through transfusion. This helps in reusing spilled blood and ensuring it’s clean.

Steve Cotton, the director of research and development in Brightwake, said that before 3D printing the company had a three-week lag for their deliveries. This in turn slowed down their business process.

He added that 3D printing not only helped them in cutting costs but also in getting a functional machine for clinical trials.

The machine has garnered a lot of interest from healthcare providers and distributers and has been awarded with the CE mark.

The Printed Parts

The autotransfusion machine was created with a number of 3D printed parts. These include the cooling systems and the main filtration.

3D printing was a good solution to their prototyping since the company needed parts to be both durable and accurate.

Stratasys mentioned in a blog post that Brightwake reduced costs through 3D printing because designing and waiting for prototype parts no longer took weeks.

The Benefits of Autotransfusion

Recycling blood has a lot of benefits. This reduces the need for a blood donor or to look for blood in the blood banks. This also minimizes complications and risks that may happen due to the body’s reaction to the donor blood. The procedure is also safer and cheaper for children patients.

Julie Penoyer, a 50-year-old patient, is one of the first patients to receive the benefits from the Hemosep. The heart patient was a Jehovah’s Witness and could not receive donated blood because of her beliefs. However, through the autotransfusion machine, her blood was captured and returned into her body without violating her beliefs.

The Future of 3D Printing and Medicine

3D printing is now highly researched in the medical field. Prosthetics, organs, and bones are now 3D printed to provide new hope for patients. Printing working human organs is still a continuing research and will soon change the landscape of medicine and treating patients.

With 3D printing becoming highly used in producing medical devices, hospitals will have 3D printers to create necessary medical equipment. Soon 3D printing may be the future of manufacturing medical devices because of its fast and reliable performance.

The improvement and development of 3D printing in the industry will also benefit developing countries and help propel better and cheaper health care services in those areas.