3D printing meets lasers in latest stem cell research.
Since their invention by Theodore H. Maiman in 1960, lasers have driven many advances in manufacturing. New research fromVilnius University in Lithuania combines laser writing and 3D printing to create more efficient micro-structures for the culture of stem cells.
As the undifferentiated (i.e. cells without a specific function) cells of a living organism, stem cells can adapt to the structure of any specialized cell, a process called ‘sorting-out’. Cells sort out based upon environment conditions, such as blood flow or structure. This is evident in the approach to 3D bio-printing taken by Organovo and others.
With computer aided design, biologists can specify structures that will allow cells to grow in a particular way, i.e. to form the pore-structure of the skin, or the cylindrical tissue of a vein. As to be expected, getting the right shape and form is a delicate process. The research from Vilnius University adds laser precision to such 3D microfabrication.
3D printing at the nano-resolution could be invaluable to the industry’s growing presence within medicine. Recently, there has been much buzz around the printing of organ-on-a-chip structures that, like the minute vessels found in human kidneys, require microscopic attention to detail. And, with 200 different types of cell structures within the human body, it is perhaps an understatement to say that this research has a lot of potential.
3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).
A 3D printer is a limited type of industrial robot that is capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control.
While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011.[
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.
3D Printable Models
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design package or via 3D scanner. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.