Browsing articles from "October, 2015"
Oct 15, 2015

Conquering Space with 3D Printing

‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’.  Immortal words uttered nearly fifty years ago on the first voyage to the moon.  That first trip was a huge step for science and demonstrated what some of the greatest minds of their generation could achieve.  There is still a lot of the moon that remains unexplored, and with the help of 3D printing, we’re going back.


3D Printed Rutherford Engine

Two companies, California based Moon Express, and New Zealand’s Rocket Lab Ltd are working together to put a robotic rover on the moon to collect HD footage.  The rocket they are using is a far cry from the kind used in 1969, with the engine being designed and developed to take advantage of 3D printing.  They can print and assemble the ‘Rutherford Engine’ in just three days, with the engine chamber, pumps, main propellant valves and injector all being 3D printed.  This not only makes the process fast, but also significantly reduces the weight of the rocket by opening up new design opportunities.

Moon express are planning on sending their rover up in this rocket, and if they can manage it they will be the first privately owned company to achieve a soft lunar landing.  They will also be eligible for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE, a $30 million prize pool for being the first company to land a rover and have it traverse the moon sending back footage.  It will also show the world that space is more accessible than ever, and hopefully inspire a whole new generation of space explorers.

They have until 2017 to launch their rover, but from the footage below, it looks like they are nearly there!


Oct 5, 2015

Spanish Man Receives 3D-Printed Ribcage


Medicine is one of the most exciting applications for 3D printing.  The idea that we can create custom braces, grafts, limb replacements and more that are uniquely shaped to help each individual to overcome whatever ails them is very exciting indeed.  The newest contender for most impressive use of 3D printing is the titanium ribcage.  Designed and built to replace the ribs of a man that had to be removed due to a tumour, the part was specifically printed to match his exact internal geometry.

Ordinarily, it is very difficult to replicate the rib cage due to the complex shape and a flat titanium plate has been the go-to option for the last few decades.  They aren’t ideal, as they can come loose and increase the risk of further harm or complications.  By taking a CT Scan of the man’s chest prior to the surgery, the hospital was able to have a pre-made rib cage replacement sitting ready to go once they had removed the cancerous area.

Rapid Prototyping is perfect for this kind of requirement, as the speed at which the part was required was crucial- time is of the essence, especially with cancer.  They needed a part as fast as possible, and as they were only ever going to build one with these exact dimensions Rapid Prototyping was the obvious choice.  That is the essence of why Rapid Prototyping is such an important part of medical development- we need treatment fast, and it needs to customise to fit everyone’s unique needs.

The video below shows the 3D printed ribs being put together: