Aug 11, 2015

SLA Electric Violin- the 3Dvarius

SLA violin

With a body as clear as the sound it makes, Laurent Bernadac’s 3D printed violin is certainly a sight to behold.  Having been carefully constructed entirely using Stereolithography, the body is strong and resilient enough to put up with the rigours of a performance, but has the excellent surface finish and build clarity that can only really be achieved using SLA.

Unlike traditional violin production, Laurent was able to print the violin as a single piece, using UV light to cure the resin to ensure it was fully polymerized.  From there is was a simple matter of cleaning up the body to ensure that it provided the optimal playing comfort and performance clarity.  The only parts that were not made in SLA were the tuning pegs and the strings.

This piece is remarkable because it is the first of it’s kind to fully utilise SLA to this extent.  Previous efforts have been made at 3D printing using SLS and FDM machines, but SLA has already shown itself to be a more versatile method, and shows the potential it could have for instruments in the future.

Now, what you really want to hear, the violin in action:


Jun 9, 2015

3-D Printing Helps Sir Bradley Break World Record

On Sunday Sir Bradley Wiggins broke the UCI Hour record- the record for the furthest distance a cyclist can travel in an hour.  His distance of 54.526km (33.88 miles) beat the old record of 52.937km set by Alex Dowsett just weeks ago.  The UCI has seen a lot of impressive numbers, with the record being tackled every few years and the peg being moved a little higher every time.  The cyclists take the credit and do most of the work, but the technology that they ride has come across in leaps and bounds as well.  With aerodynamic clothing, carbon fibre bikes, and now custom 3D printed handlebars.

In order to ensure he had the best possible chance for his attempt, Wiggins’ handlebars were specially designed to be ultra-lightweight and have maximum aerodynamic efficiency. To achieve this they needed to ensure that they kept his shoulders as narrow as possible to give him the most streamlined shape.  However, he was riding for a full hour so they still needed to be comfortable for him to rest his arms on for the entire duration of the ride.

In order to achieve this, the parts were printed in metal allowing his team to make small changes right up to the final days before the race and customise the parts as they saw fit.  Building in metal ensured that the handlebars were light enough so as to not provide any unnecessary extra weight, but strong enough to support him throughout the race.  Not content with cars, aeroplanes and medicine, metal sintering is now making its mark on sport.  It won’t be long before custom printed handlebars become an increasingly common sight in professional cycling and beyond.


May 25, 2015

Could Bioprinting Save the Rhino?


As a species, humans are certainly a success.  We’ve spread around the planet, can live in almost any environment and can achieve pretty much whatever we put our minds to.  Unfortunately, sometimes this results in collateral damages, with entire species being wiped out by our actions within the very environment we share.  More dangerous than this is when we go out of our way to hunt something, since we are very good at topping the food chain.

The rhino has been a target of various poaching groups for hundreds of years, but as demand rises and the technology available continues to improve, it fights a losing battle against an army of poachers ready to reap the considerable rewards.  Rhino horn sells for $30,000 a pound on the black market and is popular for its ornamental usage or in various herbal medicines as a cure-all ingredient.  As a result the numbers drop every year, with the rhino hitting the critically endangered list and showing no signs of removal any time soon- other than extinction.

Lots of approaches have been tried to save the rhino, but bioprinting is a new one.  Pembient, a startup in Seattle, have started working on a long term solution.  They want to print the rhino horn using a 3D-printer.  Using keratin as the base they aim to grow a biologically identical alternative to rhino horn, and flood the market with a cheaper alternative which will cut the demand for the real thing- saving the rhino population in the process.

The issue will then be getting the product to market in the countries where rhino horn is popular- places like China and Vietnam where a growing middle class have been responsible for the increasing consumption in the past two decades.  Whether or not the locals will accept an artificial alternative is a different matter.  Given that science has proven that rhino horn has absolutely no actual health benefits it is a matter of winning a war of hearts and minds to get people to switch to the alternative, and the placebo effect might not be quite as strong when it’s been grown in a lab.

Pembient hope to move onto elephant ivory and tiger bones if rhino horn is a success.  3D printing alone probably won’t save the rhino, but it certainly could make a difference, and every little helps when failure isn’t an option.


Apr 8, 2015

3D-Printing could save your life

Medicine has been around for thousands of years, and has had many leaps forward.  Shining moments which change the way we treat injuries and illnesses- the Hippocratic method,  immunisation, anaesthetics, antiseptics, vaccinations, transplant technology.  The next big leap is just around the corner, and has already started making an impact on the way we can treat patients.

3D-printing has been in use since the 1980s, but it is only recently that we have been able to print parts with the necessary levels of detail and endurance to consider them for medical use.  The potential is endless, with scientists predicting that it will be possible to print functional organs which can be transplanted to replace damaged or dying parts.  An Italian studio known as MHOX have been working on 3D-printed eyes which could replace or potentially be used to enhance regular human sight with features like zoom, photography, and of course WiFi.  This may sound like science fiction, but they believe the technology will be readily available by 2027.

With all this to look forward to it’s easy to miss the developments that are being made today.  Using titanium it is possible to create skeletal structures that can be placed within the human body.  A man in Wales had his face rebuilt using titanium after he was injured in a bike accident.  A team in Southampton created a replacement hip, and the dentistry industry have been using it to create caps and crowns for teeth faster and more cost effectively.

finishes 088

Last month, we covered a segment on 3D printed prosthetics involving Robert Downey Jr. and a group known as Limbitless Solutions.  Prosthetics is an industry that is being revolutionised due to the huge cost reductions 3D-printing technology brings.  While an arm would cost upwards of £25,000 before, they can now be made for as little as £200.  This makes the technology far more accessible and will hopefully spur even greater developments.

The medical industry is always developing, always looking for new ways to help and to heal- 3D printing will be one of the ‘big leaps’ of the 21st century.   Due to the unique nature of each person and their medical requirements, it is likely that the field will be suited to low volume production, and due to the strict standards set for the materials used the bar is set very high in terms of the equipment and expertise required.

Mar 13, 2015

Robert Downey Jr & Limbitless Solutions team up to deliver a real-life ‘Iron Man’ bionic arm

Iron Man Arm

‘Iron Man’ actor Robert Downey Jr. has teamed up with Limbitless Solutions to deliver an amazing new 3D-printed bionic arm to Alex Pring, a seven year old boy who was born with a partially developed right arm.

In the video below you can watch as Alex is taken to a hotel room in Atlanta where he is greeted by none other than Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), with a very special gift for him. Downey then presents Alex with a new 3D-printed bionic arm modelled after the armour in the Iron Man movies.

The two sit down together to compare tech, with Downey staying in character and discussing all the design troubles he has with his Iron Man armour, quipping that “yours might be better than mine” as the two share a robo-fist bump.

The arm was developed by Limbitless Solutions, a volunteer group which work to build and donate low cost 3D-printed bionic limbs for children. Ordinarily prosthetic limbs like this cost upwards of $40,000 and are not covered by most health insurance policies, as due to the speed at which children grow the arm frequently needs replaced with a larger model. Using 3D-printers has cut the cost to around $300 an arm, a massive cost reduction which finally makes these much needed prosthetics readily available.

Exciting as it is to have a Hollywood superstar show up, what is even more exciting is the potential that this technology has to revolutionise the way prosthetic limbs are made.  Making the process faster, more efficient and extremely cost effective will change the lives of thousands of people all around the world.

Jan 26, 2015

Developing an implant to help the heart heal itself.

Helping the heart heal itself

Medtech start up accelerates development of a circulatory support pump, designed to let the heart rest and heal without surgery, with the help of Rapid Prototyping technology.

Within the US alone some 2 million people affected by heart failure are too sick for medication leaving doctors with no option but to resort to surgical LVAD ( Left Ventricular Assist Device) or a heart transplant. Both options are considered a last resort due to high risk and cost factors but now a Houston based medtech start up  Procyrion  may have unlocked an alternative in the form of a minimally invasive, catheter-deployed device designed to offer long-term treatment by providing the opportunity for the heart to rest and heal.

Using fluid entrainment to augment native blood flow the Aortix device facilitates an acceleration of fluid, a net increase in cardiac output, reducing work of the heart through after load reduction. It is expected that the Aortix device may not just offer a treatment but also act as a preventative measure, treating younger, healthier patients before years of progressive damage occurs.

Speaking from a design and manufacturing standpoint, president and CEO of Procyrion, Benjamin Hertzog credited Rapid Prototyping with facilitating the fast paced device development;

“The system is quite complex, but at the same time, being an early-stage start up means we have to move really fast and have quick cycle times for our different design iterations. Rapid Prototyping makes even more design iterations possible due to the shortened cycle times from concept generation to testing”

The Aortix device is narrower than a pencil with a diameter of just 6mm, featuring incredibly think walls and tight tolerances which initially proved challenging for Rapid Prototyping technologies however speaking on the manufacture of such components Head of Product Development, Chris Durst, stated;

“What has been interesting is to see how the rapid prototyping technology has evolved in just the past two years…With each iteration we have been able to get higher reliability of the small parts that have the super-small features”

By using Rapid Prototyping technologies, namely SLA (Stereolithography) the team has seen a reduction in lead times from 8-12 weeks to less than a week  and  lowered costs from $1500 to $5 when compared to producing the blood pump impeller in PEEK.

Durst further iterated the teams belief in the importance of Rapid Prototyping in the Aortix device development stating;

“We would not be making the progress we are without the ability to employ Rapid Prototyping in multiple functional areas. I just keep going back to the one week where we tested 20 different pump configurations knowing we didn’t have to sacrifice any quality to save money by settling on average design. We didn’t need to stop at ‘good enough’ and move on to the next step; rather we were able to hone in on a better design because of Rapid Prototyping”




Dec 5, 2014

Christmas shopping with a 3D Printing twist!


If you have ventured into your local town over the past few days you will be left with no doubt that Christmas is just around the corner. City centres have become a constant hive of activity with finding a parking space near as challenging a task as finding that perfect present for your loved ones.

For those in Maryland (US) however finding a truly unique Christmas gift may just have become that little bit easier thanks to a new business venture, the 3D Print Factory. A 3D Print shop which opened its doors earlier this November, the 3D Print Factory offers customers access to every technology offered by 3D Printing including custom prototyping and reverse engineering services. The store’s current location within Valley Mall  specialises in custom 3D Christmas ornaments for the holidays season in addition to custom figurines (personalized, sports, celebrity etc) and any other printable file.

So if you happen to be in the Maryland region over Christmas and know someone with an interest in 3D Printing you might just find the perfect Christmas gift after all, just look for the 3D Print Factory logo!


Nov 24, 2014

3D Printing to Deck the Halls of the White House

US President Obama has proven a strong supporter of 3D Printing technology, not only through vocal acknowledgement of this technologies potential for enhancing innovation and economic development but also through the creation of 3D Printing hubs within the US. Now the Obama administration is set to include 3D Printing into the long-held tradition of decorating the White House for Christmas, with the first ever 3D Printed White House Ornament Challenge.

The competition which ran from the 30th of October to the 10th of November was the result of a collaboration between the White House, the Smithsonian Museum and 3D Printing website Instructables. Entrants were simply required to create a decoration (no larger than 3″ x 3″) which reflects the magic & wonder of the holiday. Some 300+ designs were submitted with entries narrowed down to 20 finalists based highest number of votes from instructable members. A panel of judges (comprised of staff and respected members of the instructables community) are now set to rate the finalists with the averages of ratings set to determine the winners.

Winners of this festive challenge will not only have their designs 3D printed but also shipped to the White House where they will be hung in the East Wing of the White House during the holiday season. In addition the winning designs will be featured on the Smithsonian 3D data platform and will join a small collection of White House ornaments in the political history division of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Dont forget to check back in December to find out which 3D Printed Decorations are set to make an appearance at the White House. In the meantime a selection of some of our favourite entries are shown below:



Interested in creating a truly unique Christmas decoration contact LPE today with STL files for quote!

Oct 20, 2014
Comments Off on Van Gough’s severed ear regrown with help of 3D Printer!

Van Gough’s severed ear regrown with help of 3D Printer!

3D Printed Van Gogh's Ear

The rise of 3D Printing has undoubtedly led to a number of unusual art projects however a recent project by artist Diemut Strebe is perhaps the most unusual to date. A physical manifestation of Theseus’ paradox, wherein the ancient Greek hero was asked if a ship would remain the same if all its individual parts were replaced with new ones. The artist asks if a 3D Printed clone of Van Gogh’s ear could in fact be considered the same as the ear he infamous hacked off two years before his death while in the midst of a psychotic episode.

The artist not content with creating a 3D model of Van Gough’s ear instead combined art and science to produce a living ear formed with van Gogh’s DNA. Strebe found a modern day descendent of van Gogh, the great-great grandson of this brother Theo. The descendent Lieuwe van Gogh shares a Y-chromosome and one sixteenth of Vincent van Gogh’s genome. The mould,  produced in a dis-solvable sugar-polymer scaffolding was then filled with cartilage cells injected with Lieuwes’ DNA and placed inside a bio-reactor for several weeks where the cells grew as the scaffolding dissolved.

Technically alive, the ear is now suspended in a nourishing liquid which is thought will keep the ear alive for a number of years. Visitors to the exhibition at the ZKM| Media Museum in Germany will be able to not only view the ear but also speak to it through a microphone that converts the input sound to simulate nerve impulses in real time.

Sep 23, 2014
Comments Off on Growing the next generation of creators!

Growing the next generation of creators!

While lowering costs and growing material range has allowed 3D Printing to grow in popularity over the past few years, the future of the industry may lie in the hands of our schoolchildren as the industry and government alike seek create a generation of creators.

Last October the UK Department of Education revealed a pilot project which would allow 21 state secondary schools to use 3D Printers across the curriculum with the aim to encourage students to embrace the design process and better equip them with the engineering an design skills required by employers. Following the overall success of the pilot and a significant overhaul of the UK education system it appears that the UK Government is committed to developing the creative skills of the future UK workforce with children as young as five learning key design skills while secondary school students will learn how to use 3D Printers as part of the Design & Technology curriculum.  With further changes to the educational system to include electronic design and computer coding it is likely that we will see these very students tweaking existing 3D Printers to create more user friendly models as they become more accustomed to both design and 3D Printing technology.

In addition to the UK Governments focus on developing the creative minds of the future the 3D Printing industry itself is seeking to facilitate the further expansion of this growing pool of young creators. 3D Printer manufacturers such as Builder, specifically targeting the education system with their 3D Printer range, while the leading 3D Printing Event in the UK and Ireland, TCT Show + Personalize has placed education at the heart of their exhibition for the second year running with the hugely successful programme TCT Bright Minds UK. This years programme which is sponsored by industry leaders such as 3D Systems and Black County Atelier (BCA), will see over 500 schoolchildren gain real hands on experience with design tools and 3D Printing technologies through free two hour workshops.

TCT Show + Personalize, takes place at the NEC Birmingham from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October, not just for schoolchildren this industry leading event will provide access to a wide range of 3D Printing Manufacturers and Rapid Prototyping Service bureaus  with a range of keynote sessions aimed at helping companies and individuals get the most out of product development technologies. Register now for your free visitor pass.

Interested in finding out more about Rapid Prototyping & Additive Manufacturing services? Visit the longest established Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing service bureau, LPE at stand H14.