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Australian Scientists 3D-Print NEW Organs …US Student 3D-Prints a Gun

Posted: May 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Australian Scientists 3D-Print NEW Organs …US Student 3D-Prints a Gun

3d Printed EarIt’s proof perhaps that we live in an ironic world, Australian researchers are on the cusp of creating new human organs via 3D-printing. While a US student fires the first bullet from a home-made 3D Printed polymer gun.

On the up-side, Australian scientists say they have found a way to grow human body parts using 3D printing technology. The technology isn’t the only cleverness here, 3D printers are now so portable that they might be installed in hospitals.

The University of Wollongong’s Centre for Electromaterials Science is opening a research unit at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital where 3D printing will be used to reproduce tissue material ::::

The bio-fabrication unit scientists have already begun animal trials to reproduce skin, cartilage, arteries and heart valves. Professor Mark Cook says the process could eventually do away with the need for organ transplants.

“It’s possible to print devices and structures that can be implanted in human bodies, and these devices can have cells grown on them so that bodily functions can be replicated on these very tiny devices,” he said.

“In the future, these sorts of devices will be able to recreate parts of people’s joints and bones, conceivably, in the future, even organs.”

The Australian technique incorporates the living cells into the actual layered printing process, with a 95 per cent survival rate for the cells. Team leaders say they anticipate the new tissues will be cleared for use in humans within three to five years.

And they say they plan to move on, eventually, to finding ways of using the technique to print more complicated parts like kidneys and livers.

The centre’s director Professor Gordon Wallace says scientists will be recreating complete organs in a decade’s time.” Professor Wallace said.  “Our ability to print living cells and biopolymers and spatially distribute those in a 3D structure of course sparks the imagination.”

So What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a type of manufacturing that allows three-dimensional objects to be created using a computer, software and a 3D printer.

The technology is decades-old, but 3D printers have become much cheaper since 2010, with some home kits now selling for under $500.

Home enthusiasts can make their own designs of 3D objects using specialist software, or download instructions from online repositories providing thousands of open-source designs.

Also known as additive fabrication, the process involves creating the object layer by layer, using a variety of materials, such as plastic, glass, metal and ceramic.

There are several ways these materials can be turned into the desired shape:

  • Molten polymers are extruded into shape and then solidify as they cool
  • A fluid can be jet-inked onto a surface, and then turned into a solid structure through a chemical reaction
  • Metal objects can be built by laying metal in powder form, then welding selected areas with a laser
  • Living cells can be printed with a bio-ink formulation, to build tissue and organs layer by layer

3D printers are already being used to produce toys, car parts, prosthetic limbs, and even ‘self-replicating’ 3D printers themselves.

Biotechnology firms are beginning to use 3D printing to print animal cells and reproduce nerves, muscles and bones.

Meanwhile, firearm enthusiasts are working on downloadable gun designs, and construction entrepreneurs hope to use 3D printing to build entire houses.

The process often reduces the amount of waste that is produced compared to other manufacturing techniques, like milling metal on a lathe. Some of the drawbacks include the slow speed of fabrication and limits on the kinds of materials that can be used.

Ironic Twist

A US student has successfully test fired a gun made from a 3D printer, triggering concern amongst gun control activists. 3D printers – available for less than $1,000 – work by printing layer upon layer of plastic, building objects from virtual blueprints.

University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, 25, fired the weapon in Austin, Texas on Saturday. The company he founded, Defense Distributed, spent a year developing the weapon.

“I recognise that the tool might be used to harm other people – that’s what it is – it’s a gun,” Mr Wilson said. “I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it or put it out there.”

The 25-year-old has distributed the computer aided design (CAD) file online, making it available for download by anyone, anywhere.

“There’s states all over the world outside the United States that say we’re a gun control state,” Mr Wilson said. “That’s not true anymore.”

He calls his movement “the dawn of the wiki weapon”, saying printable guns are just the beginning.

“We thought how interesting would it be not just to 3D print a gun, but to open source it and then allow anyone in the world to 3D print a gun, regardless of whatever their laws had to say,” he said. “Perhaps that would be a socially significant project, a politically significant project. And so it began – the questions really began, how do we take this from theory into reality?”

Gun control advocates in Australia are urging state and federal governments to consider regulating 3D printers.

Gun Control Australia spokeswoman Sam Lee said the difficulty was making sure they could not be used to make weapons.

“These machines are probably not just used for assembling firearms, they may be used for harmless purposes,” she said. “So the challenge will be how do you regulate those machines?”

The New South Wales Police told the says it’s aware of the technology but says the weapon’s ability to fire a bullet means it is classified as a firearm, and therefore illegal to possess without a licence.

It says the fact that the gun is made from plastic is irrelevant. The technology is already having a huge impact in other sectors.

It’s a bit easy to get all righteous here, or perhaps naive, the technology has led to huge advances in medicine, with 3D printers being used in prosthetics and even body parts. It was bound to travel to the dark side.

In the US, the State Department successfully demanded the removal of the 3D printed gun’s schematics from Defcad, a file-sharing site run by Defense Distributed, the group at the center of the 3D-printed gun controversy.

However, those worried about the ability to download 3D-printed gun blueprints, fret not: The Pirate Bay is apparently on the case, the 3D Printed guns schematics are available for download.

Expert Dismisses Misuses

UPDATE! 25 May 2013: An expert in the technology of 3D printing has questioned fears it could spark a mass proliferation of homemade guns on Australia’s streets.

3D printers – available for less than $1,000 – work by printing layer upon layer of plastic, building objects from virtual blueprints.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione yesterday warned more than 100,000 firearm blueprints have now been downloaded worldwide, giving people the ability to build their own guns.

“There are no standards around the manufacture of these weapons. They are truly undetectable,” Commissioner Scipione said. “They are untraceable because they no serial numbers, no unique identifiers. They are cheap, and easy to make.”

Dr Robert Gorkin from the University of Wollongong – the team researching the use of 3D printing to recreate human tissue – doesn’t think a mass proliferation of home-printed guns is very likely.

“There’s a concept that there’s a fully printed gun that you can just go online and download it, and it’s ready to go, and if I buy a home printer I can actually do that,” Dr Gorkin. “That doesn’t exist right now.”

Dr Gorkin says even high-end printers have not been able to produce a gun that is reliable, accurate, can be repeatedly shot, and will not possibly explode when fired.

“You can print parts of guns and put them together,” he said. “But right now there’s nothing that you can just download a file, have a printer – not even the high-end printers – and print a complete assembled gun that will act like something you can buy in a store. The technology now is not going to necessarily lead to these surges in home-built guns. There’s plenty of other ways to make a weapon if you really want to. It’s really not the most efficient way.” But Dr Gorkin says that technology is developing rapidly.

“It’s impossible to say that it’ll never happen,” Dr Gorkin said. “I do think that some of this conversation is relevant… but I think that discussion should be made with a reasonable analysis of where the technology is.”

Buy on Amazon: 3D Printers

source: reuters
source: afp
source: abc
source: wikipedia
source: ipri
source: cnet

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