The Carbon Copy Reality of the 3D Printer

the 3D Printer-Maker-bot Thing-o-matic

Doctors have long awaited the day when it would be possible to grow human organs in a lab, at will on demand, in an instant. From research to organ transplants, generic, prefab lab-grown people parts could be available on a shelf at your nearest supermarket or convenience store within the next decade.  Livers, kidneys, bladders of blood could all be made available & in copious supply to the general public at exceptionally low prices.  Not to mention special deals on Lay-by or rental, and the buy now pay later plan for select customers.  Interest free for the first 6 months.  Sorry no rain checks.

Although we are a far cry from replicating fully functioning major bodily organs such as a brain or lung, Scientists can recreate some of the parts that contribute to their function, like a valve or cartilage.   Scientists can mold framework that bone cells like to grow in into solid rudimentary macroscopic shapes. The organ printer is already capable of producing arteries, which doctors will be able to use in bypass surgeries in as little as five years. Bones and hearts & more complex body parts should be possible within ten years. The printer works by using two print heads. One writes out a scaffold and the other places human cells into the shape of whatever organ is being formed.   Since it’s made of the patient’s own cells, there is little threat of the new organ being rejected. The technology represents a milestone in medicine, since the wait for new organs would be significantly truncated and the risk of

Printed Skin

organ rejection eradicated.  This in no way translates into a 3Dimensional organ with molecular instructions of a working body part. We still don’t know what most of the cell surface proteins each composed of one or more molecules with incredibly specific three-dimensional spatial arrangement are or do.  Will we one day be able to print anything and everything we need.

Manufacturers are designing large scale printers capable of shaping buildings block by block from stone.  The construction process begins with a thin membrane of sand.  The printer then sprays the sand with magnesium-based glue that binds binds the silica into rock. That rock is then built from the ground up, eventually becoming whatever object it is designed to become, be it an adobe outhouse or a medieval cathedral.  This breakthrough technology opens the architectural world to infinite possibilities where houses, buildings and sculptures can be built in situ.  Four columns independently support a frame with a single armature on it. Driven by CAD software , the armature moves just millimetres above a small sand deposit, expressing a magnesium-based solution from hundreds of nozzles on its lower side. It makes four passes. The layer dries and the armature frame is recalibrated . The system deposits the sand followed by  binding ink. The exercise is repeated. The arduous process of laying down sedimentary rock is condensed into a 24 hour operation.

Food Printing Technology from Cornell University

With this technology, a person whose windpipe say was ruined by cancer, could receive a trachea that was grown from their very own stem cells.  Surgeons would begin by creating 3-D scans of the patient’s windpipe. Technicians could then created a glass scaffold that was an exact replica of the patient’s windpipe. The scaffold would be soaked in the patient’s own stem cells from his bone marrow, which upon taking  hold create a brand new trachea in just two days. Thanks to the fact that the trachea was made from his own stem cells and did not come from a donor, there was no chance of rejection by his body and no need for the typical anti-rejection drugs needed by other transplant recipients. The best news to come out of this milestone is that people who desperately need organ transplants may not have to wait for a suitable donor in the future; this technology could be used to grow almost anything they need in a lab within just a few days.

An off shoot of this technology is a printer that uses skin cells in place of ink.  a device that’s similar to an inkjet printer spraying skincells directly onto burns and wounds. Tested on mice the method reduced healing time by more than half .  Consequently, but no less significantly, is that spraying skin cells onto a burn or wound would not leave the patient with the scarring associated with traditional skin grafts.  This procedure would let the sprayed-on skin cells grow organically, duplicating the appearance of the patient’s skin.  Additionally, the spray-on method would greatly reduce the pain caused by skin grafts and the risk of infection that arises when damaged or destroyed skin is not replaced.  The technique involves taking living human skin cells, dissolving them into various cell types, with the addition of extra stem cells to facilitate abundant growth. Cells are then transferred into a solution to encourage cell multiplication before spraying the appropriate types of cells in successive layers onto the wound. The stem cells help the sprayed-on layers integrate seamlessly into the surrounding skin. this technology is currently being developed for the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine to figure out how to use the technology to benefit wounded soldiers.

Cornocopia Food Printer

This technology has many applications beyond medicine.  The future of food could very well involve putting healthy convenience foods into every home. Once the cost of production has been reduced to coincide with the income of the average household, 3D printers made commercially available to the public could be used to supply food.  The machine being developed can use edible inks partnered with digital blueprints to create some impressive impressions of common foods.  Called FabApps, these electronic blueprints direct the machine to lay out one layer after another of edible ink, of varying shape & flavor. The machine works by storing and cooling a variety of ingredients in storage containers. During the meal-making process, the machine combines ingredients layer by layer, then heating or cooling them in a chamber below. The machine can produce textures and flavors that wouldn’t be possible through conventional cooking. By way of possibly nutritionally enhanced raw materials the replicator could use healthy ingredients to create wholesome versions of familiar junk foods.  Users can customize foods and entire meals based on parameters like calories, carbohydrates or fat content.

Enthusiasts extrapolate that 3D Food Printers could make their way into homes relatively soon for an affordable $1000 in today’s market.  This price could be drastically reduced depending on its widespread popularity.  Eating a fillet Mignon made of edible super glue squirted out of a tube may not sound very appetizing now , but taking into account global economic crises, food shortages & the unpredictability of the weather, this technology may alleviate the problems of not just the third-world but our own.  This is an entirely new direction for food preparation that hasn’t yet been explored, either in the domestic or even in the commercial field of gastronomy.  Given the developments in 3D object printer technology, this method of food production is not only possible, but inevitable.

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