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David Escobar posted an enlightening article comparing affordable (< 5K) 3D printers that are used at his hospital 3D printing program. It is worth a look. http://www.embodi3d.com/blog/21/entry-179-a-look-at-3d-printers-for-a-hospital-program/ Dr. Mike
Synthesizing smaller molecules to explore different compounds in the field of medicine and technology, as a whole, can offer immense potential. However, the problem of synthesizing molecules is that it is a time consuming process and not all researchers have access to molecule-synthesizing tools. Recently, researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have simplified a way to manufacture small molecules from a common set of building blocks using specialized 3D printers for small molecules. Led by Martin Burke from the University of Illinois, they were able to create a small molecule synthesizer that comes with chemical connectors that can be linked to a building block using a standard chemical reaction. The researchers were able to make 14 small molecules from simple linear structures to more complicated and densely folded molecules. Burke and his team took cues from nature in order to improve the process of synthesizing small molecules. By analyzing the small molecules, they were able to dissect the building blocks that were common. The building blocks were then catalogued and used to fashion small molecules with a customized 3D printer. Currently, Burke and his team are expanding the vision of being able to create thousands of useful molecules using only one simple 3D machine for small molecules. If their plans come to fruition, they will be able to discover new molecules that can lead to the revolution in industrial as well as medical technology. All kinds of researchers from different industries will be able to create small molecules to help them revolutionize their field of study.
Science and technology still finds it difficult to mimic biological structures and systems. Biological structures and systems have the ability to adapt to their environment through reacting to different stimuli like humidity or the amount of sunlight. For instance, plant structures interact with the seasons based on the atmospheric input which leads them to change their structures in order to adapt to their current environment. Although difficult to mimic, researchers from the University of Stuttgart led by Professor Achim Menges are currently studying on morphogenetic design computation and biomimetic engineering in creating bio-inspired materials using 3D printers in order to improve conventional engineering and architectural design. The work of Professor Menges has led him to collaborate with other experts to create hygroscopic components of 3D printed material systems that can trigger changes in the shape of materials in response to the varied atmospheric inputs like relative humidity and temperature within the environment. Calling their work as Biomimetic Responsive Surface Structures, these bio-inspired structures are revolutionary in such a way that it can transfer biological principles into solid architectural systems. This will allow them to create an entirely new and smart architectural plans–building and structures–that are climate responsive. The challenge in this research is that while conventional engineering uses sets of functional components such as controllers and sensor, the bio-inspired architectural systems rely on differentiated and structured materials that act in single harmony without the use of functional components. Thus the new design can morph or change its shape without human manipulation.
3D bioprinting is a process of creating spatially-controlled cells using 3D printers. There are many uses of this particular technology which includes the use of 3D printers to make stem cells and building body parts to replace damaged ones. It is one of the most important engineering tools brought into the field of medical technology. One of the most recent and interesting use of 3D bioprinting is on breast cancer research. Researchers from the Texas Medical Center created in vitro models of breast cancer by magnetically levitating the cancer cells using a commercial 3D bioprinting system. By levitating the cell cultures, the research team conducting this study was able to replicate the tumor cells in a micro-environment with ease. With this technology, using 3D bioprinters allow researchers to form large-sized models within a few hours, mimic the tumor microenvironment and test the drug efficiency in a model that is compatible with the in vivo (natural environment) of the cancer cells. With the magnetically levitated 3D bioprinted cancer cells, the researchers also have control over the tumor density as well as composition. This gives researchers a lot of opportunities to test different environmental factors of the cancer cells and help them better understand it—which hopefully would lead to a cure. The research provides a better model of the breast cancer which signifies a very important breakthrough when it comes to studying cancer cells outside the body. Without 3D bioprinting, it is difficult to culture cancer cells in conditions outside the host. With this technology, it opens new doors of possibilities for future researchers to develop new and effective treatment modalities for cancer.