Monday, May 1, 2017

Dr. Armani - 3D Printing’s expanding role in medicine and food by Michael Armani

I have mentioned before, in these pages, that I consider M3D to be MORE than a consumer 3D printer company.  I consider it to be an INNOVATION company.

Over the next few years I expect to hear a lot more from M3D than some might expect.

Here is a link to an article by Dr. Michael Armani that might shed some light on why I feel as I do.  It was published in https://3dprintingindustry.com.

Here is a link to the article.

The first point that he makes is that:
 "The key distinction between industries (early computers vs. today's computers) is that, in the case of 3D printing, Moore’s law would be based on the number of material types, the capacity for printing in specific types of materials, and the application in varying industries—particularly in medicine and food."
We already have evidence that M3D has a commitment to new materials with the availability of Tough 3D Ink, ABS-R, Chameleon 3D Ink and Carbon Fiber.  And, they have announced a new material to be introduced soon.  ABS-R is an important evolutionary (or revolutionary) step for those that like the properties of ABS; but, are worried about the possible dangers of the fumes from normal ABS.

He follows up on the medical comments with this observation:
"For example, surgeons are finding that they can print their own tools and parts instead of outsourcing to expensive vendors. Medical students and experienced surgeons alike are printing models to simulate real operations. Parents can hold a 3D-printed model of their unborn child that was created from just an ultrasound scan. The dental industry has also embraced consumer 3D printers with many practices having a printer in-office for implants."
Interestingly, one of the first people to contact me when I first started blogging about the 1st Gen Cube was an oral surgeon from South America that wanted me to try printing a 3D scan of a jaw to see if a low-cost 3D printer might help him prepared for surgery.  I was amazed at how well the print came out on a consumer level machine.  Yes, there were some issues with supports; but, that was more than 5 years ago this month! 

3D printers have dramatically improved since then and that includes the ability to print rinse-away supports in a two-head printer.  And, in our 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab, we have a small micro-SLA 3D printer specifically designed for dentistry applications!  So, that reality is NOW.

Dr. Armani's background gives him particularly great insight into the future of bio-printed organs:
"There are millions of people around the world awaiting transplants, but it can be very difficult to find a donor that’s a tissue match and can be high-risk when one is found. This problem could completely eliminate the risk of tissue rejection with bio-printed organs, and can also be a much cheaper alternative."
Before I knew about Dr. Armani, I was already familiar with the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Laboratory in the Kim building at the University of Maryland.

The Univeristy of Maryland engineering department is huge; but, I'm making the assumption that Dr. Armani worked in that lab at some point in his years at the University of Maryland.  When I first made contact with M3D I was super-pleased to hear that he had obtained his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from UMD.  You see, we take our Youth Challenge cadets to visit the lab twice a year and the cadets are blown away by the application of 3D printing and tissue re-generation happening in that lab.

Cadets at the Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Lab
Not the 3D Printer in the Background

For a 3D printer designer and materials designer, a background in bioengineering is a lot different than most bring to the table.  A background like that broadens horizons and, by necessity, brings an openness to new vistas that I don't see in leaders of other consumer 3D printer companies.

And the perfect example of that kind of thinking is evident in this observation:
In five years’ time, the food industry will begin using 3D printers to produce meat with comparable taste and texture to the real thing, which will help eliminate the world hunger crisis and be a real competitor to traditional meat producers. Imagine, a pink steak with the marble in all the right places without killing livestock, wasting mass amounts of water or emitting carbon into the environment. It’s the kind of advancement that can save lives, help clean up the environment, and truly disrupt an industry – and we might see it in just a few years.
Many 3D Printer CEOs might have paid tribute to 3D printing of food by talking solely about 3D printed pancakes or chocolate.  But, Dr. Armani's background allows him to go well beyond that to the merging of 3D printing techniques with other scientific disciplines to open our eyes to much greater opportunities.

It's a great read.


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