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Nov 30, 2017

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been around since the early 1980’s. A 3-dimensional, physical printed object is created by using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is formed by laying down continuous layers of material until the object is created.

In television like the popular show “Westworld” viewers have been introduced to humanoid robots that are 3D printed. While creating an entire human being may sound extremely futuristic, the technology to print human body parts already exists and could become a standard practice in the years to come. Researchers are working tirelessly to create body parts and artificial organs meant to replace, or even enhance our human machinery.

This episode features one of those world-renowned researchers. Dr. David Gracias is from the departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His fascinating and amazing work is focused on the ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological tissue with functional electronics so that we may enable the creation of bionic organs possessing enhanced functionalities over our current human counterparts. Dr. Gracias was part of the team that used 3-D printing of cartilage cells and nanomaterials to create functional ears that receive radio signals. They used a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing of a human right ear as a blueprint for the printing and then used three components as the printer “inks”: cartilage cells in a hydrogel matrix, structural silicone, and silicone infused with silver nanoparticles. The ear was built layer by layer with an ordinary 3-D printer, with the silver-infused “ink” formed a coiled antenna.