Inside the 3D printed pill that livestreams health readings to your doctor

Could you swallow a 3D printed pill that collects data from the inside of your stomach? For two years, a team of researchers based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been developing a mini device capable of just that.

Called “Gastric Resident Electronics” (GREs) these pills are designed to sit in the stomach for over a month, sensing the development of infections, or the body’s response to medication, and even administering therapeutic drugs.

With built in wireless communications, the pills transmit data to electronic devices, which can be used to monitor and treat various health conditions.

With the emergence of many electronic devices capable of keeping an eye on our well-being, is this the next natural step forward from the likes of pedometers and pulse monitors? Or is it just one FitBit too far?

Bluetooth enabled pills

The GRE devices produced by MIT are FFF 3D printed using a Hyrel 3D System 30M, from a combination of PLA and NinjaFlex filaments – PLA for the body and NinjaFlex for the “antennas” that give the device a Y-shaped appearance.

A custom built Aerotech AGS 15000 system is then used to add an epoxy coating and conductive traces to the device, for the integration of Bluetooth electronics and coin cell batteries.

Once completed, the antennas of the GRE are folded, fitting the device into a 000 capsule – just shy of 2.5 cm long. In addition to making it easier to swallow, this capsule protects the GRE until it makes it to the stomach.

Design of MIT's 3D printed GRE ingestible device and its journey through the body. Image via Advanced Materials Technologies
Design of MIT’s 3D printed GRE ingestible device and its journey through the body. Image via Advanced Materials Technologies

Needle and surgery free medical treatment

Once within the stomach, gastric acids dissolve the capsule, and the GRE antennas are allowed to expand.

Over time, the GRE itself is also gradually digested. In one test, the device successfully lasted 36 days before breaking down, and maintained wireless communications for a total of 15 days, giving consistent readings of body temperature.

In addition to sensing, this early-stage GRE demonstrated the ability to slowly release drugs over a set period of time – a feature that could be useful when administering long-term medication like contraceptives.

The research team behind the device believe that this little device is a realization of “next-generation remote diagnostic and automated therapeutic strategies.”

A GRE device live streaming data from inside a porcine model. Image via Advanced Materials Technologies
A GRE device livestreaming data from inside a porcine model. Image via Advanced Materials Technologies

Uniting the body and the digital domain

According to the study’s conclusions, “Ultimately, the ingestible gastric residence electronics provides a needle and surgery free approach to synergistically integrate biomedical electronic devices, the human body, and the digital domain.”

Full results of the study are published in the paper “3D‐Printed Gastric Resident Electronics,” for Advanced Materials Technologies. The paper is co-authored by Yong Lin Kong, Xingyu Zou, Caitlin A. McCandler, Ameya R. Kirtane, Shen Ning, Jianlin Zhou, Abubakar Abid, Mousa Jafari, Jaimie Rogner, Daniel Minahan, Joy E. Collins, Shane McDonnell, Cody Cleveland, Taylor Bensel, Siid Tamang, Graham Arrick, Alla Gimbel, Tiffany Hua, Udayan Ghosh, Vance Soares, Nancy Wang, Aniket Wahane, Alison Hayward, Shiyi Zhang, Brian R. Smith, Robert Langer and Giovanni Traverso.

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Featured image shows the design of MIT’s Gastric Resident Electronic smart pill. Image via Advanced Materials Technologies

Silverside Detectors working with Onshape to make nuclear radiation sensors

Silverside Detectors, a Massachusetts-based company specializing in nuclear security, is using tools from Onshape, a cloud-based CAD software provider. The objective is to develop low-cost compact-sized nuclear radiation detectors.

Philip Taber, Silverside VP of Hardware Engineering, praised the efficiency of Onshape software, “We switched to Onshape because we urgently needed help with data management.”

“Onshape probably cuts our design time in half because we’re designing our parts together in one place versus flipping back and forth between files. We can make changes without worrying about breaking the assembly.”

Philip Taber designing the nuclear radiation detector in Onshape. Image via Silverside Detectors
Philip Taber designing the nuclear radiation detector in Onshape. Image via Silverside Detectors

DARPA’s SIGMA program

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S Department of Defense (DoD) initiated the SIGMA project, in 2014. Its aim is to protect U.S citizens against nuclear and “dirty bomb” (a regular bomb packed with radioactive material) attacks.

Program Manager and Applied Physicist at DARPA, Dr. Vincent Tang, states, “The SIGMA program aims to revolutionize detection and deterrent capabilities for countering nuclear terrorism.”

Tang further elaborates, “A key component of SIGMA thus involves developing novel approaches to achieve low-cost, high-efficiency, packaged radiation detectors with spectroscopic gamma and neutron sensing capability.”

Nuclear radiation detection

Helium-3 is an isotope of the helium gas. It is non-radioactive and is used in the detection of nuclear radiation.

In recent years, due to the increased threat of nuclear terrorism, the demand of helium-3 has peaked, which has resulted in a shortage of the isotope. In 2001, the demand of helium-3 was 8,000 liters per year, whereas in 2008 it went up to 80,000 liters/year, decreasing the accumulated stockpile of the isotope.

One way to counter this problem is using elements other than the helium-3 and developing smaller radiation sensors. Silverside Detectors, working on the SIGMA program and partly funded by DARPA, has a solution. The company wants to build a lithium-based (Li-6) neutron detectors, which is compact in size and cost-effective.

A 3D model of a Silverside neutron detector. Image via Silverside Detectors
A 3D model of a Silverside neutron detector. Image via Silverside Detectors

Leveraging 3D technology

Use of 3D printing in nuclear science is not new. As has been previously reported, the U.S. Department of Energy has also been involved in projects, such as 3D printing sensors for nuclear turbines.

Now, Onshape with its 3D software capabilities will help Silverside Detectors speed up the development of the Li-6 nuclear radiation detector.

Jon Hirschtick, CEO of Onshape further added, “Silverside Detectors is genuinely making the world a much safer place … We’re proud that Onshape is playing a role in speeding up the production of their nuclear radiation detectors and getting them deployed on the ground as quickly as possible.”

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Featured image shows a 3D model of a Silverside neutron detector. Image via Silverside Detectors

Inside the 3D written thing (generic term) that livestreams wellness readings to your doc

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Silverside Detectors on the job with Onshape to brand atomic energy (generic term) sensors

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Roboze raises €3M in first ever funding round

Italian 3D printer manufacturer Roboze has reportedly raised €3 million (the equivalent of $3.4 million) to boost the growth of its business.

This round is the first ever from the company since it was founded in 2013, and it follows the inauguration of a new state of the art headquarters in Bari, Southern Italy, from April this year.

Leading the round was Italian R&I fund Equiter SPA which specialises in infrastructural investment across research, assessment, acquisition, enhancement and transfer.

A manifold 3D printed in Carbon PA by Roboze. Photo by Michael Petch.
A manifold 3D printed in Carbon PA by Roboze. Photo by Michael Petch.

Roboze 3D printers

Roboze produces FFF technology 3D printers for the desktop, desktop professional and production markets.

In contrast to other 3D printers in this market, Roboze’s machines aren’t controlled by a belt. Instead, extruders operate across a hardened steel rack, increasing the precision across X and Y axes, and reducing potentially detrimental vibrations. Another advantage of Roboze’s 3D printers, is the use of a High Viscosity Polymers (HVP) extruder. In the higher temperature machines from Roboze (like the Roboze One +400 Xtreme) HVP extruders enable the processability of thick, engineering grade polymers like PEEK.

The ARGO 500 is Roboze’s latest 3D printers. Launched at Formnext 2017, the ARGO 500 is designed to 3D print metal replacement parts from high strength polymers including carbon fiber filled PEEK and Ultem. A production-grade system, works at extrusion temperatures up to 550°C on a build volume of 500 x 500 x 500 mm.

This year, the ARGO 500 has been succeeded by the XTREME Series of 3D printers, as Roboze continues its pursuit of more high-end engineering and end use applications.

Roboze Argo500-Preview
The Roboze Argo500 at Formnext 2017. Photo via Roboze

An ambitious goal

With the added €3 million boost Roboze hopes to build on the momentum it has built over the past five years of business. So far, the company has each year experienced 100% year over year revenue growth since it launched the first Roboze One in 2015. By the end of 2019, the company hopes to increase this growth by a further 400% to 500%.

It’s an ambitious goal for sure. As noted by Ilaria Guicciardini, Marketing Director at Roboze, in our Trends in Additive Manufacturing for End-Use Production guest article series, “Despite the uncertainty given by innovation even at the earliest evolutionary stages, it is already clear that 3D printing is a far-reaching technology with very important economic and social implications.”

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Featured image shows Roboze’s the patented beltless control system. Photo via Roboze. 

British Army applies Lulzbot 3D printers to peacekeeping in South Sudan

The British Army has revealed how a desktop 3D printer is aiding its efforts to provide support to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Part of Operation Trenton, which was launched this summer, the army is tasked with building a hospital to undertake the care of more than 1,000 UN employees.

In an official video posted by the force, essential plumbing fixtures needed for this construction are shown 3D printing on a Lulzbot TAZ 6 3D printer. According to an army representative, the components are fulfilling a demand in the project that would otherwise lead to slow, or halted, construction.

The British Army’s first 3D printer in operations

Established in 2011, the objective of UNMISS is “to consolidate peace and security, and help establish conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan.” Initially, set to last one year, the Security Council has continued to extend the UNMISS mandate, and it is now set for March 2019, after which point it demands opposing parties must end the fight.

In the meantime, around 200 British Army troops from 36 Engineer Regiment have been drafted in for support. This mission, as explained by a Royal Engineer, has been been challenging. “Engineering in South Sudan has faced many problems. A stretched and fragile logistical supply route has resulted in difficulties resourcing components.”

“However,” he adds, “we have resolved some of these issues through use of 3D printer,”

“This is the first time this technology has been used by UK land forces deployed on operations.”

3D printing for plumbings

The Lulzbot TAZ 6 has a build volume of 280 mm x 280 mm x 250 mm
(11.02″ x 11.02″ x 9.80″) making it capable of producing prints “up to the size of football.”

The LulzBot TAZ 6 3D printer. Photo via LulzBot.
The LulzBot TAZ 6 3D printer. Photo via LulzBot.

Most of the components produced for Operation Trenton are plumbing parts, including simple brackets, for affixing pipes to walls, and complex junctions, which can channel liquids from three different directions. The turnaround time for these parts is typically less than 12 hours, a dramatic reduction on the weeks it would usually take for a part to be shipped and delivered to the site. In addition, low materials costs and eradicated postage/package, deliver significant cost reductions to the force.

Lulzbot in the military

For the past few years, the U.S. Marine Corps has also been working with a Lulzbot TAZ 6 3D printer as part of Next Generation Logistics initiative.

Satisfied with the results they have achieved so far, the British Army forsees a wealth of opportunity for its further application.

In recent years the technology behind 3D printing has dramatically improved and has yet to be fully explored, there is great potential for the Births Army to use this technology in many different theatres in the future.”

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Featured image shows plumbing fixtures 3D printed for Operation Trenton. Image via The British Army

Numanova commences industrial additive metal powder production with titanium

Numanova, the metal additive manufacturing powder production arm of Italian holding company Italeaf, has commenced industrial activity.

The first order to be processed by the company is a batch of titanium grade 23 to be used in aerospace. Following this, the company plans to expand its production services across other grades of titanium, refractory metal, ceramic, aluminium and precious alloys dependent upon customer demand.

Though industrial production has only just started, Numanova has bold aims for the future. According to the company, “Numanova has the most advanced and robust gas-atomisation technology for the production of metallic powders available today on the international market, based (when fully operational) on 2 plants with installed productivity up to 800t/year.”

Render of the Numanova factory located in central Italy. Image via Italeaf
Render of the Numanova factory located in central Italy. Image via Italeaf

The Italeaf Group

Founded in 2010, the Italeaf Group has an active role in encourage greener industrial solutions in Italy. Accordingly, the company is part of T.E.R.N.I. Research, an Italian holding company that specializes in photovoltaic (solar) energy.

By feeding capital into the company over a period of years, Italeaf’s Numanova subsidiary  was first cleared for powder production by the local authorities in July 2016. In addition to fine powders for additive manufacturing, the company also produces feedstock for metal injection molding (MIM) hot isostatic pressing (HIP) and laser cladding.

Electrode Induction-melting Inert Gas Atomization

The Numanova factory, which is located in the Umbria region of central Italy, employs two types of technology for additive manufacturing powder production:

– Electrode Induction-melting Inert Gas Atomization, EIGA, and;

–  Vacuum Induction-melting Inert Gas Atomization, or VIGA.

Aside from the obvious difference in induction source, the main differentiation between the two methods is the type of materials best suited for atomization.

VIGA is used to make ferrous metal powders, including nickel, cobalt and zirconium. On the other hand, EIGA, the method of choice for this initial grade 23 batch, is particularly suited to producing powders from titanium, aluminum, refractory metal, ceramic and precious metal feedstocks.

In a crucible, reactive metal bars, like titanium, are rotated and melted under an electrode. The molten metal then flows down the chamber, where an inert argon gas is applied turning the flow into small particles.

According to LPW Technology, that counts EIGA as one of its seven different powder production methods, this process “is cheap, clean, good for small batches and produces small diameter powder.”

An EIGA powder production crucible. Photo via Numanova
An EIGA powder production crucible. Photo via Numanova

The global scale of additive manufacturing powder production

Through commencing industrial production Numanova enters into an increasingly demanding and competitive market for metal powders.

In some of the most recent powder production news from this year, UK based FFC powder production specialist Metalysis has graduated to industrial-scale operations;  Canadian materials manufacturer Equispheres received a $5 million investment from global aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin; and, becoming part of a small group of plasma atomization companies Tekna opened a $5.5 million production plant in Quebec.

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Featured image shows an EIGA powder production crucible. Photo via Numanova

UCLA reconstructs lost Tiwanaku temple with 3D printing

An archeology team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have reconstructed the ruins of Tiwanaku (AD 500-950), a Unesco World Heritage Site in Bolivia, using 3D modeling and 3D printing.

The Tiwanaku is a Pre-Columbian (before the arrival of the Europeans) site that covers an approximate area of four km/sq around the Lake Titicaca. The Titicaca Basin is known to be one of the places where a unique civilization was formed.

With his research team, Dr. Alexei Vranich, a renowned archeologist and an expert on the pre-Columbian era, reconstructed a 3D model of a part of Tiwanaku. 

The ruins of the Pumapunku. Image via Wikipedia
The ruins of the Pumapunku. Image via Wikipedia

Reviving cultural heritage

The part restored by Dr. Vranich and his team is the Pumapunku (Gateway of Puma or Jaguar), believed to be a temple at the Tiwanaku site. The Pumapunku had been subjected to frequent looting by colonialists and treasure hunters.

The temple is formed of finely cut sandstone slabs and large blocks of andesite, a fine-grained volcanic rock. The seventeen sandstone slabs cover an area of 6.72 meters in width and 38.72 meters in length and are the foundation ground for the 150 andesite stones. All these stones now lay in ruin scattered all around. Furthermore, there are no plans or models of the original site, and it is believed that the temple was unfinished at the time of building. So restoration of the site was difficult, to say the least. 

The andesite blocks at the Pumapunku site. Image via Heritage Science
The andesite blocks at the Pumapunku site. Image via Heritage Science

3D printing Pumapunku

3D scanning proved inefficient in this case as it was laborious and irrelevant to the task at hand, i.e. understanding the underlying geometry of the Pumapunku temple.

Therefore, the researchers relied on data collected over 150 years, mostly from the archival notes and drawings of Leonce Angrand, a nineteenth-century French painter, Max Uhle (1893), a German archeologist and Jean-Pierre Protzen, a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley.

These notes and drawings were translated into CAD designs of the Pumapunku using Sketchup, a 3D modeling software used in architecture.

In the next stage, the project team 3D printed the models, first using an FDM/FFF printer and then moving to the powder-based ZPrinter 310 from Z Corporation (now 3D Systems). The models of Pumapunku ruins were scaled to 4% of the original site.

Stages of 3D printing a Pumapunku gate. Image via Heritage Science
Stages of 3D printing a Pumapunku gate. Image via Heritage Science

Recreating Pumapunku

Finally, the pieces were assembled. One of the skills archeologists are trained with are manipulating complex geometries in their imagination to find the right fit. For this project, they decided to put this skill to good use and assembled all the models manually. This was preferred because designing an algorithm for automatic arrangement of the stones of Pumapunku was neither feasible nor efficient.

In a published study of this project, it was also mentioned that assembly of 3D printed archeological models improves visualization and geometric manipulation skills which could help in archeological training in the future.

The .stl files of the Pumapunku temple have been made available to the general public.

Further reading

Of course, Tiwanaku is not the only site of cultural heritage to receive the benefits of 3D printing. Following its destruction at the hands of ISIS, the ancient city of Palymra has been famously recreated with 3D printing, harnessing crowdsourced data.

Through a partnership between CyArk and Google there are now hundreds of 3D models of heritage sites publicly available online. And MyMiniFactory’s Scan the World project houses over ten thousand 3D printable models of cultural landmarks and artworks from around the globe.

The UCLA research discussed in this article is titled Reconstructing ancient architecture at Tiwanaku, Bolivia: the potential and promise of 3D printing. It was published in Heritage Science journal and is authored by Alexei Vranich.

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Featured image shows the ruins of Pumapunku. Image via Wikipedia

Inside Siemens’ new Materials Solutions Digital Factory

With the increasing presence of Industry 4.0, production facilities are integrating automated 3D printing technologies to optimize manufacturing. Adopting this smart factory framework is Materials Solutions, a Siemens Business, that recently established an additive manufacturing facility in Worcester, UK.

Dubbed as the Materials Solutions “Digital Factory”, the 4700 meter-squared shop floor houses 45 employees, an inspection and post-processing area, and 19 industrial metal 3D printers, intended to support the automotive, aerospace, and industries.

3D Printing Industry visited the facility to understand how Siemens aims to utilize this Digital Factory to further additive manufacturing industrialization. Markus Seibold, Head of Additive Manufacturing for Siemens Power & Gas division explained:

“Metal additive manufacturing has spearheaded power generation, automotive, motorsport, tooling and now aerospace. This new state-of-the-art facility has already become and will further progress into a space for driving end-to-end digitalized processes for serial production.”

The Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo via Siemens.
The Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo via Siemens.

Ramping up metal additive manufacturing

Materials Solutions a UK-based service bureau with a decade of experience in the producing power generation components. This company was also the first to install an EOS M270 3D printer in 2009. Striving to be the global leader in the industrial implementation of additive manufacturing, Siemens acquired Materials Solutions in 2016.

Using Materials Solutions knowledge in additively manufacturing high-demand engine components, Siemens sought to create a shop floor that would drive hardware with its digital solutions. According to Phil Hatherley, General Manager of Materials Solutions, Siemens:

“Our current strategy is based on the belief that existing Siemens additive manufacturing technology can sustain a digital factory. This is because existing machines can be improved with software; one does not have to create the perfect machine.”

Vladimir Navrotsky, Technology & Innovation Manager at Siemens added, “We as a user don’t desire to build our own machines. As I like to say, you don’t have to print the wheel to be innovative. That’s why we allow the 3D printer manufacturers and their expertise in such areas as lasers, to make the machines.”

As a result of Siemens’ acquisition and overall mission, an investment of approximately £27 million was made towards a 3D printing facility for the serial production of additively manufactured parts rather than just prototyping.

EOS 3D printers at the Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo by Tia Vialva.
EOS 3D printers at the Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo by Tia Vialva.

Manpower and machinery

The new digital factory included designated areas for each step of the digital value chain. When entering the shop floor, one is confronted with a printing farm which includes a plethora of EOS systems, including the EOS M 300-4 metal additive manufacturing system well as a Renishaw 500Q machine, and Sodi-Tech Electrical Discharge machining systems.

According to Seibold “we plan on using [the Sodi-Tech system]within the sphere of serial production, we like to remind ourselves that we are not just a printing shop. Instead, we work to understand our machines, its capabilities and how it can benefit both us and our customers.”

Steering box components reverse engineered and 3D printed for the Ruston Hornsby Fifteen 1920's car. Photo by Tia Vialva.
Steering box components reverse engineered and 3D printed at the Materials Solutions factory for the Ruston Hornsby Fifteen 1920’s car (original component in front). Photo by Tia Vialva.

In addition, stretching across the factory was an inspection area which housed ATOS Scanbox 5108 systems for reverse engineering otherwise obsolete parts. Moving on from this station led to the post-processing area which featured a Solukon AT800 system for automated depowering, Guyson Euroblast 8 sandblasting cabinets, and Kardex XP500 automated storage carousels.

The factory also included a virtual reality station (VR) and showcase area where customized manufacturing processes can be simulated. Moreover, within the Digital Factory Siemens’ latest additive manufacturing technologies such as its PLM chain, NX software, and the cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) operating system, MindSphere, are implemented.

The front of the Ruston Hornsby Fifteen 1920's car. Photo by Tia Vialva.
The front of the Ruston Hornsby Fifteen 1920’s car. Photo by Tia Vialva.

Simulation to serial production

According to Navrotsky, the biggest hurdle in pioneering a digital value chain comes from distortion in the additive manufacturing process.

“As parts are taken through production, CAD technology can fail to account for the distortion caused by laser sintering and post-processes. That is why simulation is so important in a smart factory.”

“For example, our Simcenter 3D Additive Manufacturing Build Process Simulation software solution introduced at Formnext, simulates the powder-based laser application process to enable ‘first time right’ prints. This technology will forever change serial production for the better.”

The Materials Solutions facility plans to expand its range of 3D printers over the next few years to 50, as well as employ an additional 20-25 persons to aid with the workload of the Digital Factory.

Inside the Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo by Tia Vialva.
Inside the Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo by Tia Vialva.

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Featured image shows the inside of the Materials Solutions Digital Factory. Photo by Tia Vialva.

Lincoln Memorial University to harness “unparalleled” potential of 3D printing in veterinary elective

Lincoln Memorial University, Tennessee (LMU) is to use 3D printed models to train students in veterinary medicine. The technology will be used at LMU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM).

Jason Johnson Vice President and Dean of LMU-CVM, said, “Our students will be entering practices such as specialty surgical centers where they will use 3D printers in their surgical planning […]

“Our goal is to prepare competent graduates that are ready to hit the ground running on day one after graduation. Knowledge of this technology will give our students a competitive edge as they enter the workforce.”

A 3D printed dog skull is being used by LMU-CVM students to practice dental cleaning. Image via Lincoln Memorial University
A 3D printed dog skull is being used by LMU-CVM students to practice dental cleaning. Image via Lincoln Memorial University

3D printing in veterinary medicine

The part 3D printing has played in the medical sector is well documented, from 3D printed prosthetics to the treatment of cancer. In the veterinary branch, companies like VetCT (UK), are active in providing 3D printing services to professional veterinarians. Professional veterinarian services like the UK-based Willows Veterinary Centre also make use of 3D printing to treat limb deformities and other such cases. Furthermore, research institutions like Auburn University and the University of Pennsylvania have also explored 3D printing for veterinary surgery.

More than this, as previously reported, the technology has also been important in STEM and veterinary education.

An “unparalleled” potential

At the LMU-CVM, 3D printing will be part of an elective course on veterinary medicine, offered to students in January 2019. The veterinary faculty has an FFF/FDM printer and a resin-based 3D printer. The two 3D printers are currently used to fabricate 3D models of animal anatomy such as tissue, bone, and spine, at the LMU-CVM.  

Dr. Jamie Perkins, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Medicine at LMU-CVM, said, “The potential to replicate injuries or deformities in animals with 3D printing capabilities is unparalleled.”

A 3D printed example of abnormal pathology in a cat. Image via Lincoln Memorial University
A 3D printed example of abnormal pathology in a cat. Image via Lincoln Memorial University

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Featured image shows a 3D printed example of abnormal pathology in a cat. Image via Lincoln Memorial University