3D Printers


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It's the biggest tech revolution since the internet and is notorious for the supply of cheap, home-made guns. It's the 3d printer. It can make everything from cutlery and jewellery to complex machines and even body parts like bones and organs.

If you can think it up, you can make it with a 3d printer.

"They're printing organs, livers, bones. It's almost that Frankenstein is becoming a reality."

Firstly, it's simple a 3d printer is the same an ordinary printer with one difference. A 3d printer prints one layer then prints another one on top of it then another then another, then another.

Controversy over what they can produce is quickly giving way to excitement over how they can repair the human body.

Professor Gordon Wallace leads a team based at the University of Wollongong dedicated to revolutionising how we manage the human body specifically replacing injured or diseased cells, organs and bones with printed ones.

"What we're looking at is to facilitate the naturally occurring bone regeneration process and we intend to do that but providing a 3 dimensional structure which we print, but which has appropriate bio-active molecules distributed through it that will promote the bone regeneration process" Said Prof Wallace

3d printers can be loaded with a many different types of so-called ink. These new inks can be from plastics, metals and even organic tissue.

"The treatments that we would be looking at would be using patients own stem cells that would be incorporated into these 3d structures printed and implanted to facilitate the regeneration process." Said Prof Wallace

Imagine printing out one of your own organs and having it implanted without the risk of rejection. Soon we'll be doing it.

Little Kaiba Gianfriddo was born with arteries constricting his windpipe every day he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated.

"Quite a few of the doctors said there was a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive, it was the most devastating thing that a parent could ever hear."

The solution 3d printing, doctors at the University of Michigan scanned his trachea and designed a splint especially for him. Then implanted it, today, baby Kaiba is fine as he ages his body will absorb the splint so he won't need any further surgery.

"It was amazing as soon as the splint was put in the lungs they started going up and down for the first time and we knew that he was going to be okay." Said Kaiba’s parents.

Professor Peter Choong joined the team's new centre in Melbourne where their research is leading the world in the race to create human body part replacements.

"It's a huge potential because what it means is we can address body part loss injury degeneration." Said Prof Choong.

Until now most attention on 3d printing has been focused on the guns.

"It's actually not legal to print out a real working gun and so even to have the blueprint or the files to reprint a gun is illegal." Said Mark

Mark Pestkowski sells 3d printers here in Australia he says the implications go far beyond medicine to fundamentally changing society where much of what need and want at home we can make at home.

"In ten years' time, everyone will have one. In 5 years, every school, primary school, high school will have one in terms of consumers it will change the way we buy products." Said Mark.

You can buy a personal 3d printer of the type used to produce these objects from around $800 up to several thousand dollars and make everything from jewellery to cutlery, to models, to tools, to shoes, collectible figurines, vases, artwork just about any knick knack you can think of and working parts to repair almost any household appliance and on it goes.