Shape building with 3D printers-the way Nature intended things to be built

sourced from Science and technology: 3D printing The Shape of things to come

The Economist December 10th 2011 p87-88

The beginning of a new industrial revolution is at hand.

I have stressed shape as a primal driving force in Nature, shape sensing as a very ancient communication net, existing at the core of signaling. Nature appears to have developed this capacity in terms of assembly, how groups of cells arrange themselves according to tensegrity principles of architectural construction at the dawn of assembled life on our planet. But since we live in an open system, as Earth was bombarded with comets smashing into its surface, it is speculated to be the source of water arriving to create our oceans. If this is a true recounting of those massive changes to the geography of our planet at its early age. There is this glaring question: did water came from somewhere else in the universe? Essentially water was not created on Earth if that is the scenario, it arrived as extraterrestrial cargo. Now as I have previously outlined, water creates shape for Nature to build things. Again my choice of the term vortex is a very specific choice. Take a glass of water and spin it- watch the vortex that forms. Or in the case of water moving in a river under the influence of gravity as it hits and caroms around objects in its path, turbulance patterns form. Nature uses these forms as templates to build shapes. So as wondrous as it seems, amorphous water in movement creates shapes. Nature appears to have used this as pattern making at all scales of assembly. So here’s the kicker-shape is extraterrestrial, shape was already in the Nature repertoire before arriving on planet Earth. Shape is thus extraterrestrial in our origin of cellular self assembly on our planet.

I quote from The Economist, “A British firm called Within Technologies, for example, makes heat exchangers. These devices need to pack a large surface area into a small space-an ideal task for additive manufacturing. Freed from the worry about how to make what they design, the company’s engineers have found the optimum shape resembles a fish gill. Exchanging heat is a similar process to exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide.” ‘Additive manufacturing’ as the industry prefers to call itself uses three dimensional printing to build objects. These machines vary in size from regular desk top volumes to car sized that are robot assemblers able, ‘ to cut, bend, weld and bash out all sorts of objects.’ All work by, ‘building products up layer by layer from powdered metal, droplets of plastic or whatever was the appropriate material.’

‘Additive manufacturing, then is changing not only how things are made, but what is made. In particular, many of the objects displayed (in the recent EUROMOLD manufacturing trade fair held in Frankurt from November 29th to December 2nd) had an organic look to them. That is no accident. In some cases, designers have deliberately copied Nature. In others, they have started from first principles, drawn conclusions (usually aided by clever software), and found Nature got there first. And in some, the decisions have been aesthetic-presumably reflecting an evolved preference in the human psyche for objects that look natural.’ Or as shape based humans, we create shape from shape nets within our brains creating the design thoughts into additive manufacturing processes.

Since our current research involves central bone metabolism being affected post concussion as our working Tamimi hypothesis that central sympathetic/parasympathetic balance is decoupled into a remodeled new staggered balance, a staggered tipping point is reached to change the shape of bone, all bone in the body following minor traumatic brain injury. That is essentially our collaborative query with Dr Ross Andersen and Coach Clint Uttley with the cooperation of the McGill Redmen Football Team, how much do player’s bones change following concussion?

Materialise, a Belgian firm deliberately copies Nature in their artificial additive manufactured hip. ‘Bones have curves that mass production would find impossible to reproduce, they are slightly different from one individual to another.’ We humans are after all unique shape objects, perhaps only twins are similar, same shape objects. ‘Additive manufacturing has no difficulty with such bespoke products. Each hip can be crafted precisely for the intended patient. All that is required is a slight tweak of the software that controls the printer. Even better, the technique can do something that not even a human craftsman could manage: it can copy in the titanium of which the implant is made, the fine, lattice-like internal structure of natural bone. This makes the implant lighter, without loss of strength. It also makes it integrate easily withe the patient’s actual bone.’

‘Similarly, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Neri Oxman, have found that you cannot beat the basic design of a plant stem-a bundle of vertical filaments of different densities-when it comes to making a structure that is both light and able to support a heavy load. They have used that insight to print a load-bearing column constructed from filaments of concrete.’

I hope the reader grasps the significance of these passages. Additive manufacturing mimics creating the shape of natural objects. If applied at vary scales of assembly from nano to macro, if the principles of shape based tensegrity are applied, we are starting a revolution of manufacturing-which was my opening remark. Somehow we have stumbled onto a critical building process that will change the way we build things, things built around functional shape, the same way nature builds things using shape. In time our objects will blur into Nature’s objects. This new manufacturing revolution will be massive. We had the Industrial Revolution starting in the mid 18th century up until now. Now it will become the Shape Additive Manufacturing Revolution.

Just down the hall from us Dr Jake Barralet has already published a research article concerning building bone type structures using 3D printer technology. So as we attempt to better understand bone metabolic changes following brain concussion, he will make a few baby steps in the direction of using this new additive manufacturing in dentistry, like making amazing bone implants for 3D additive manufactured dental implants to replace all those missing teeth out there. It’ll be like building the real thing, the way Nature intended!


About cerebrovortex

Montreal Grandmother, Agnes Kent was saved by Raul Wallenberg from certain death, when he provided papers for her and her Mom to escape away from the Nazis. Today when asked what that escape meant, she replied,"Remind people, that while statesmen and whole countries remained silent and did nothing, a single individual chose to act, with ramifications that proved enormous. Similar choices confront us today. Write that simple truth she said, it can never be repeated often enough because the world keeps forgetting it."
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