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Tag Archive: borg technology


3d Printing book cover

What merges borg technology, Kickstarter campaigns, and Maker Faires, bots, optical technologies, digital scanning and photography, gaming, cosplay, lasers and Tony Stark military applications?  What technology is bringing up age-old questions of open source vs proprietary systems, of outsourcing and economics?  We at borg.com have discussed 3D printing innovations multiple times, including efforts to create cybernetic parts via these modern printing machines.  The Obama Administration recently put $30 million into a research institute on 3D printing and NASA recently funded its own project.  The future is now, and in Christopher D. Winnan’s new primer on 3D printing, 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush – Future Factories and How to Capitalize on Distributed Manufacturing, Winnan not only offers the first comprehensive volume on 3D printing technology, he offers business innovators ways to take the new technologies and begin to earn profits sufficient to propel the industry forward.

Winnan’s book offers a college course-level text in 3D printing, giving an overview for the novice, while including a detailed history that would appeal to any 3D printing hobbyist or business person looking for a reference to become familiar with the field.  His 286-page work is easy to understand, asking both basic and advanced questions concerning the possible uses of the technology, and its interplay with materials science and other types of engineering study.   He provides an overview of modern technologies, current product on the market, photos of 3D printing innovations, and a history of the technology with analogies to the quick developments and pratfalls of other historic, fast-moving technologies.

The work of Samuel Bernier upcycled products

The work of Samuel Bernier–“upcycled” products.

Winnan includes a great section on future possibilities of using 3D printing with toy miniatures, cosplay, action figures, the 3D photobooth, doll houses, and creating special effects props for motion pictures.  Golf tees, buttons, virtually any product is a prospective target for the 3D printing entrepreneurial business.  Implications for printing prosthetic body parts for endangered species victims of tusk removal and similar uses are particularly intriguing, as well as “upcycling”–the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of a better quality or a higher environmental value.  Winnan also devotes much material to using developments in China and other Asian markets as sources for ideas for the rest of the world.

Actual eagle whose damaged beak was repaired using 3D printing

Actual eagle whose damaged beak was repaired using 3D printing.

Those new to 3d printing will be surprised at how much has been done and how many resources are available to experts and novices alike.  The book includes many citations, cross-references and links to other works to allow readers to pursue even more information about the technology.  Winnan also includes an in-depth discussion of global issues implicated by 3D printing, and in doing so he sets the framework for the questions countries should be asking as they develop laws allowing the promotion of large-scale 3D printing opportunities.

Dodecahedron lamp made by Bathsheba Grossman

Dodecahedron lamp made by Bathsheba Grossman.

The greatest takeaway from Winnan is that whereas the technology and scope of ideas for 3D printing is worldwide and growing, the fact is that businesses, investment, practical applications are not yet focused on 3D printing.  Like dot coms in the 1990s, 3D printing could be the next innovation like PC computing, data transfer, the Internet, and wireless technology.  As Winnan says in his book, “we now have this fantastic technology in our hands, but what are we going to do with it?”

3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush – Future Factories and How to Capitalize on Distributed Manufacturing is available at Amazon.com.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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3D printer at Maker Faire KC

By C.J. Bunce

Last June we first reported here at borg.com on breakthroughs in 3D printing technology allowing scientists to begin creating actual borg replacement body parts–all printed via modern 3D printers.  This included organ printing–actually printing a human jaw bone and soft tissue 3D printed artificial human heart.  Princeton scientists have created a bionic ear via 3D printing, using calf cells, polymer gel, and silver nano particles.  Oxford Performance Materials has used 3D printed plastic to make artificial bones, to replace damaged bones in humans.

Researchers have used 3D printing recently for other novel uses.

King Richard III 3D printed bust

This year Caroline Wilkinson at the University of Dundee in England used a 3D printer to show the world how King Richard III actually looked.  McGill University’s Redpath Museum has used 3D printing to replicate women’s hairstyles from ancient Egyptian mummies.  One group even put together a rudimentary rifle this year that fired a small-caliber bullet.

Make no mistake–3D printing is the technology of the future and this week NASA showed its interest by funding a $125,000 study in printing food.  It’s not a lot of money for a project with such profound possibilities, but it’s a good start.  Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRD) of Austin, Texas, won the contract.  A NASA representative indicated they should be able to get through phase one development with the funds.  SMRD used a prototype to print chocolate via its food synthesizer.  For the sci-fi-minded, think food replicator.

Food printing is not new.  Some news agencies like Fox News have reported in error this week that the NASA-funded project will make the world’s first 3D food printer.  Not so.  The Los Angeles company Sugar Lab and Cornell University researchers have already used 3D printers to make desert products from printed sugar, batter and corn dough.  No doubt several creators demonstrating their 3D printers at Maker Faires have used food products in their printing.

Casein coated frozen pizza

Casein coated frozen pizza–yum!

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By C.J. Bunce

From Transformers to soft tissue… can we connect the dots?

Remember not long ago if you wanted a home printer the then-big thing was the dot matrix printer, which printed dot letters on printer paper where you needed to then tear off the edges used to feed the paper from a roll?  It wasn’t long until we all used desktop inkjet printers–what many of us still use today, and then good ol’ laser printers.  But go back for a second and take a look at that inkjet printer.  The future of medicine is in its design.

Last June we reported on Maker Faire, a unique group of people all across the country that get together each year in different cities to discuss and share creative pursuits of any imaginable variety.  Maker Faires last year featured makers of art using paint, wood, ceramics, makers of science using computers and elaborate machines, car builders, fashion and costume makers, chefs, flower arrangers, electrical engineers, writers–designers of every kind set up displays and performances showcasing the past, present and future of technology and ideas.  It was and–at Maker Faires coming soon to a city near you–will be it’s own petri dish and melting pot, fertile turf to merge technologies to solve problems and think bigger.

The 3D printer at Maker Faire

I was amazed at a display at the Kansas City Maker Faire showcasing the printing of 3D models using printers.  These 3D printers not only printed objects that could be used in and of themselves–like components for fasteners in washing machines or circuit boards–they also printed the very components of the printer itself, more efficiently and quickly than something like injection molding.  Yes, you can build–and buy at the Faire for a few hundred dollars–a 3D ceramics printer that would use instructions from your computer to take plastic thread and melt it into various components that could be assembled for you to make more printers and sell them if you want.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg, or the 3D printer or the 3D printer?  At the time I was thinking about ways to make TV and movie props from CAD designs.  I wasn’t thinking big enough apparently.

In fact, between last June and last Fall I caught a re-run on the Science Channel of an episode of TV series Science at the Movies hosted by Nar Williams.  Williams introduced us to Fxperts, Inc., a prop house for Hollywood flicks building a larger than life Bumblebee Transformer for one of the Transformers movies, beginning with converting digital designs to three dimensions via printing technologies.   So Hollywood was already using this technology on a big scale, at least for some cutting edge (aka expensive) projects like this big budget summer blockbuster.

From drawing…

… to three dimensions.

But how can static 3D printed creations help human science?  You can print any static three dimensional project with even bigger and better printers.  But what about non-static objects?

Thursday, reader Susan Fourtané, a writer and journalist writing at EnterpriseEfficiency.com, made the connection between recent innovations in 3D printing in orthopedic research and the cyborg Six Million Dollar Man in her article “3D Printed Body Parts.”  In her article shes cites some incredible innovations, including the European Medical Device Technology (EMDT.co.uk) online magazine’s report on “Innovations in Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing” in its January 26, 2012 online issue and Orthotec.com’s February 7, 2012 report “First in Innovation: Designer Implant Replaces Patient’s Lower Jaw.”

The EMDT article discusses the rapid creation and deployment of technologies that can quicken research by creating 3D prototypes to beta test procedures, such as a mock surgery before an actual surgery using a fully mapped 3D replica of the area of the patient needing the procedure.  Using “additive engineering”–basically advanced printing methods of what the folks at Maker Faire were demonstrating last year–a  company is using 3D printing for “tissue engineering.”  The German company, envisionTEC GmbH, has developed a machine that can print soft tissues, the 3-D Bioplotter.  As quoted by EMDT, “The 3D-Bioplotter can process high-temperature polymer melts and ceramic materials for bone regeneration, as well as silicones for surgical restoration and finally very soft hydrogels for soft tissue regeneration, as well as organ printing,” said envisionTEC GmbH Dipl. Chemist Carlos Carvalho.

A printer used to print a biological heart.

The Orthotec.com article refers to a real-world successful implant last June of a 3D printed titanium lower jawbone, which completely replaced a bone damaged by infection in an adult woman. That woman could speak again and use the jaw within hours of the operation.  The implant was created under the direction of Jules Poukens, MD, a craniomaxillofacial surgeon at University Hospital Maastricht in the Netherlands, and a team of researchers and surgeons from Belgium and the Netherlands.

There is at least one surgeon taking the next step, from not just creating different bone types for replacement in the body (which is cool by itself), but to growing biological material, and not just growing it–he already created a bladder and other tissues from cell material–he now focuses on growing and regenerating tissues and organs.  It’s the stuff of Dr. Frankenstein and political and ethical debates across the globe.  That surgeon is Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  His team engineered the first lab-grown organ to be implanted into a human–that bladder I mentioned above–and is working on experimental fabrication technology to print human tissue, on demand.  Dr. Atala has said his lab uses a desktop inkjet printer “but instead of using ink, we’re using cells.”

Do you want to know more?  Check out this video where Dr. Atala prints organs.  That’s right.  Prints organs.

Consider that 90% of people on organ donor wait lists need a kidney transplant.  Incredible stuff, and another step towards implementing borg technology in real life.

Thanks to Susan Fourtané for connecting the dots for us.

We have the technology… that could soon allow injured people to become fully autonomous again as cybernetic humans.  The future is closer than you might think.

Yesterday in an article in the journal Nature, researchers took another step forward in creating borg technology that one day may allow paraplegics and amputees to fully utilize advanced prosthetics to replace their missing limbs.  In their article “Reach and grasp by people with tetraplegia using a neurally controlled robotic arm,” Leigh R. Hochberg, Daniel Bacher, Beata Jarosiewicz, Nicolas Y. Masse, John D. Simeral, Joern Vogel, Sami Haddadin, Jie Liu, Sydney S. Cash, Patrick van der Smagt, and John P. Donoghue authored a study whereby two participants–years after their last productive use of their brains to control limb movement–were able to use an implanted neural interface, called the “BrainGate,” a pocket of electronic chips placed in the brain, to transmit commands to hard-wired three-dimensional devices to direct simulated limb movement.  A tetraplegic woman was able to use her own mind to move an artificial hand to allow her to drink unaided for the first time in nearly fifteen years.

Yesterday’s research was the first published demonstration that humans with severe brain injuries can practically control a prosthetic arm, using implants in the brain to transmit neural signals to an external computer.

Expanding on this research, it is easy to envision the possibilities of an advanced set of prosthetics attached to the human body that could one day serve as replacements for arms and legs–actual, useful borg technology to improve human life beyond that of current prosthetic arms and legs–for those people who have lost the functioning internal hard-wiring needed to complete even the most simple everyday tasks.

Study participant Cathy Hutchinson uses her thoughts to drink without anyone’s assistance for the first time in 15 years.

“Paralysis following spinal cord injury, brainstem stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other disorders can disconnect the brain from the body, eliminating the ability to perform volitional movements. A neural interface system could restore mobility and independence for people with paralysis by translating neuronal activity directly into control signals for assistive devices,” the study reported.  “Here we demonstrate the ability of two people with long-standing tetraplegia to use neural interface system-based control of a robotic arm to perform three-dimensional reach and grasp movements.”

With little advance direction, a 58-year-old woman and 66 year old man who had suffered debilitating strokes were able to use a small group of neurons in their brain stems connected via a 96-channel microelectrode array to operate a hand and arm machine.  The 58-year-old woman, using a sensor implanted 5 years earlier, used a robotic arm to drink coffee from a bottle.  “Our results demonstrate the feasibility for people with tetraplegia, years after injury to the central nervous system, to recreate useful multidimensional control of complex devices directly from a small sample of neural signals,” the study said.

Charts from the study showing the BrainGate process.

The basic commands used electronic signal patterns to direct the machine to move “left,” “right” and “down”.  The interface was centered on the participants’ heads, but future research could include the sending of wireless signals, although this has not yet been realized.  The BrainGate2 project furthered an earlier 2006 study that allowed a man to use his thoughts to move a computer cursor as part of an early phase of this research project.  Although practical application is likely years away because of FDA approvals and necessary improvements, news of this study will hopefully cause other researchers to expand the reach of this work.

More information and the complete journal report can be found at Nature.com.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

The ultimate in original borg technology could be yours.  For the right price.

Auction house Profiles in History‘s Icons of Hollywood auction is December 15-16, 2011, and it offers another round of some of the best props and costumes Hollywood has to offer, from a set of Dorothy’s actual screen-used slippers from Wizard of Oz to Mork’s outfit from Mork & Mindy to Steve McQueen’s naval uniform from The Sand Pebbles to one of the cars used as the General Lee in Dukes of Hazzard to a DeLorean from Back to the Future III we discussed here this summer, to an original Dalek from Doctor Who.  There’s something at the coming auction for everyone.

But for fans of cybernetics, cyborgs, and bionics, and other early borg technologies, and fans of the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman, nothing is cooler than the special effects arm modeled off of Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman.  Next to one of the Bionic Man’s red jumpsuits (anyone have one for sale? let me know!) this is a great prop that gets to the heart of what the series was about.

It is a special effects arm made of latex, wires, springs, a circuit board and circuitry, used to show the implanting of an “evil programming chip” used as a key story element in the 1994 TV movie Bionic Ever After?, the show where Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers finally tie the knot.  It includes clamps, syringes and tubing, that is reminscent of the popular toy repair center from the 1970s.

The prop was used in a scene where the bad guys perform surgery on a drugged Jaime, implanting a chip with a computer virus in it to make her bionics go haywire.

It is estimated to sell for at least $2,000-$3,000.  It comes from the collection of movie makeup guru Jeff Goodwin, as discussed on this website, where you can see photos of other items he consigned to the coming Profiles in History auction.

More information on the auction can be found at the Profiles in History website.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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