THE HOT THREE: Top 3D print stories of the week (15th November)

3. Be a ‘better best friend’ with the PetBot


Is the fast pace of the modern world robbing you of quality time with your favourite four legged friend? Then a team of University of Toronto students have the very thing for you: PetBot, a 3D printed, remote-controlled household appliance that allows you to chat to and feed your dog or cat when your hectic life keeps you away from home.

Powered by Raspberry-Pi, the PetBot essentially combines a webcam, a treat dispenser and image recognition software. When your pet walks near the device, a notification is sent to your phone. You can then open up your camera on either your phone or the PetBot website, from which you can view, talk to or even give treats to the animal. The camera is remotely controllable, so you can always keep doggy dearest on the screen.

The team, lead by Computational Biology MA student Misko Dzamba, plan to make the 3D print files and assembly instructions open source, once the project is complete.

Though launched on Kickstarter back on October 30th, the device received a flurry of press attention early this week. With 13 days left in the campaign, however, it is still quite a distance from its goal with $7,154 of the $20,000 target raised.

If you want to get your hands on a PetBot, the only way to make it so is by getting behind the cause. Back it with $150 or more and you’ll get your very own CAD PetBot kit when the product is ready to ship.

2. The 3D printed Italian electric motorbike

Though it is not the first vehicle to be manufactured using 3D printing, the Energica Ego from the Modena based CRP Group is almost certainly one of the most impressive. Created using components made with Selective Laser Sintering and Windform (a polyamide-based material with carbon fibres) this bike can hit speeds of 240 km per hour. Oh, and it runs on electricity.

3D printed motorbike

Of course, other electric Italian motorcycles have been produced over the years but this is the first that can reach the speeds and power of the country’s traditional endothermal bikes. Its efficient too, charging in just 30 minutes on DC and a little under 3 hours on AC.

Not all parts of the bike were additive manufactured, however. SLS was used for a number of the components, including the fairings and headlight covers but the electrical parts were created using traditional methods.  What’s more, when it goes on sale in 2015 it will be mass produced with subtractive means.

That doesn’t stop it being yet another startling example of 3D printing’s status as an increasingly ubiquitous prototyping tool for the ambitious, innovative manufacturer.

1. The 3D printed liver that last 40 days

3DP LiverWhile robotic pet-nannies and high speed cyber-bikes are all very well, as per usual it is a medical innovation that tops our Hot Three list. San Diego medical research company Organovo announced last weekend the printing of part of a human liver that can function for 40 days. Built with layers of hepatocytes cells (those are the cells that carry out liver functions in case you, like us, didn’t know) and cells taken from the lining of a blood vessel, the printed liver has enough nutrients and oxygen to survive long periods.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should note that these liver parts are far smaller than an actual human liver (they are about ½ mm x 4 mm, depth x width), plus they do not contain the complicated network of blood vessels at work inside the real organ. That makes this 3D liver tissue no good for transplants. What it may be useful for, however, is toxicology testing and faster drug development.

Rather than make fools of ourselves trying to explain the science, we’ll offer you a quote directly from Organovo themselves to explain why this is so:

Organovo’s 3D liver tissues exhibit(s) dose-dependent responses to acetaminophen, a known liver toxicant, and that the toxic effects can be assessed using both standard screening assays and histopathological assessment of the treated tissue.  The data demonstrate that Organovo’s 3D Liver tissue can potentially have value in assessing toxicology problems in human liver over a long period, including sub-acute and multiple dose effects.

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