THE HOT THREE: Top 3D printing creations of the week (28th February)

3. Chinese military 3D print frighteningly accurate terrain map of Lanzhau City

The Chinese military, working alongside a research team in the Measuring and Mapping Information Centre in the Lanzhau Military Area Command, have printed an ultra-realistic A4 terrain map of Lanzhau City.

3D printed map

The city, which is the capital of the Ning Xia Hui autonomous region, has been reproduced with its land, buildings, water and topography all to scale, in jaw dropping 0.1mm print precision.

Usually, maps of this type take about three weeks to put together using sand tables and, at best, offer a precision of 1mm. This one took just 8 hours and is far more cost effective, lightweight and portable.

Whatever your feelings about the Chinese government or the technology being used for military purposes, it’s a stunning example of 3D printing, showing just how much precision it can offer.

2. 4 AXYZ’s 3D printed furniture and the possibility of Smart Wood

Last year 4 AXYZ’s CEO Samir Shah announced the 3D print firm would be entering the world of wooden furniture. The revelation got much industry attention, as truly effective wood printing is still rare. Well, this week at the Launch festival in San Francisco, we saw the first fruits of this labour. Using an 3D adaptation of an existing German woodwork machine, the furniture was created by combining wood pieces online casino that had been precisely cut.

3D printed furniture

This reduces the high labour costs related to customised furniture and thus offers customers on a budget the chance to get the exact size and shape of sofa, stool, table or chair they wish. As the pieces are designed using CAD software, the designer can easily modify an item of furniture based on a client’s request.

Smart Wood AXYZ 3D printing

Perhaps more interesting, however, was 4 AXYZ’s announcement that it is developing a so called ‘Smart Wood’ in collaboration with Portuguese company A Catedral.  The material would be wood containing embedded sensors that can detect when people are close or the temperature rises or falls, adapting to match the atmospheric change.

The next step is to create a prototype machine to print Smart Wood.

1. Historically significant whale graveyard, 3D scanned and put online by Smithsonian scientists

One of the most ancient archaeological mysteries is that of whale graveyards – mass death sites of a huge number of whales that seem to all expired, almost simultaneously, on the same spot. Back in 2010, such a site was discovered in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, containing fossils that were at least 6 to 9 million years old.

Whale fossil graveyard in Chile

Smithsonian and Chilean scientists went to work on the site and came up with a historic conclusion. The whales had been, most likely, poisoned by algal bloom that they had either inhaled in the water or consumed through fish that had been contaminated. Once they died, their bodies were washed into a nearby estuary and buried beneath the sand.

Though this finding represents a major breakthrough, the research was not finished and lots more work was still to be done. Yet there was a problem: this particular whale graveyard had been discovered on the proposed site of a brand new Pan American highway and construction needed to continue.

3D printing fossils

The fossils themselves were moved to museums in the Chilean cities of Santiago and Caldera but Smithsonian palaeontologists wanted to preserve as much of the site as possible both for future research and for public viewing. This is where 3D scanning comes in.

The researchers from the Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Programme spent a year making precise scans of the area and the fossils, capturing the exact condition and arrangements of the skeletons. This meant their work could continue long into the future. Even better, all the scans and maps are available to download and browse online here. There is, genuinely, no better way to kill an hour or so this afternoon.

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