Sunday, July 14, 2013

liquid metal 3D Printer Shapeways3d printing is a new and exciting field in the world of design.  It has become an incredible tool for creating the relics bound within our imaginations and gives us a way to give them tangibility.  3d printing and rendering has come a long way since my professors’ education in the nineties where CAD was a complex programming software that you had to grapple with, let alone the cost of materials. Now our fortunate generation is the one with technology at our fingertips.  We have several different auto CAD programs at our mercy that we wield to create objects from a long list of very cost effective materials that our fore fathers of the CAD-iverse did not have.  It even has come to the point that I know several people with their own personal 3d printer and I myself plan to get one.  A few years ago the tech nerd would drop a small fortune on a maker-bot that they would assemble themselves, and that maker-bot would take several hours to heat abs nylon through a tube to create your object.  Now we have small 3d printers available for around $2000 that can print in multiple materials quickly and more efficiently than its maker-bot predecessor.   It’s incredibly the leaps and bounds that the 3d printing realm has taken in the last few years.

Here I have linked a video of one of the latest feats our generation has opened up to the world of 3d printing. Printing liquid metal, developed by a team at North Carolina University, they have found a way to oxidize the surface of a small bead of liquid metal to stabilize it enough so that it can remain in liquid form to create malleable liquid metal structures.  We are very used to heating polymer materials that quickly cool into non-malleable structures when taken away from its heat source.  Here we have a material that stays liquid in room temperature allowing further manipulation which can lead to huge leaps and bounds for the technology field when it comes to computer parts, wires, connectors, electrodes, etc.   Anyone who has worked with metal knows that metal, to become liquid, needs intense heat typically from a torch, and it does not stay liquid when that heat source is removed.  It cools far too quickly, but this technique finds a way around that reality.  From what I understand the metal they have chosen to work with is gallium.  It is a very soft metal that does not appear in nature.  

Gallium has a very low melting point, just above room temperature.  It has been reported that if the element is held long enough it will melt in your hand.  I know it seems less impressive using such a soft malleable metal for this technique, but the metal does have the conductivity needed for electronics and it could lead to new ways of printing with precious metals down the road.  I look forward to where this will lead printing with metals since we typically tend to focus on printing with polymers.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Farlow's Scientific Glassblowing Inc Takes An Artistic Look At Learning

So I came across a rather interesting company on the interwebs that does these phenomenal medical models that are completely rendered out of glass.  Farlow’s Scientific Glassblowing Inc. is a company based in California who feel very strongly that a learning tool can also be beautiful.  I have taken numerous biology and anatomy courses and have never come across a model that could be classified as art.

 Here we have a company that takes the artery system of the brain and creates a meticulous representation utilizing transparent glass tubes to depict the flow path that the blood takes.  The best part about this piece is that it is not just aesthetic but a fully functional model as well, so you can actually see the blood flow through the system.  Another model that really blew my mind (no pun intended) was the aneurysm model which shows the swollen area that happens in the artery by having a bubbled area in the glass tube in which blood will pool.  In addition to these models are ones for the heart, lungs, sinus, and other body systems.

However the most impressive model by far is the full size demonstrator system that they have cheekily nicknamed “Mrs. Einstein”.  This model has all the major arteries in the body represented and have them connected properly to the four chambers of the heart, so that this model also allows for functional use.  What is so wonderful about these pieces is that you can clearly see how everything works.  Traditionally most classes use animals to dissect, but even with the injected dyes it is really difficult to see what is going on without constant aid of a book. 

This really reminds me of the "Body Works" exhibit where they take actual bodies donated to science, and pose them so you can see how your body actually performs.  I would love to even see a collaboration or a similar exhibition.  This company is providing people a really beautiful way to learn and proving that learning doesn't have to be uninteresting.  I really hope to see more of these around especially since I haven’t gotten to chance to play with one myself.