The 9 weirdest 3D-printed objects with scientific uses
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From custom toys to life-saving medical devices, the range of what can be created with 3D printing is massive.
Some of what’s being 3D printed today could have huge implications for science tomorrow, even if some of it seems a little bizarre.
Here are the 9 weirdest things that can be 3D printed (and are actually useful).
9. Mini-brain nurseries
Scientists from MIT and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras created a small, 3D-printed bioreactor, which they used to grow brain organoids.
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8. Nasal swabs
Research led by the University of South Florida shows that 3D-printed nasal swabs work just as well as the standard swabs used to test for Covid-19. Swabs can be 3D printed for less than half the cost of commercial swabs.
Printed organs have also been used to train surgeons on realistic and easily obtainable models.
Researchers in Singapore created a new type of food-based “ink” for 3D printers that keeps nutrients intact. They say it could make pureed food more palatable for hospital patients — and it even tastes good.
Scientists at Newcastle University created the first 3D-printed cornea in 2018. Donated corneas are scarce and scientists are hoping to replace current synthetic corneas, which aren’t as clear as real ones.
In 2019, scientists in South Korea used stem cells to print a cornea designed to be more easily accepted after transplant and is almost as transparent as a normal cornea.
In 2013, the first 3D-printed gun — called the Liberator — spurred debate over whether plans for firearms should be legal.
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Critics today highlight the danger of making guns accessible without a background check. Advocates claim they have a right to distribute plans for guns and argue they’re too impractical to pose a danger.
2. Smart fiber
Researchers from the University of Cambridge created 3D-printed fibers thinner than a human hair. These can be used to make lightweight respiratory sensors.
Devices made with these fibers could monitor the wearer’s breath for medical tests or help create more effective face masks by testing for leaks.