3D-Printed Fish Microrobots With Functional Nanoparticles

Fluorescent image demonstrating the detoxification capability of the microfish containing PDA nanoparticles Image UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego developed a new 3D-printing technology to fabricate fish-shaped microrobots, chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled. 

The microfish herald a new generation of smart microrobots with diverse capabilities, such as detoxification, sensing and directed drug delivery.

Providing improvements over previous microrobots, which are typically much simpler in design and made of homogeneous inorganic materials and thus limited to far less sophisticated tasks, the new technique can fabricate more complex microfish, with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. 

The nanoengineers integrated functional nanoparticles into the fish, such as platinum nanoparticles in the tails that react with hydrogen peroxide to propel the microfish forward and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads to enable steering the fish with magnets. 

Microfish smaller than the width of a human hair

What is truly innovative about these nanodevices is integrating this nanotechnology — the nanomotors, nanoparticles and so forth — with 3D-printing. “Figuring out how to embed nanotechnology into the 3D-printing process is a big challenge,” says Professor Shaochen Chen in UC San Diego’s nanoengineering department. He goes on to say that his team was eventually able overcame that hurdle by meticulously investigating the materials and fabrication issues for the fish. 

The new method for engineering these microdevices, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, is based on a rapid, high-resolution 3D-printing technology called microscale continuous optical printing (μCOP), which was developed in Chen’s lab. Key applications for microrobots such as these 3D-printed fish could include drug delivery, environmental detoxification, water cleaning and surgical microrobots that operate with beyond-human precision. 

To demonstrate their proof-of-concept, the researchers embedded toxin-neutralizing polydiacetylene (PDA) nanoparticles throughout the bodies of the microfish to capture harmful pore-forming toxins, such as the ones found in bee venom. 

Written by Sandra Henderson, Research Editor, Novus Light Technologies Today

Cool Hand Luke and his father print functional 3D hands

Updated: Sun, Aug 16 2015, 11:52 PM

FALMOUTH, Ky. (Brad Underwood) — You can make just about anything with a 3D printer and inside the Dennison home, the printers are constantly working to improve the life of 8-year-old Lucas (Luke) Dennison.

Dennison was born without fingers on his left hand after developing symbrachydactyly, a congenital abnormality of the hand. But two years ago, Dennison’s father, Gregg, discovered 3D printing changing his son’s life.

“He was a little shy about it growing up, hiding his hands if people were staring,” said Gregg Dennison.  “Now it doesn’t’ affect him,  he shows it off.  If somebody says why are you wearing that? He gladly take his hand off and show them what he’s got underneath.”

And when a new hand is made, Luke can’t wait to test it out.

“When I get a new hand I’m really excited for it. It might have new differences in it to  make it look better and do more things,” said Luke.

In 2013, Gregg Dennison started researching 3D printing and what it could do to change Luke’s life. Two years later, they’ve made about a dozen hands, all prototypes, using printers made in Europe by Ultimaker.

Now instead of making multiple trips at dinner time, Luke can carry his plate and cup. He can also play catch with two hands and he has better control while riding the horses at the family’s farm in Falmouth.

“With the hand I can hold two reins, I also can grab onto the horn on the saddle and pull myself up,” said Luke.

But Gregg isn’t just improving his son’s life, he’s a volunteer with e-NABLE, a group that makes life easier for kids and adults like his son using 3D printing technology.

In October, Gregg and Luke will head to Seattle for an e-NABLE conference to give kids new hands they’ve made.

“This is all 31 pieces for a raptor reloaded hand, it will be donated to a little girl at the conference. “

The pair will also attend the upcoming Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire at the Cincinnati Museum Center to show the functional hands.

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Fully functional 114-part tape measure 3D printed in one print run

An aeromechanical engineer has managed to design and 3D print a fully functional, fully assembled tape measure.

(Credit: Angry Monk)

Sometimes, you just have to do a thing to see if it can be done. That was the reasoning behind a project by an aeromechanical engineer going by the handle Angry Monk: to 3D print a functional tape measure, fully assembled off the print bed, in just a single print session.

Such a task would not be achievable using the lower-end consumer models, such as those by 3D Systems, that simply use thermoplastic fused deposition modelling; that is, simply laying down filament.

Instead, the technique used is known as stereolithography, or SLA, which involves treating resin material with ultraviolet light in order to cure it. Using an Objet Eden 3D printer (starting at around US$100,000 for the lowest model), the process in this case consists of spraying the resin onto the build tray in microfine layers, curing each one with a UV laser according to the blueprint before adding the next. This allows the printing of fully assembled, articulated objects that can be handled immediately, with a gel-like support material that can be simply rinsed off in water.

Angry Monk’s tape measure, with four feet (122 centimetres) of tape, is constructed of 114 separate parts. This includes the case of the tape measure, the tape itself with individual links, a fold-out crank for winding the tape back inside the case, a lock and a belt clip. The crank, lock and clip were all stress tested to make sure they wouldn’t break, since the resin itself is fairly brittle.

“I would really have liked to print a one-piece flexible tape or even a spring retractable tape but due to limitations in printing technology and material (and me not wanting to turn this into a giant research project) I couldn’t do that,” Angry Monk wrote on his blog. “Springs are one of the things that are difficult to print, especially in a brittle material. Springs with a preload are, as far as I know, impossible to print.”

The tape measure itself isn’t, as Angry Monk notes, of much practical use; but the fact that it is possible to 3D print a fully assembled, 114-part object is pretty danged cool indeed.

Check it out for yourself in Angry Monk’s video below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1z5zAEpUIw&w=600&h=338]