What the World has to Benefit from 3D Printing

Hello all,

I’m excited to share with you a post from a potential new author Tito who could be joining the Passion For STEM team and focusing on Engineering topics.

Susan

Author: Tito Adesanya

Imagine a world where you could take a few dozen images of your brother’s head and within an hour have it delivered to your doorstep in titanium, or in chocolate, if you really wanted – I did it last week. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, that’s our world. Begin digression…

This niche of technology is called 3D scanning, and as already seen impactful use the medical field where doctors have taken multiple images of the severed damaged head of a patient and with the click of a button, transformed it into a 3-dimensional image on a computer screen. This allowed them to zoom in (X100) on blood vessels, rotate the image to assess damage on the chin, and pan over the skull to search for open wounds – all without physically manipulating the fragile and sensitive head. The gem of this technology, though fantastic, can be found at its intersection with 3D printing. Uploading this same head onto some 3D printing software can be done in the same time and be printed. If you were wondering – yes, you can also scan and print and THE Eiffel Tower. Digression over.

3D printing, developed by Chuck Hull in 1983, has since only gained serious traction within the last 10 years, as machines have become over 300 times cheaper. This increased accessibility to the public has paved the way for hobbyists and academics to take centre stage and push the boundaries of what was thought was possible. Since, the University of Southampton has designed and produced the first fully 3D-printed plane, a high-end restaurant in London called Food Ink have 3D printed cakes and Master’s Degree students at MIT printed an entire bungalow in under 24 hours.

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The basic technology behind 3D printing, technically called additive layer manufacturing (ALM), initially on ran on a method called stereolithography, but up to 6 further methods have been developed since then. ALM works by taking a computer design of an object, then “slicing” it up into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers – increasing the number of slices increases the quality of the print. The printer then produces the 3D object by printing out these layers on top of each other from the bottom up to form the final product. 3D printing is seeing an increasing number of valuable, and very potentially life-changing uses, many of them gaining increasing support from governmental bodies.

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Advances in tendinopathy

Previously I have touched on my summer research project on tendinopathy but today I thought I would share a bit of what I have done with you all, enjoy!

The driving force behind my research was due to the fact that soft tissue disorders represent the third most common musculoskeletal condition in the UK with 18 cases per 1000. These primarily affect tendons, accounting for 30% of all rheumatological consultations with a general practitioner. Causes are multifactorial but with an ever increasing number of professional athletes and also an ageing population whose tendons decrease in elasticity; there is an annual estimated cost to the NHS of £250 million. Though molecular pathophysiology of tendinopathy remains incompletely understood key inflammatory mediators such as proinflammatory cytokines are found to play a vital role.

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This little fella is tenascin-C

The extracellular matrix molecule tenascin-C is highly expressed during embryonic development, in pathological situations such as chronic inflammation, cancer. By this report it is found to be at significantly higher levels during diseased tendon tissue repair as compared to healthy tendons to carry out its role as an inflammatory mediator and induce inflammation in attempts to repair the diseased tendon. Tenascin-C prolongs inflammation at site of trauma and leads to further tendon damage. These results provide useful insight into the complex cross-regulation of inflammation and tissue remodelling mediated by tenascin-C.

Some background information

Tendons are a band of flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects muscle to bone. They are present in joints and largely inelastic to conserve energy whilst transmitting the contractile movement of muscle to move bone. Despite the frequent mention of tendinopathy, tendons are in fact extremely tough it is found that collagen fibrillogenesis begins as an assembly of collagen molecules in a series of extracellular compartments, progressing through post-depositional maturation leading to thicker and longer fibrils and ending in their coalescence in the final stages of fibre production.

 

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Figure 1Various tendons on the body which are affected by tendinopathy especially the Achilles tendon and rotator cuff

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My mind-changing Science Summer School experience

Summer School Accomodation

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th July 2017 I had attended a residential Sciences Summer School which made me even more set on a future career in STEM (which I didn’t think was possible, haha) and especially medicine. Moreover, I made an abundance of fellow nerd friends who didn’t make me feel as lonely. There were a total of 58 fifth year pupils from all different backgrounds, Scottish, English, Welsh and 1 lone Northern Irish guy but somehow we all connected in a way which prior to the summer school, I believe to be impossible in the span of only a week.

Sunday

To give myself enough time to travel to the college, I had packed up my bags a day before and arrived to explore the city. Like the tourist I was, I stocked up on a plethora of various fridge magnets depicting medieval buildings and misleadingly sunny postcards which did not accurately depict the British weather. We (10 other people who also travelled down on Sunday) met and were instantly friends. I tried my hand at the out of tune piano and out problems just melted away for a while under the diminishing sunlight.

Monday

After everyone else arrived and the different procedural introductions we got stuck in problem solving. (Note: the icebreaker we had to go through did not in fact break-the-ice for it was a bingo involving facts of students. An absurd example being to find someone with blue socks which I was only one of a precious few.) The director of studies did not treat us like kids, as a brilliant mathematician he questioned our intuition. After explaining Claude Shannon’s Information theory, he asked an array of mind-bending questions, but even the simplest one caused commotion amongst budding mathematicians:

I have a bottle and a cap, together costing £1.10. The bottle costs exactly £1 more than the cap so my questions to you is: How much does the cap cost?”

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On Public Opinions of Space Exploration

While my lovely co-writer friend Jiangmin has been having a summer holiday filled with medicine, biological research and UKCAT revision (good luck!), she’s headed off this week to complete a Summer school course – just wanted to say, all the best Jiangmin!

I thought this week I might leave Physics aside for a little and talk about the importance of space flight and exploration, especially the Mars issue.

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Many leading scientists believe that in order for humans to progress and maintain our survival we must think about progressing in terms of space exploration, whether that be missions like Juno and Cassini to aid research on planetary science, missions like Voyager – the furthest space craft from Earth to explore the outskirts of the solar system or actually sending humans to Mars which seems to either be the general public’s cup of tea, or not.

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My month as an immunologist

logoAs mentioned in one of my previous posts [click here] this summer I am undertaking a biomedical research project in collaboration with the Nuffield foundation on the topic of: “The role of Tenascin C in tendinopathy”. My main goal for tackling on this ‘challenge’ (I guess) was to engage in some real life science and to better myself in preparation for university. Though I am fortunate to attend a school which go out of their way to provide specialised scientific equipment, I had never experienced university style labs in (as the researchers I worked with called it) the big bad world. I realised that I took for granted the seemingly simple apparatuses such as autoclaves and centrifuges as some undergraduates haven’t even seen one in real life until university, never mind using them. I was overjoyed to leave the world of school bucket chemistry behind which solely consisted of school technicians tirelessly making up solutions only for us to haphazardly throw them all together to see the really tell-tale signs such as a colour change. No, I savoured every moment of making my own discoveries, never again shall I robotically repeat the same boring experiments to end up with a result I already knew.

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