3-D Printing & “Organic” Manufacturing

The Economist had a correspondent at the recent Euromold conference in Frankfurt.  They filed an interesting report on how 3-D printing (aka “additive manufacturing”) is not only changing the manufacturing process, but also how products are designed.  The process enables fabricators to closely copy design solutions found in nature:

An excellent example of deliberately copying nature is an artificial hip made by Materialise, a Belgian firm. Not only do real bones have curves that mass production would find it impossible to reproduce, they are also slightly different from one individual to another. Additive manufacturing has no difficulty with such bespoke products. Each hip can be crafted precisely for the intended patient. All that is required is a slight tweak of the software that controls the printer. Even better, the technique can do something that not even a human craftsman could manage: it can copy in the titanium of which the implant is made, the fine, lattice-like internal structure of natural bone. This makes the implant lighter, without loss of strength. It also lets it integrate easily with the patient’s actual bone.

Cool or what?  You can read the full story here.

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