Have you heard how amazing 3D printing is? It's a little hard to wrap your head around, at first. One might assume that 3D printing refers to printing images on three-dimensional objects instead of two-dimensional surfaces. In fact--and the reason scientists, designers and futurists are so excited about 3D printing--the new technology allows us to print actual objects. Until recently, 3D printers were slow, expensive and somewhat limited to replicating simple objects, but advances announced this week extend the possibilities of 3D printing well into the realm of science fiction.
The basics: 3D printing works by stacking differently shaped layers of matter on top of each other to create the desired object. (It's not wildly different than a robot building a brick house using a pre-programmed digital blue print.) The thinner the layers, the more complex the objects can be. Using high powered lasers, new advancements allow scientists to work on a molecular level, and the results are stunning.
News emerged Friday morning that German researchers had perfected a method for printing human blood vessels, a key advancement in the development of artificial tissue. Though scientists have engineered biological materials successfully in the past using 3D printing technology, the new technique allows for a level of microscopic detail and complexity that stands to change everything from medicine to manufacturing. Capillaries specifically will help improve the likelihood of transplant donors accepting new organs.