Metal ribs made in Spain

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage designed and manufactured right here in Australia, at our Melbourne-based 3D printing facility in Melbourne.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumour that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required for each patient. So the patient’s surgical team determined that a fully customisable 3D printed sternum and rib cage was the best option.

That’s when they turned to Melbourne-based medical device company Anatomics, who designed and manufactured the implant utilising our 3D printing facility, Lab 22.

The news was announced by Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane today. And the news is good, 12 days after the surgery the patient was discharged and has recovered well.

This isn’t the first time surgeons have turned the human body into a titanium masterpiece. Thoracic surgeons typically use flat and plate implants for the chest. However, these can come loose over time and increase the risk of complications. The patient’s surgical team at the Salamanca University Hospital thought a fully customised 3D printed implant could replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs, providing a safer option for the patient.

Using high resolution CT data, the Anatomics team was able to create a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumour, allowing the surgeons to plan and accurately define resection margins. We were then called on to print the sternum and rib cage at Lab 22.

As you could imagine, the 3D printer at Officeworks wasn’t quite up to this challenge. Instead, we relied on our $1.3 million Arcam printer to build up the implant layer-by-layer with its electron beam, resulting in a brand new implant which was promptly couriered to Spain.

This video explains how it all works.

The advantage of 3D printing is its rapid prototyping. When you’re waiting for life-saving surgery this is the definitely the order of the day.

We are no strangers to biomedical applications of 3D printing: in the past we have used our know-how to create devices like the 3D printed heel-bone, or the 3D printed mouth-guard for sleep apnoea suffers.

When it comes to using 3D printing for biomedical applications, it seems that we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. So, we’re keen to partner with biomedical manufacturers to see how we can help solve more unique medical challenges.


Leading all cars, again

Model X is the safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history. Standard with all-wheel drive and a 90 kWh battery providing 250 miles of range, Model X has ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. And it’s ludicrously fast, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds. Model X is the SUV uncompromised.

Every part of Model X is designed with safety as a first priority. The floor-mounted battery lowers the center of gravity so that the risk of rollover is almost nonexistent. The battery structure strengthens Model X against side impact intrusions. And without a gasoline engine, the large front trunk acts as a giant impact-absorbing crumple zone.

Model X continually scans the surrounding roadway with camera, radar and sonar systems, providing the driver with real-time feedback to avoid collisions. Even at highway speeds, Model X will automatically apply brakes in an emergency.

A medical grade HEPA filter strips outside air of pollen, bacteria, viruses and pollution before circulating it into the cabin. There are three modes: circulate with outside air, re-circulate inside air and a bioweapon defense mode that creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants.

Falcon Wing doors allow easy access to second and third row seats from any parking space. Minivan style sliding doors open at most halfway while traditional doors are not capable of opening fully when parked next to another car.

With only a foot of clearance, Falcon Wing doors articulate smoothly up and out of the way, allowing passengers to enter from both front and rear directions. The side and overhead opening is so large that parents can buckle children in without ducking and without bumping their child’s head on the roof.

Model X is able to achieve 250 miles of range in part because it is the most aerodynamic SUV in production. At 0.24, Model X’s drag coefficient is 20% lower than the next best SUV. In addition, an active spoiler deploys to one of three preset positions when Model X is in motion, optimizing visibility, highway efficiency and stability.

Model X has the largest all glass panoramic windshield in production, providing an unparalleled view of the stars and sky above. Optimized solar tinting and obstruction-free view creates unlimited visibility for the driver and all passengers.

Model X comfortably seats seven people in three rows. Every seat is the best seat in the house, but the second row seats are a work of art. Mounted on a single impact absorbing post and independently reclining, each second row seat is designed to maximize passenger comfort, legroom, under seat storage and access to the third row. The third row seats fold flat when not in use.

Stow everyone’s gear in Model X’s large front trunk, rear cargo area and under passenger seats. The front trunk is large enough to hold two golf bags and the rear cargo area can easily hold large items like bicycles, skis and snowboards. Hitch mounted accessory carriers hold additional gear. Model X is the first electric vehicle with a 5,000 pound towing capacity.

The estimated delivery for new reservations is the latter half of 2016


The original smart watches?

The Apple Watch has been out for over two months now, and other modern smartwatches well before that. It’s no longer the stuff of sci-fi to consider using your watch to play music, control your TV, or track your fitness. But these are all things that you’ve been able to do for a surprisingly long time — well, if you maybe lived in Japan in the ‘90s and didn’t mind carrying around a bunch of Casio watches, that is.

At the former home (and, to be frank, dope mansion) of late company co-founder Toshio Kashio, Casio is showing off its rich history of unusual wristwatches, which range from the forward-thinking to the bizarre. It’s a pretty amazing collection, with features I never knew existed in digital timepieces. And while many of these can be seen in a new light given the recent rise to prominence of smartwatches, Casio isn’t trying to claim that it was there first.
Instead, a company representative says: the intent behind the exhibition is to lend context to Casio’s current lineup of more traditional watches. Barring a huge spike in the mid-‘90s when the G-Shock line gained popularity, Casio was never able to achieve major sales growth in the watch segment until more recently, when it started to focus on analog models — some of which have basic Bluetooth functionality, but none of which go to such design extremes.

Does that mean no one wants to do these things on their wrist at all? Even if they can be combined into a sleek, Apple Watch-shaped package? Well, probably not. And chances are the technology has much improved since these watches were on the market. But I was struck by how many smartwatch features considered groundbreaking today were around in some form years or decades ago. It was certainly intriguing not only to see an unparalleled array of gadgetry on display, but to hear the corporation responsible say it didn’t have much interest in adding to the list.

You can see some of Casio’s more outlandish models below.


Origami battery

Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, can be used to create beautiful birds, frogs and other small sculptures. Now a Binghamton University engineer says the technique can be applied to building batteries, too.

Seokheun “Sean” Choi developed an inexpensive, bacteria-powered battery made from paper, he writes in the July edition of the journal Nano Energy.

The battery generates power from microbial respiration, delivering enough energy to run a paper-based biosensor with nothing more than a drop of bacteria-containing liquid. “Dirty water has a lot of organic matter,” Choi says. “Any type of organic material can be the source of bacteria for the bacterial metabolism.”

The method should be especially useful to anyone working in remote areas with limited resources. Indeed, because paper is inexpensive and readily available, many experts working on disease control and prevention have seized upon it as a key material in creating diagnostic tools for the developing world.

“Paper is cheap and it’s biodegradable,” Choi says. “And we don’t need external pumps or syringes because paper can suck up a solution using capillary force.”

While paper-based biosensors have shown promise in this area, the existing technology must be paired with hand-held devices for analysis. Choi says he envisions a self-powered system in which a paper-based battery would create enough energy — we’re talking microwatts — to run the biosensor. Creating such a system is the goal of a new three-year grant of nearly $300,000 he received from the National Science Foundation.

Choi’s battery, which folds into a square the size of a matchbook, uses an inexpensive air-breathing cathode created with nickel sprayed onto one side of ordinary office paper. The anode is screen printed with carbon paints, creating a hydrophilic zone with wax boundaries.

Total cost of this potentially game-changing device? Five cents.

Choi, who joined Binghamton’s faculty less than three years ago as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, earned a doctorate from Arizona State University after doing undergraduate work and a master’s degree in South Korea. Choi, who holds two U.S. patents, initially collaborated on the paper battery with Hankeun Lee, a former Binghamton undergraduate and co-author of the new journal article.

Choi recalls an actual “lightbulb moment” while working on an earlier iteration of the paper-based batteries, before he tried the origami approach. “I connected four of the devices in series, and I lit up this small LED,” he says. “At that moment, I knew I had done it!”


The hyperloop is near

AUSTIN, Tex.—Speaking to a packed ballroom at the Austin Hilton, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk outlined Tesla Motors’ plans to reintroduce legislation during the 2015 Texas legislative session to allow the electric car manufacturer to sell direct to consumers. Musk’s trademark off-the-cuff style seemed to sit well with the audience, which applauded several times when Musk talked about how he believes allowing consumers to buy direct from Tesla was the right thing to do.

The session was topical but ultimately a reiteration of things Musk has discussed before—Texas’ biennial legislative session means that Musk was restating a lot of the things he’d said about Texas throughout 2014. However, the almost Steve Jobs-ian “one more thing” announcement that Musk chose to tack onto the end of the keynote seemed to garner the most attention: Musk plans to build a Hyperloop test track, approximately five miles long, and he plans to do it “soon.”

Musk originally put forward the idea of the Hyperloop in 2013, presenting a 56-page document that showed aluminum pods being shuttled between San Francisco and Los Angeles at 760 mph, through low-pressure tubes with magnets that are fed an electric current. The Hyperloop would be solar powered as well, Musk specified, and cost only $6 billion to build (which is a theoretical pittance compared to the projected cost of California’s plodding High Speed Rail project). Still, after announcing the idea, Musk told reporters in 2013 that he had no time to execute the plan and would be open-sourcing it so other researchers might take it up.

Appropriate to the venue, Musk also said that Texas was “the leading candidate” for the location of the test track. The plan with the track, at least for now, would be to fund it privately, entirely with money from Musk’s ventures (though which corporate entity would provide the funding wasn’t fully explained). Once constructed, the test track would be both a proving ground for the Hyperloop technology and also an open facility where universities and other research institutions could experiment with and iterate on the Hyperloop prototype technology.

Coming on the heels of a somewhat strained admission earlier in the keynote that Musk wouldn’t have chosen Texas for his SpaceX launch facility if not for the tax benefits provided by the state, the idea of Texas being the leading location candidate for the facility is a bit surprising, especially considering the state’s infamously hostile attitude toward Tesla Motors’ direct car sales. However, assuming Musk is successful in the 2015 legislature, Texas’ feelings toward Tesla might be about to change—especially with a new Hyperloop facility potentially on the way.


Can we eat insects?

How many of you have said, “I would never eat that!” Have you ever stopped to think about why you feel that way? What if you had no choice? What if you had been taught differently?

As a part of the Science and the City series* at the New York Academy of Sciences, entomologist Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History presented on the future of insects as food. That’s right: imagining the pests that you may spend time trying to kill or control as a source of nutrition in your life. If it gives you pause it shouldn’t. You already consume trace amounts of insects in most of the foods you eat per the FDA’s recognition that “it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects.” Still, most Westerners would shy away from practicing outright entomophagy unless it was a task on Fear Factor—though they probably wouldn’t hesitate to eat other related arthropods like shrimp and lobster. In the Western consciousness, all bugs are largely created equal: they’re dirty and dangerous, and they should be killed or managed or contained.

A menace to society.

We are taught to be careful as children; we are cautioned that wasps will sting us, that flies carry diseases, and that beetles can bite. Even bees are to be treated with caution: their honeyed gifts are paired with a non-so-sweet stinger. These messages are often reinforced through chance encounters with insect members of the natural world. For example, at the age of three, I disturbed a nest of red ants. I was insatiably curious even at early age and I wanted to know where the ants went after they went into the ground. So I dug the nest up. Or tried to. The red ants swarmed angrily out of the ground and over my chubby, bare feet. My screams brought half the neighborhood running. I learned that insects—all insects—are generally bad and harbor a general dislike for ants. (I also learned that observation would get me farther in nature but that is a story for another day.)

These ideas carry over into popular culture. In The Deadly Mantis (1957) a 200-foot long praying mantis awakes from a frozen slumber and requires military intervention to bring down. A bevy of insects descend from a parallel world in small-town Maine to plague residents in The Mist (2007). And then there is of course Empire of the Ants

We aren’t culturally inclined to distinguish between good insects and bad insects. And I don’t know that we care to make this distinction. Insects are different—they’re like miniature monsters with their antennae and pincers and multiple appendages. By casting them all as “bad,” they’re easier to deal with. It wasn’t until I began gardening this year that I really began to recognize the beneficial insects living in my backyard. Or understand the ways they respond to the ecology that I am cultivating.

Research by Heather Looy (2013) suggests that I am in a minority: most American farmers view insects as pests. When faced with concerns about productivity, any possible pestilent threat to the harvest needs to be eradicated, which often means pesticides. And while chemical products work, they don’t discriminate. Consequently, good bugs and bad bugs are eliminated together which can cause devastating ecological shifts. We know that pesticides can accumulate and trickle down the food chain, but entomophagy often drives the most extreme solutions.

Proteins, fats, fiber and more!

In non-Western cultures insects are an important food source, providing proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Where eating insects is a norm, people can tell the difference between good insects and bad insects and identify seasonal differences in arthropodal food choices (when to harvest larval states, which adults to avoid, etc.) However, what’s becoming clear is that as Western cultural ideas have spread, the potential for this food option is shrinking. In the West African country of Mali, it was common for children to forage for grasshoppers among the crops grown by their families. Their diets consist of millet, sorghum, maize, peanuts and some fish, so grasshoppers were an important source of protein (Looy 2013). However, when their families began to grow surplus crops and make use of pesticides, parents began to actively discourage their children from eating grasshoppers, which means that they’re now short of an important protein option. Elsewhere in the ethnographic record, Looy documents hesitation by locals to discuss their entomophagic tendencies with outsiders out of fear of being judged or misunderstood.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that between 2010-2012 an estimated 870 million people suffered from undernourishment. This number largely represents the populations of developing countries, where economic and political tensions contribute to limited access to food resources more so than scarcity. In light of this, are we overlooking an important food source in insects?

Why aren’t Westerners into grubs?

Sorkin was quick to note the squeamishness of some audience members as he worked his way through slides showing infestations—though he did try to assure the group that most would be quite tasty if cooked in light oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. Or infused with some sort of citrus. Not too many people seemed convinced, which was hardly surprising given our relationship with food

Food plays a huge role in cultural and social identity. For example, following the dismantling of the Soviet Union the emergence of the Soviet sausage in Lithuania was a reminder of a shared history. In Eastern Europe, the “Soviet period” was regarded locally and globally as an era of oppression and want, and minimal cultural growth. Seeking to distance themselves from this past, new governing bodies and their citizenry changed street names, laws and history. Nonetheless, anthropologist Neringa Klumbyte (2010) reports that in the face of this public denouncement, “Soviet sausages” began appearing on dinner tables in 1998. They were fully advertised as a “Soviet” product—and all the things that the Soviet Union represented were wrapped in that casing.

While politicians opposed the meats and cast them as threat to the values of the emerging state, Lithuanian customers swore that these were the tastiest option available to them. Their enthusiasm crafted a niche for the sausages, which were held as symbols of innovation and luxury in the face of stark conditions. As a mass produced food, the humble sausage was an accessible food item, made under consistent conditions regardless of the person who purchased them. In the 1970s and 1980s they were viewed as symbols of modernity and marketed to the bourgeois under the label of pleasure and well-being. When “Soviet sausages” emerged in the post-Soviet era, Lithuanians claimed a piece of themselves as they navigated the boundaries of what it meant to be Lithuanian in the eyes of a non-Soviet global community. (You can read more about Soviet sausages and identity here.)

It’s a pattern that’s repeated throughout the world: food plays a strong part in social and cultural identity. Daniel Miller has written extensively about the relationship Trinidadians have with Solo-brand soft drinks. These sweetened soft drinks have a niche market among Trinidadians, who are exposed to them from an early age. In Trinidadian immigrant communities, these drinks are a staple in shops, helping to connect people with their homelands, beliefs, and the family and friends they have left behind. And reminding them of what they believe to be “Trinidadian”.

What does this have to do with insects?

We take in nutrients from our foodstuffs, but we also absorb the associations connected with it. It is not that sausages make you more Lithuanian or Solo brand drinks make you more Trinidadian, but they have become linked to local culture and local experiences. These items can instantly connect you with friends and family and experiences in ways that are meaningful to a larger collective.

Hot dogs and hamburgers help us identify with popular American activities such as baseball and cook-outs. Steak and oysters can suggest wealth because they are expensive to produce and purchase. Organic foods may help communicate a commitment to environmental awareness. In this context eating insects seems base. It’s a last resort act that suggests you don’t have the means to access sanctioned food items.

There is a mythology around prepackaged food. It’s clean and packaged attractively. It’s sanctioned—someone has approved it for consumption. Who that someone is matters less for some. What does matter is that it is readily available and it’s a normative act. Most people aren’t exposed to the processes that put food in their supermarkets. While they may know of the processing centers and the distributors and have some awareness of carbon footprints, these mechanisms are largely removed from public view. Consumers are instead faced with the final products.

Furthermore, insects are strange. They’re alienness surely alter us if we consumed them. We would acquire their characteristics, have to frequent the places they’re found, and possibly contract any diseases they’re carrying. These things would make us unacceptable to our connection.

Disgust colors how we see the world.

When confronted with entomophagy, many people express disgust. It’s an interesting response. It has a biological basis in the form of distaste, which prevents us from consuming foods that are potentially harmful. For example, eating rotting food or food that has toxins is probably a bad idea. We interpret the ways these types of foods taste as distasteful and we learn to avoid them. But we also learn disgust through the reactions of others. Wrinkled nose, a grimace, and physically stepping back are all social cues and they can be applied to almost anything.

Disgust is deployed to maintain boundaries. It can extend beyond food to behaviors, contributing to the frame of social order. According to psychologist Paul Rozin, disgust helps us prevent social contamination. Our parents and caregivers teach us the social meanings of disgust. Through gestures and facial expressions, we learn that certain behaviors can separate us from the group. Eating things that are distasteful challenges an individual’s identification with a social group as well as that group’s acceptance of the individual. Disgust represents an easy means of weeding out undesirable behaviors. If eating insects can trigger ideas of primitive or poverty, condemning these actions can be seen as a way of protecting the social order.

Dealing with food scarcity.

Growing populations may trigger shifts in these perceptions however. As global food demands grow, so too do prices for feed and crops that help produce high-quality animal protein, such as beef, pork, and poultry. Insects, or mini-livestock, offer a cost effective means of feeding people, and they can be funneled into the food chain by also serving as nutrients for mini-livestock themselves.

Insects are more efficient at converting feed to body mass. For example, chickens contain 55% edible weight, while crickets can be eaten entirely in the nymphal stage or provide 80% edible mass as adults. Crickets are twice as efficient as chickens, four times as efficient as pigs, and twelve times as efficient as cattle in generating edible weight. And they take up less space too because insects generally don’t have to expend energy to maintain a consistent body temperature, so that energy can go towards fueling their growth.

It wouldn’t be a new idea. Entomologist Arnold van Huis [pdf] points out that silkworms, bees, and cochineal are farmed and harvested in some form. The challenge will be to get people to see insects differently. Food perceptions can change. Right now, somewhere, there is a person having sushi for the first time. The concept of “raw” is no longer disgusting. So you know, the next time the opportunity presents itself, in the words of Andrew Zimmern, “If it looks good, eat it.”


Wifi contributor

Inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr would be 100 years old today, which is a perfect excuse to celebrate her contributions to the field of wireless communications. Lamarr was best known in her lifetime for her job as an MGM film star in the 1930s and 1940s, often playing a smoky-eyed glamor girl. But her most impressive contribution to society came off-screen.

Lamarr helped invent technology used as an underpinning to modern Wi-Fi.

Working with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr patented an idea of frequency hopping spread-spectrum. She and Antheil came up with the concept to help create an unbreakable code for submarines during war time, but the wide application of their invention wasn’t recognized until later.

This concept was used to create Bluetooth and other components of modern wireless networks, so when you’re on a Netflix binge, thank Hedy.


Bottled water improved

We all carry a water bottle with us — and if we don’t, we should — but unless your bag has a dedicated bottle pocket, odds are it just doesn’t fit that well. But what if your bottle was designed like something your bag already holds, like a notebook? That’s the idea behind the Memobottle. Available in three sizes — Letter, A4, and A5 — these bottles are designed to fit in your bag alongside your books, laptops, tablets, and other rectangle-y things, and hold between 750ml to 1.25L of water. Best of all, they help keep plastic bottles out of landfills, since their dishwasher-safe, BPA-free Tritan construction lets them be reused over and over again.

If you are interested click here: