Researchers propose new approach to 3D printing

Photo: University of Birmingham

A new approach to additive manufacturing has been proposed by researchers from the University of Birmingham. The team says their work was inspired by human prenatal development.

“Although we refer to it as additive manufacturing, traditionally engineers learn to design parts based on a long history of subtractive manufacturing. This leads to well-acknowledged constraints in design creativity,” lead researcher, Dr. Lauren Thomas-Seale, said.

“Additive manufacturing has to break out of this inertia if it is to reach its full potential in both design and as a fundamental technique.”

The research builds on how developing biological systems, tissues and organs, are built up incrementally via the division and replication of cells.

In additive manufacturing, the development of a 3D printed part is solely reliant on the spatial domain, determined only by where the filament is deposited. The researchers propose, however, that an implementation of the temporal dimension (time) could lead to the development of previously unseen material properties and structures.

“Whilst using biological inspiration in engineering design is commonplace, studying the growth of humans and translating this to advanced manufacturing systems offers a whole new perspective,” Dr. Jackson Kirkman-Brown of the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research said.

“The way in which biological systems develop from incrementally adding cells to form tissues and organs, which both grow and modulate each other to function in synergy, is the epitome of sophisticated additive manufacturing.”

The research was conducted by the university’s Birmingham’s School of Engineering and the Centre for Human Reproductive Science and published in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology.