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Cross-Sections and Nets

Cross-sections are intersections of a plane with a solid, and nets are unfolded, flat representations of the sides of a 3-D shape.

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The Body Factory?

Credit: Keith Kissel
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kakissel/6165114664/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

3D printers use cross-sections to create new items. They build three-dimensional shapes layer by layer. You may have heard about people who are using them to make art, household goods, or products to sell. But did you know that progress is already being made in 3D printing body parts?

Prosthetic Limbs and New Ears

3D printers may be beloved by engineers and designers, but one of their most important applications is in the field of medicine. Scientists hope that we'll someday be able to use the machines to create new body parts. The printers are already being used to make prosthetic limbs for amputees. State-of-the-art prosthetics currently cost tens of thousands of dollars, but 3D printing could make prosthetics more affordable and accessible. While these limbs are made of plastic, scientists hope that in the future they'll be able to print bone, muscles, blood vessels, skin, and even organs to make true replacements.

Credit: Patrick J. Lynch
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heart_oblique_external.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Scientists have already used a 3D printer to create a bionic ear made of human cartilage. Coiled inside the cartilage structure is an electronic antenna that can pick up frequencies beyond the range of human hearing. Researchers in Louisville, Kentucky are working to create a 3D-printed human heart. They've already figured out how to create larger blood vessels and parts of the heart. They hope that within 10 years they will have a complete model available. If they "print" the heart with a patient's own cells, they'd be able to create a transplantable organ that would be a perfect match for its recipient.

A few decades from now, doctors may be able to replace our body parts when they wear out. Custom mugs and homemade action figures are nice, but keep your eyes open—the real 3D revolution will happen in your doctor's office!

See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGSo_I86_lQ

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Check out the links below to learn more about amazing applications of 3D printing that await the future of medicine.




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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Keith Kissel; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kakissel/6165114664/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Patrick J. Lynch; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heart_oblique_external.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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