From space to medicine, here is the future of 3D printing

From space to medicine, here is the future of 3D printing

From space to medicine

It was a real overview of the possible applications of 3D printing Expo of the Impossible, an event promoted by Elmec Informatica, a company from Varese which among its many divisions has one dedicated to additive manufacturing. We have been there and we have selected the best innovations we have had the opportunity to witness.

Bioprinting "At present, we are able to print the cornea, the skin, the heart tissue, the cartilages and the bones ". Bianca Maria Colosimo, professor of Additive manufacturing at the Politecnico di Milano, outlined the results obtained from the application of bioprinting. That is the 3D printing of biological tissues. A technology that can have different applications.

They can in fact play an important role in medical research, thanks to the printing of fabrics on which to carry out tests. And the same goes for the development of cosmetics, an activity that would thus reduce the tests that have to be carried out on animals. Not only. “It is possible”, she added, “to print some skin and insert a drug inside”. That would be administered thus avoiding the risks of infection associated with the use of needles.

Another application concerns the production of meat, "which can have important implications in terms of sustainability and ecological transition, if we consider that 18% of climaleltanri emissions is linked to breeding ". But not only: "It is possible to focus on personalized nutrition, balancing the share of muscle tissue and adipose tissue based on the needs of the individual consumer".

3D printing in space “We want to go back to the Moon, and we want to do it to stay there, and we want to get to Mars. For this we must be able to build and repair plastic and metal components on board ”. In connection from French Guiana, where he witnessed the first flight of the Vega C launcher, the head of ESA's Structures, Mechanisms and Materials division Tommaso Ghidini explained what role 3D printing could play in space exploration.

For example by building the base that will allow astronauts to stay on our satellite for a long time. “The materials extracted from the lunar regolith, such as aluminum, titanium, iron and silicon, could be used, moreover in a process that has oxygen as a waste product”, a fundamental resource for human survival. And precisely in this regard, the bioprinting technologies illustrated by Professor Colosimo also become interesting. “We think”, explained the professor of the Milan Polytechnic, “of the possibility of bioprinting damaged tissues, bones or skin, and replenishing them during the mission. It is really an enabling factor, especially if we consider that the journey to Mars lasts two years ".

From sport to Covid-19 The Expo event of the impossible was, however, also an opportunity for Elmec to present some projects that the company has carried out directly. Like the customization of Sara Bertolasi's boat seat, which increased comfort on the bank by reducing back pain that had brought the Italian tank top to retire, up to allowing her to resume competitive activity and participate in her third Olympics in Tokyo .

Or the production of an airbox, a device that manages the flow of air entering an internal combustion engine, for Leonardo Abruzzo's motorcycle, which has improved its performance in the Italian Moto 3 championship.

In collaboration with Zeiss Vision care, then, an eye mask was created in which to install ophthalmic lenses. A tool that has proved important for doctors and nurses during the hardest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company Born in 1971 as a reseller of personal computers in the B2B market, today it has transformed its headquarters di Brunello (Varese) on a real campus which houses the various business units developed in fifty years of history. In addition to the traditional activity and that linked to 3D printing, there are Elmec Solar, which deals with the design of photovoltaic systems, and Cybergon, a reality that deals with cybersecurity.

There is also a datacenter, which has made sustainability a central issue. “We have a Pue value (Power usage effectiveness, an indicator that measures the energy efficiency of these structures, ed.) Of 1.15”, explains System Computing - Delivery manager Andrea Fiori. Having said that 1 is the optimal value, he adds, "in the world the average is 1.8, in Italy between 1.18 and 1.2". A result possible thanks to the fact that "last year only for a total of 3 days it was necessary to turn on the motors" that cool the air that keeps the servers at temperature. For the rest, "for more than 10 months a year the exchange of air with the outside is sufficient, here the temperature is on average 4 degrees lower than in Milan, while for the other two we cool it using the water that we take from two wells that have a temperature of 18 degrees ".

A continuously evolving activity, that of the Varese-based company, which requires resources with ever new skills. “Twenty years ago you found work based on who you knew, ten years ago based on what you knew, today what you can know counts”, the company philosophy summarized by the president Rinaldo Ballerio. As happens, for example, in Cybergon, a constantly expanding division, which provides 6-12 months of training for new hires. “For us it is a universal rule", concludes Elmec's number one, "companies are willing to pay the curiosity of their employees".

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