3D Printed SkyBot on KickstarterWith the high popularity and excitement about drones today, you could almost say that mankind is stepping into the ‘DroneAge’.

Walk around local parks and backyards of most neighbourhoods and you’ll see these remote controlled vehicles flying in the sky, usually taking aerial footages or sometimes simply recording first person aerial views.

Clearly there is no limit to the many different things a drone can be used to do. Thanks to 3D printing, many more possibilities have and are being discovered where a drone can be put to use.

By enabling people with 3D printers to make simpler versions of drones, 3D printing has played a crucial role in ensuring the widespread accessibility and popularity of drones and drone-based solutions. Not only has this made it possible for videographers to experience an easier time filming special events than ever before, but it has also led to a new ‘breed’ of aficionados typically known as hobby makers; who are finding creative ways of using drones to better other peoples’ experiences and lives.

Austin Kelly, a design engineer and educator, is one such hobby maker who has come up with a brilliant idea on how to use drones to improve the education sector. A little while ago, Kelly launched a Project on Kickstarter  in which his unique drone kit is offered as a STEM learning solution to kids. Kelly intends to provide DIY 3D printable drone kits to upcoming designers and engineers as a way of enabling them have better understanding of STEM education basics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

In addition, the kits will enable kids to have a clear picture of what goes on in the process of designing and 3D printing.

Kelly intends to achieve this by using his very on SkyBots, which are DIY 3D printed drones. Among many things, the design engineer believes this will provide kids with vital hands-on experience of what it takes to build one’s own drone from scratch.

The most important thing will be for kids to know how to assemble both 3D printed and non-3D printed parts to build a drone of their own. Ultimately, the kits will help young design engineers understand how important each and every part is in creating a complete fully-functional drone.

How the SkyBot Kit Came About

So, is the SkyBot kit entirely meant for students? The company’s Head of Marketing, Freddie Hernandez, tells a different story.

Freddie explains that when they began working on bringing SkyBot to life, their major goal was to come up with a unique kit that would provide the best hands-on drone learning platform for not only students but professional engineers as well.

A lot of considerations had to be taken into account for this to be possible. Finding the appropriate size, weight, pricing and durability of the kit was going to be essential for the project to become a success. Although small and lightweight, it was up to the team to make SkyBot robust enough in order for it to be usable in all sorts of environments.

The bot also needed to exhibit good intelligence to make it useful to users with no piloting skills and to add on all that, SkyBot had to be reasonably priced so that it’s as affordable as can be.

Check out this YouTube video where kids themselves review the SkyBot…

Freddie admits that it was only through many design iterations and software development cycles that the SkyBot team was able to realize their goal of creating the DIY 3D Printable Drone. One of the most outstanding design features of the drone was its inimitable hexagon-shaped structure, which was meant to encourage further modification by the young design engineers whom the kit was being made for.

Introduction to the Market

The company plans to make the very first delivery of SkyBot by the month of August 2015. Being sold at only $64, the kit will be delivered to all the backers who will have placed an order through Kickstarter by the time the project ends. Compared to many other drones in the market which go for hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dollars, there is no doubt that the company has really done a good job in the price area by making SkyBot truly affordable.

With a goal of raising $6,400 in order to begin the production of SkyBot, the company only needs to get a minimum of 100 orders by the end of their project on Kickstarter. Young designers and engineers who may want to have first hand experience in getting to use SkyBot have only a few weeks left to Support This Project.

Kits will be delivered with all the necessary drone-building components which include:

  • Hexagon Basket design minimizing weight while in flight.
  • Quad-Rotor platform to help in understanding of drone lift.
  • Fully accessible control board.
  • Standardized Quad-Rotor hardware.
  • Slide in LIPO Battery pack.
  • Basic additional support blades.

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Prosthetic Shoulder Xray3D printing, long considered as a technology confined to laboratories and research facilities, has only recently started to find revolutionary applications.

The field of medicine is one of the first to benefit from these applications.

Last month, we told you about the potential of 3D printing to possibly revolutionize the field of Prosthetics and Implants.

Chinese doctors have been researching these possibilities of additive printing in orthopedics for the past few years and it seems their efforts have finally bore fruit.

Li, a 27 year old woman from China, had her shoulder almost completely eaten away by a bone cancer. Today, she’s leading a normal life all thanks to 3D printing .

Li first noticed pain in her left shoulder about a year ago but since the pain was mild, she considered it a simple sprain and completely ignored it. However, the pain continued to increase until she couldn’t even brush her hair without causing serious pain in her shoulder. It was at this point that she decided to consult the doctors of Shenzhen Second People’s Hospital in South China.

After conducting numerous tests, including CT Scans and MRI, the doctors at the hospital found that she was suffering from a cancer of the scapula or shoulder blade. The cancer was highly invasive and had destroyed most of her scapula. If left unchecked, it could spread to other bones and eat them away as well. However, the good news was that she had come just in time to avoid amputation of her shoulder. Renzhang Shi, the deputy director of the hospital, explains her timely visit:

“Fortunately, she came here just in time to for treatment. If she had waited another 2 months, she probably would have needed to have her shoulder amputated.”

3D Printed ShoulderTraditionally, in such cases, doctors use CT scan and MRI data to estimate the dimensions of a patient’s scapula.

Then, they remove the patient’s own scapula and replace it with an artificial implant created based on these estimates. As is obvious, the implant doesn’t always fit perfectly, causing several complications during and after surgery.

However, the doctors of Shenzhen Hospital knew that they had a better option in the form of 3D printing. So, instead of the traditional procedure, they opted to use 3D printing.

They used the imaging data to create a three-dimensional model of Li’s scapula in a computer. Then, they modified the model to include surgical holes in it. Finally, using a 3D printer, they printed out an exact plastic replica of her scapula.

The plastic replica was then used as a mold to fabricate a titanium implant. Equipped with the exact replica of Li’s scapula, orthopedic surgeons got ready to perform a complicated operation on her shoulder. The operation, which cost around 100,000 RMB (about $16,000) in total, was carried out last month and fortunately, was a great success. Li’s cancerous scapula was completely removed and replaced with the titanium implant. She was discharged from the hospital within a few days of the operation and according to her doctors, she will be able to lead a perfectly normal life within a few months.

Chinese doctors and surgeons have been working tirelessly for the past few years to bring the limitless potential of 3D printing to orthopedics. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Li’s successful shoulder replacement isn’t the first of its kind. Just last year, three Chinese patients, with bone tumors similar to Li’s, were implanted with 3D Printed Titanium Prostheses in the Xijing Hospital, Xi’an.

Minghao, a 12 year old boy, was diagnosed with a cancer in his spine called Ewing sarcoma. He was also subjected to a similar surgery last year where a part of his vertebral column was removed and replaced with a 3D printed titanium implant at the Peking University of China.

Explaining the utility of 3D printing, Dr. Liu Zhongjun from Peking University says:

“With 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods.”

Minghao’s case and the whole process of creating 3D printed bone implants is explained perfectly in a video on Reuter’s YouTube Channel.

Bone ImplantThus, it is clear that the use of additive printing technology is just beginning in the field of orthopedics with several bright prospects visible at the horizon.

The first obvious prospect is that 3D printing can make future orthopedic operations cheaper.

Traditionally, implant operations have been very expensive because of the high costs of the implants themselves. With 3D printing, the implants are much cheaper and easier to make. This could bring down the costs of the operations.

Another prospect is the reduction of complications. Since 3D printing is able to fabricate exact replicas of the patient’s bones, they fit perfectly into the patient’s body, unlike traditional implants which can cause loss of mobility and permanent disability even after the implant operation. So, 3D printing would be able to save a lot of patients from complications of orthopedic operations in the coming years.

Patients will also be able to recover more quickly. Finally, 3D Bioprinting provides another exciting prospect. With the development of 3D bone printing, it is possible that instead of titanium replicas, future patients could be implanted with exact bone replicas instead of titanium implants!

At present, bone fractures, deformities and tumors pose the largest problems in orthopedics. Even with their best efforts, present-day orthopedic doctors can’t completely cure some patients because of the limitations of the available technologies. This is where 3D printing comes in. As shown by the efforts of Chinese doctors, with its limitless possibilities, additive printing is the perfect technology for Revolutionizing Orthopedics.

What are your thoughts about 3D Printed Implants? Do you think 3D printing will revolutionize orthopedics forever? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section. Also, Like and Share the article with your friends.

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