Last week Japan announced it would allow experiments to grow human organs in animals. These experiments are controversial, not in the least place because of animal welfare concerns and the possibility of cross-species diseases. However, xenotransplantation is not the only line of research pursued to solve the shortage of donor organs. Continue reading Organ cultivation
On ZDNET an interesting article about Markforged – a company that is working on a mass production 3D printer. As we have previously pointed out on this site, 3D printing is along side with in situ resource utilization one of the key technologies that will be of critical importance of making space settlements independent from terrestrial imports.
Yesterday we discussed the idea of 3D-printed organs. Though that technology is developing fast, it’s still far from any practical applications. Another solution for the shortage of organs, would be xenotransplantation. However that approach has it’s own differences, namely the risk of (hyperacute) rejection. Genetically engineered pigs have been studied as a solution of this problem, but this only counters hyperacute rejection. A third option is to combine xenotransplantation with tissue engineering. In this process a pig organs is decellurized so that only the structure of that organ is left. Subsequently tissue from a patient are placed on this structure, and with as final result an organ which will not rejected by the recipient’s body.
Here’s a treat for Valentine’s Day (in addition to this playlist of TED Talks about love): Below, take a close-up look at a decellularized “ghost heart.” This heart can serve as a scaffold upon which to grow a working heart from human stem cells. Researchers at the Texas Heart Institute created it by stripping all the living cells from a pig heart with a soap solution, which bursts the cells and leaves only the protein structure behind. These scientists have successfully implanted tissue-engineered hearts into rats and pigs so far. They hope ultimately to create personalized human hearts and help relieve the shortage of donor organs.
Behold, the “ghost heart.” Image: Courtesy of RMR Labs, Texas Heart Institute
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We believe that 3D printing is among the most important technologies to make the humanization of space a success. 3D printing enables us to manufacture complex items without the need of running large factories, and hence 3D printing will reduce the need to import goods from Earth by Space Settlements.
Also the developments in the field of stem cell research are going fast, scientists can now create embryo-like stem cells without creating and destroying embryos. In the near future it will be possible to create all kinds of tissue from a random tissue sample of a patient who is in need of such tissue. In this way rejection of tissue by the body is avoided. But tissues are not organs, yet.
Organs are complex structures, often made from different types of tissue. It was only a matter of time, before some one came with the idea of using 3D printers to make organs from patients’ own tissue. And according to an article on Science Daily British scientists have succeeded in the construction of a machine which could be used in the printing of organs.
When printable organs become a widespread reality, organ shortages will become a thing from the past. Also it allows us to avoid the difficult ethical debates surrounding xenotransplantation or the use of organs from executed criminals. A further advantage of this technique is that organ transplantation also becomes available for animals.
In Space Settlements we have a further complication, which will be solved by printable organs. In a small and relatively isolated community as a Space Settlement the issue of organ shortage is much larger, since organs cannot easily be transported from either Earth or another Space Settlement.
This post explains why 3D-printing is an important key-technology for the realisation of space colonization. 3D-printing, with in-situ resource utilization of extra-terrestrial resources, will enable space settlers to achieve economic independence much earlier than would be possible with tradional production techniques.
It is the dawn of the era of 3D printing. From artificial prosthetics to very real human kidneys to filigree skull sculptures — the number and variety of applications for this technology are growing, layer by printed layer. Combine this with the decreasing cost of owning a printer, as well as the cheaper cost of manufacturing in general, and it appears that 3D printers are here to stay. So, why stop at a kidney?
[ted_talkteaser id = 1798]Bastian Schaefer of Airbus has a far bigger use in mind. In today’s talk, he shares a vision for the sustainable future of aviation: a jumbo jet that’s light, cheap and spacious, with an exterior that mimics the structure of bone. He imagines the jet as a “living, breathing organism,” complete with its own consciousness. And he imagines the jet printed from the ground up.
Why use 3D printing technology to create…
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The Guardian has published an interesting article about using 3D printers for creating human organs. The idea is quite simple: if you have the required tissue types, the 3D printer is able to print the organ you want. Organs are three-dimensional structures, and because they are standardized, their structure could be stored in a computer file.
Combined with the ongoing developments in stem cell research, this technology might make organ donation obsolete by 2050. This is great news for space colonists, at least if they would need an organ transplant in outer space. If an organ needs to be sent from Earth, it would take months before it arrives at a space settlement in the Earth-Sun’s Lagrange points or in the Asteroid belt. Even if the organ would survive the transport, it might arrive too late for the patient.
As a regular reader of our site might know, Republic of Langrangia are strongly in favour of 3D printers (see here and here). Recently, this idea has become mainstream. On space.com you can read the following article: 3D Printing Could Aid Deep-Space Exploration, NASA Chief Says.
The basic argument for 3D-printing in Space are simple: our Solar system is rich in all kinds of resources. Through in situ resource utilization the input for 3D printers can be made from asteroidal material (or if necessary from Lunar or Martian material). The blue prints of the needed objects can be stored electronically on board of a Space colony or can be transmitted from Earth. This would significantly reduce the launch of all kind of supplies.
3D printing will also reduce the number of people needed for Space industries, because a 3D printer can print a whole variety of things. And in principle, we have to launch only one 3D printer, since this machines should be able to reproduce themselves.
Resources from Near Earth Objects
Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are a collection of comets, asteroids and some other objects within the orbit of Mars. Most of these objects regularly come within close range from the Earth, some of those objects are actually easier to reach than the Moon. This seems strange, but in space travel access is not measured in distance but in velocity increments (delta V), which is a measure of the required energy. Because of the Moon’s mass it takes more energy to get to the Moon. And if we want to leave, we have to overcome the Lunar escape velocity.
In order to reach the Near Earth Objects, we have only to overcome a relatively small change in our position relative to the Sun. (Delta V is related to the local escape velocity from the Sun, which is a function of the distance from the Sun.) Therefore we need a rather small delta V to get to the Near Earth Objects. Of course the actual required velocity increment depends on the exact position of a particular object, but since there are several thousands of them we will simply pick one which is relatively close.
The major advantage of NEOs as a mining site, is that they contain a broad variety of resources. Unlike the Moon NEOs contain all chemical elements needed for a modern industrial society. And since NEOs have a negligible gravity, only a modest amount of fuel is required to return resources to Earth or anywhere else in space.
In situ resource utilization (ISRU) is the use of extraterrestrial resources at or near the location where they are mined. ISRU is opposed to importing resources from our planet. One example: the American space company Bigelow Aerospace has designed and built inflatable space stations. Suppose we buy one and we launch it to, say, L4. There we inflate the structure with air, which we have extracted from a Near Earth Asteroid. This example show the benefits of ISRU, by using air from NEO resources we can reduce the payload we need to launch from Earth. Basically we should restrict ourselves to launch only those items which cannot (already) produced in space, in order to reduce launch costs.
The extraction of resources from NEOs, is also important in funding space colonization. Especially the (limited) export of the precious platinum group metals will an important source of revenue for Space communities. The prospect of for-profit asteroid mining also makes it possible to do space colonization without government funding.
After some time, when space based industries are more developed we need to import less from Earth, since more products are manufactured locally. One development which is of interest of space colonization is 3D printing. This technology is also called rapid prototype technology or desktop manufacturing. 3D printing makes it possible to produce complicated structures in short time without a large workforce. Once a structure is stored in a computer file it can be printed on demand. Of course this technology has its limitations, but the prospects are quite promising.
Part One of this of this post was originally posted on blogspot.com on November 4, 2012 and Part Two was published there on November 24, 2012.
As you can read in our manifesto we have high esteems of the prospects of 3D printing. This technology will make it possible to produce customized spare parts anywhere they are needed. In combination with in situ resource utilization, 3D printing will lessen the dependence of Space settlers of importation of goods from Earth.
Why do we have such a hopeful view of 3D printing? This article on BBC News shows that it is possible to print the parts of guns with a commercial available 3D printer. Not that we advocate this particular application of 3D printing, far from it. But that some technology may be used for (possibly) illegal application, is not a reason for banning it (this would as absurd as outlawing the Internet, only because Internet has mad it easier to spread child pornography). For instance knifes can be used for legal purposes like cooking, but also for murdering people. The use of technology of illegal purposes should be banned, not the technology itself, certainly if the noble applications are much more important.
That said, I will return to my argument. If it is possible to print parts of guns, it will be possible to create many more stuff. Notice that a properly working gun is a moderately complex object. Within a few years from now, 3D printers will be able to create almost every part we need, including the parts of a 3D printer itself. It is not hard to imagine to bright prospects of 3D printers for space colonization.
Once 3D-printing has advanced to the point that nearly all things can be printed, we need only to bring one 3D-printer (or at least its dissembled components) to outer space. There we can print new printers, thereafter we can produce all the stuff we need, while simultaneously weakening our dependence of Earth based supplies. Which is important, because it makes Space Settlers less vulnerable from extortion and blackmailing from Terrestrial powers.
A couple of weeks ago I did a post on 3D-printing, today I found the following article. This article describes a method to print electronic circuits, which a of huge importance for space colonization. We cannot think about space colonization or space travel in general without the extensive use of electronics.
This new development will make the production of cheap electronics reality. And by moving such 3D-printers into outer space, Space Colonies will become self-sufficient much earlier than I would have ever dreamed. As I have explained in my earlier post, the dependence on the import of components from Earth is both expensive and will make Space Colonies vulnerable to sabotage by terrestrial parties.
I am interested to learned what is next regarding 3D-printing.