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Stratasys unveils world's first 3D printed wearable, functioning digestive tract

Brian Karlovsky | May 19, 2015
A photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house micro-organisms

Mushtari was printed on a Stratsys 3D printer.
Mushtari was printed on a Stratsys 3D printer.

3D printing vendor Stratasys has unveiled the world's first 3D printed photosynthetic wearable, embedded with living matter.

Architect and designer Neri Oxman, has used the TED2015 stage in Vancouver to reveal, Mushtari, an artwork 3D printed by Stratasys.

It is world's first wearable combining multi-material additive manufacturing and synthetic biology.

In a step change for science, technology and design, Oxman explains how Mushtari has been developed not only to host living organisms, but also to manipulate their function.

Mushtari , meaning huge or giant in Arabic, evoking the planet Jupiter, was designed as a single strand filled with living matter.

An organ system for consuming and digesting biomass, absorbing nutrients and expelling waste, the 3D printed translucent tract was designed to support the flow of cyanobacteria engineered to convert sunlight into sucrose presenting the prospects of sustaining living organisms inside a wearable.

As Oxman told the audience: "We live in a special time."

"This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganisms," she said.

"Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari is designed to host synthetic microorganisms - a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria - that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun.

"Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before."

Stratasys' triple-jetting 3D printing technology enabled Oxman's team -including her researcher, Will Patrick - to create a large fluid network within Mushtari that varied in transparency from opaque to clear.

Oxman said this enabled varying levels of transparency and translucency to be designed into surface areas where photosynthesis was desired.

"Channels and pockets were implemented to enhance the flow and functionality of the cells - such mechanical and optical property gradation can only be achieved using multi-material 3D printing with high spatial resolution for manufacturing."

Stratasys developed a new solution for this particular piece.

Stratsys creative director, art fashion design, Naomi Kaempfer , said 3D printing Mushtari was a wonderful example of colloboration.

"The fluid channels in the wearable stretch to around 58 meters, with an inner channel diameter ranging from 1mm to 2.5cm, frequently turning sharply in new directions," she said.

"Clearing the support material out from such a long, narrow and complex structure to create the hollow channels for living matter presented a significant challenge.

"Our R and D team went beyond the boundaries of our existing technology, formulating a dedicated improved support structure to allow a smooth, effective process in support of Professor Oxman's vision."


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