EYE ON INNOVATION: Vertebrae Implants More Proof of 3D Printing’s Place in Med Tech

3D printing and other rapid manufacturing methods continue to transform the med tech industry, as illustrated recently by an Australian neurosurgeon who, in late 2015, removed cancerous vertebrae in a patient and implanted, in their place, printed vertebrae.

The 3D-printed part that would replace the patient’s cancer-ridden vertebrae. Photo: Dailymail.co.uk and ABC News.

Dr. Ralph Mobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, called the procedure a “world first.” The surgery was performed on a patient with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bone of the skull and spine. As Wired UK reports, the 60-year-old patient was affected in the two vertebrae responsible for turning the head — meaning that, if the 15-hour surgery had failed, he would have been left paralyzed.

Because of the position and function of these vertebrae, however, they’re extremely hard to replace — they must be an exact fit. Mobbs decided to 3D print the replacements instead, and worked with Anatomics, an Australian medical device manufacturer, to design and build the implants, which were made from titanium. The company also printed exact anatomical models of the patient’s head for Mobbs to practice on before the surgery. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Droning Out the Hype at Annual CES

A sandy oasis amid the CES chaos. Photo: Wired.

The 2016 International CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this week, featured its usual giant exhibit hall (2.4 million square feet), a drone rodeo in the nearby Las Vegas desert, Hollywood stars, celebrity chefs, various booze-related ice sculptures, beach volleyball inside the exhibit hall (complete with sand), pro athletes, security dogs that were not to be petted and, oh yeah, product launches from innovative start-ups to icons of the corporate world.

Though some would say the event itself has become a bit overdone — the New York Times calls it “a noisy parade of puffed-up announcements” — the show usually offers a few items worth noting.

USA Today liked several items:

The compact 360fly camera easily captures spherical video. Photo: 360fly.com.

  • The 360fly camera, a baseball-sized, one-lens camera, which takes spherical videos. It doesn’t require complicated editing, and is available for $399.99 at Best Buy.
  • The Parrot Bebop 2, seen flying at the drone rodeo, is an affordable $550 drone that can be operated by a smartphone.
  • A steering wheel attachment for your car that helps curb distracted driving, developed by 20-year-old Tristan Evarts, who says, “Technology can be part of the problem, and part of the solution.” Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: New Balance Steps Up With 3D-Printed Customized Soles

We’ve blogged about sneaker technology in the past, highlighting Converse’s new Chuck II shoe.

Photo: New Balance

Now New Balance is stepping up with a new concept for a shoe that uses 3D-printed midsoles customized to an individual’s stride.

As Wired recently reported, most running shoes have midsoles that are resilient but are typically just a uniform piece of rubber foam. This foam doesn’t really account for the fact that every person’s foot impacts the ground differently, such as mid-strike runners or those who land on their heels first, etc. Researchers at New Balance are looking to make a midsole that’s “both resilient and smart.”

Photo: New Balance

The shoe company is working with Boston-based design studio Nervous System to create a 3D-printed midsole that can be customized based on an individual’s stride. Wired: “The goal is to extend customization beyond aesthetics, creating a shoe designed with biomechanical data that gives its wearer an optimized running experience.”

This 3D-printed footwear appears to be a trend. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Jimmy Choo are increasingly exploring the applications of additive manufacturing in their design processes, creating everything from 3D-printed football cleats to 3D-printed haute couture shoes.

New Balance’s 3D-printed midsoles are “squishy,” lightweight and strong, and made of DuraForm Flex TPU, a proprietary elastomer.

Still early in the process, it is unclear if customized soles will actually improve the running experience, and help with elements such as reducing injuries, speeding recovery and enhancing overall endurance.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

EYE ON INNOVATION: ‘Attack’ of the Drones to Prompt Regulations

The buzz on drones is getting louder.

More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are a hot holiday gift item this year. Nearly 400 drone-related products and projects are currently listed in active crowdfunding campaigns at Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com.

Photo: Madpac.nl

Even the winner of the most recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award was a drone — the ultraportable Sprite, made by Ascent AeroSystems.

Hovering over all of this drone proliferation, inevitably, are potential regulations. In November, the New York Times reported that the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of recommendations for how to better monitor recreational use of the machines. Under the proposal, most drone owners would have to register their drones with the federal government, which would place the information in a national database, the first such requirements. New York Times: “The recommendations, from a task force created by the agency, would be the biggest step yet by the government to deal with the proliferation of recreational drones, which are usually used for harmless purposes but have also been tools for mischief and serious wrongdoing, and pose a risk to airborne jets.” Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION [Black Friday Edition]: Nifty Gifts for Techies

The season for gift giving has arrived, kicked off today by the frenzied shopping event Black Friday. With the holiday season in mind, consider these items for that techie on your list.

Makr Shakr. This robotic bar can make any cocktail you want and a whole lot more — shake up a martini, mix a mojito, thin-slice a lemon garnish, etc. It was a huge hit at the recent Milan Design Week, where furniture usually takes center stage. Makr Shakr is a collaboration between MIT Senseable City Lab and Carlo Ratti, an Italian architecture firm.

Ninja Coffee Bar. Fully programmable, this coffee maker can do it all: automatically brews java by various amounts, strengths, personal tastes; creates cappuccinos, lattes; includes a milk frother; and even features an iced-coffee function.


Small Drones. Drones are popular gifts this year. The BLADE Nano QX RTF Quadcopter is rated by Tomsguide.com as Best Drone for the Money — it sells for about $80. As Tom’s Guide muses, the drone won’t break the bank “if you happen to misjudge the top of a tree and get it stuck out of reach.” Speaking of drones, a recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is the developer of another drone, the ultra-portable Sprite.

WooBots. These wooden transformers make “old-school toys look cool again,” says Popular Mechanics. The WooBots include an 18-wheeler cab named “Truck,” and a transforming Beetle, bus, jet fighter and warship.


Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.