For many of us, the humble two-dimensional printer is the only one in our lives, but every day exciting developments are emerging in the world of three-dimensional printing. One of the latest such developments involves the creation of artificial blood vessels to assist with organ transplants. Scientists at the Germans' Fraunhofer Institute are able to print biological molecules that are then shaped into blood vessels using a laser.
Inflatable steel furniture
For the past few years two engineers from Poland and Switzerland have been constructing inflated steel furniture. Their technique is called free inner pressure deformation and involves laser-cut sheets of metal being welded together by robots and then inflated. Although they are currently only working on furniture, the pair see potential for this technique in building construction and wind turbines.
Underwater microphone based on orca ears
A scientist from Stanford University has developed a hydrophone inspired by the ears of orca whales. The device mimics the ability of these whales to adjust the pressure in their ears to match that of the ocean around them when they dive. The hydrophone has three silicon diaphragms that move in response to the slightest sound in the ocean, which can be detected with the assistance of lasers.