Giant bugs created by 3D technology

By Miles Godfrey

Designer Susana Soares looks through a 3D printer that makes biscuits from flour made from insects at the Wellcome Collection in London. Photo / AP
Designer Susana Soares looks through a 3D printer that makes biscuits from flour made from insects at the Wellcome Collection in London. Photo / AP

It sounds like something straight from a horror film.

Australian scientists are using state-of-the art technology to create super-sized creepy crawlies, up to 50 times their original size.

But the project is not a bid for world domination by raising an army of massive, mutant mosquitoes.

There will be no Weevil Knievel super baddy.

It is in fact, world-leading CSIRO research that should soon enable Australia's best scientists to handle and examine bugs, some of which can barely be seen with the naked eye, in large-scale detail for the very first time.

"Scientists believe this technology will soon enable them to determine characteristics, such as gender, and examine surface characteristics which are otherwise difficult due to the minute size,'' the commonwealth science agency told AAP.

What CSIRO has done is take bugs from Canberra's Australian National Insect Collection - an Aladdin's cave of creepy crawlies - and used 3D technology to create a computer-aided design file of their exact dimensions.

The bugs are then re-created in replica form, up to 50 times their original size in titanium, using a 3D printer.

At the moment, the bugs are being 3D printed in basic detail.

But in coming months CSIRO hopes to replicate the creatures' anatomy down to the most minute feature.

The benefits are obvious for scientists.

"A doctor once said that having 3D images on a computer to plan a surgery is great, but to print the parts, to handle and examine them in clear detail is invaluable,'' CSIRO additive manufacturing operations manager Chad Henry told AAP.

Three dimensional printing is not new.

But the products the technique can make is rapidly evolving and last month NSW Police warned about a potentially lethal 3D gun invented in America.

Australian scientists are also researching ways to make replacement body parts, for transplants, from 3D prints.

Mr Henry believes it is only a matter of time before 3D printing is able to make living tissue.

CSIRO's Melbourne-based 3D printing facility, Lab 22, is also developing a range of prototype products including biomedical implants, automotive, aerospace and defence parts for Australian industry.

- AAP

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