From time to time I’ve written here about 3D printing, fablabs, and other related technologies. There’s something mesmerizing about this Dutch designer’s video of an old Chinese industrial robot he’s adapted to creating the furniture that he’s designed:
It’s pretty interesting how the recycled interiors of refrigerators are harvested and repurposed into usable furniture. It took a while to perfect but his machine can now produce a piece of furniture in a few hours.
In related news researchers at the University of Glasgow are working on a system to create pharmaceuticals using 3D printers. In their process the vessels in which the drugs are created take an active part in the process:
A new research paper, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, outlines how the process has been proven to work. Using a commercially-available 3D printer operated by open-source computer-aided design software, Professor Cronin and his team have built what they call ‘reactionware’, special vessels for chemical reactions which are made from a polymer gel which sets at room temperature.
By adding other chemicals to the gel deposited by the printer, the team have been able to make the vessel itself part of the reaction process. While this is common in large-scale chemical engineering, the development of reactionware makes it possible for the first time for custom vessels to be fabricated on a laboratory scale.
Professor Cronin said: “It’s long been possible to have lab materials custom-made to include windows or electrodes, for example, but it’s been expensive and time-consuming. We can fabricate these reactionware vessels using a 3D printer in a relatively short time. Even the most complicated vessels we’ve built have only taken a few hours.
“By making the vessel itself part of the reaction process, the distinction between the reactor and the reaction becomes very hazy. It’s a new way for chemists to think, and it gives us very specific control over reactions because we can continually refine the design of our vessels as required.
“For example, our initial reactionware designs allowed us to synthesize three previously unreported compounds and dictate the outcome of a fourth reaction solely by altering the chemical composition of the reactor.”
In the future a drugstore may be a place where custom-designed pharmaceuticals are produced to order. Or it could be your basement.
There are lots of exciting, even frightening, aspects of something like this. Physicians, drug companies, even governments are losing control.