Saturday, 3 March 2012

The next level of 3D printing: Hyderabadi software engineer develops 3D printer that uses no software, can replicate virtually anything from human ear to cell phone case

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A Hyderabadi software engineer settled in the USA has developed a new 
technology that could help biotechnologists produce a replica of your ear through stem 
cells, dentists to make artificial dentures within five minutes, and machinists to mould 
rare spare parts of any vintage car.

Balaji Tammabattula, who hails from Sainikpuri area of the city, has created a 3D laser 
and multi lens camera, which works without the use of any software. This in other words 
means any layman can operate the 3D laser and multi lens camera to capture the image of 
the object one needs to replicate. Once the image is captured and fed into 3D “printer”, 
the object is replicated in no time.

If a person loses an ear in an accident, he can get an artificial one of the same 
texture, size and shape using this technology. The ear can be copied from one of the 
photographs of the person using Balaji’s 3D laser and multi lens camera and then fed to 
the “biotech printer”. Using stem cells technology, the lost ear is produced, and it can 
be implanted later.

“Dentists now take three to five days to prepare artificial dentures. However, if they 
adapt my technology, the dentures are out in just five to 10 minutes, perfect in size and 
shape. Any object including statues can be produced,” Balaji told this correspondent.

The laser on the camera first scans the item one wants to replicate and then immediately 
the camera takes a picture of the item to capture the colour and other minor details of 
the item. By automatically combining the laser-generated image with the camera pictures, 
an exact replica of any item is instantly created. Once the exact replica is generated as 
a 3D image file in the camera it can be “printed” (mould) through the “printer” (machine).

Balaji said the printer dispenses a very tiny amount of plastic or metal from the print 
head and it creates the product layer by layer in just a few minutes. Just as the 
Internet has created a total new industry, the 3D printing technology will revolutionise 
a broader spectrum and when coupled with the sophisticated scanning and imaging 
technology created by it will open a wide range of opportunities for the common man.

The technology also finds use in the fields of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, 
architecture, engineering and construction, automotive, aerospace, dental and medical 
industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others.

Balaji and his team are currently working on a smartphone application, allowing any 
device to take on the role of the 3D camera. “It sounds crazy when you think that you can 
photograph something and duplicate the item you snapped in the picture. It just goes to 
show what can be done when you take an existing technology and add a contribution that 
takes it to the next level,” he says. The new invention will bring down the cost of 3D 
printing technology from 30,000 US dollars to just 500 US dollars.

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