How to have your 3D printed cake but not eat it

Michael Brink, CTO of CA Southern Africa shares technology insights and explains what it is like to ‘Have your 3D Printed Cake but not Eat it’.

In keeping with the necessary lock down regulations in SA at present, my colleagues and I at CA Southern Africa hosted a virtual retirement farewell for a team-mate who was leaving the company after thirty years of service.   During that time he had garnered great respect and everyone wanted to wish him well but obviously with the restraints of social distancing, which we had put into place two weeks before lock down was imposed – this was not going to be easy.

However, everyone got right into the spirit of the event with one co-worker suggesting we should have a virtual 3D cake printed – great idea, not sure if the virtual experience could extend to the tasting delight of actually eating a slice of cake but it set the scene for a bit of fun.

The spirit generated got me thinking of the role technology is playing in the midst of this pandemic. There is the obvious use of innovations such as: Zoom; MS Teams etc. keeping us all connected.  One Sky News report noted that the Jewish community around the world have been granted a relaxation of a rule that forbids the use of technology during the Passover.   This is an ancient eight day celebration that commences on the 8th April.  It dates to the fifth century BC and commemorates the departure of the Israelites from Egypt under the leadership of Moses.  In 2020 and in the face of Covid-19, it will be celebrated on Zoom all over the world as families gather for virtual festivities.

But getting back to the cake.  The development of 3D print technology is one of the most exciting aspects of the 4th Industrial Revolution that is driving so much change.   There are now, and have been, so many ‘things’ printed during the evolution of 3D, especially as it’s been accelerating over the last couple of years across many industries.

There is still a long way to go but below gives a glimpse of what some industries have been doing.

I’ll start with MedTech applications since this is probably the most relevant at this point in time.

3D Printing[1] – a publication billed as the Authority on Additive Manufacturing (AM) – notes that The European Association for Additive Manufacturing  (CECIMO) is responding to a request from the European Commission . Members have apparently been approached to ask if they can produce medical equipment, such as valves; masks and ventilators – crucial tools for medical professionals in their fight to treat Covid-19 patients suffering from this respiratory disease.  Many companies from the European 3D printing industry are already volunteering to aid hospitals and health centres by proposing the use of their machinery and facilities.

The New Yorker[2]  reports that according to a very recent survey released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, about ninety-two per cent of its members (two hundred and thirteen mayors, from forty-one states, plus Puerto Rico, representing forty-two million Americans) do not have enough testing kits or face masks for first responders and health-care workers; eighty-five per cent said that their hospitals do not have enough ventilators.  What is being referred to as “crowd sourced” initiatives are taking place around the globe, as innovators and AM companies switch their focus to answering these calls for help.

3D print technology is not new to the MedTech arena where it has, for some time, been revolutionising the science of transplants¬ with the printing of everything from bionic: ears; eyes; teeth; and skin to internal organs[1].

In manufacturing and engineering it has been the source of incredible innovations with the design and construction of complex tools all the way through to a bridge in Holland – really mind blowing stuff -all made on 3D printers.

As I said this was just a glimpse – the sharing of a passion – technology development – and how it is contributing to every walk of life and in these troubled times saving lives.