Some of us jokingly refer to our hobbies as “mad science,” but [Justin] from The Thought Emporium could be one Igor away from living up to the jibe. The latest project to come out of the YouTube channel, video also after the break, outlines a map for creating an artificial organism in their new lab. The purpose is to test how far a citizen scientist can push the boundary of bioengineering. The stated goal is to create a swimming entity with a skeleton. The Thought Emporium also has a neuron project in the works, hinting at a potential crossover.
The artifishal [sic] organism has themes at the micro and macro scale. [Justin] says, “Cells are like little nano-robots. Mainly in the sense that they just follow their built-in instructions to the best of their ability.” At the multi-cellular level, the goal is to program something to actuate muscle tissue rhythmically to sustain locomotion. The method for creating living parts is decellularization and recellularization, a technique we heard about at Hackaday Belgrade.
The Thought Emporium is improving upon its protocol which removes cells from their “scaffolding” to repopulate it with the desired type, muscle in this case. Cellular scaffolds retain the shape of whatever they were, so whatever grows on them determines what they become. Once the technique of turning a leaf into muscle fibers is mastered, the next step will be creating bones with a different cell line that will mineralize the scaffold. Optimizing the processes and combining the results may show the world what is possible with the dedication of citizen bioengineers.
Here’s an idea that [Nephlonor] shared a couple years ago, but is worth keeping in mind because one never knows when it might come in handy. He 3D printed a marble run track and kept the generated tree supports. As you can see in the image above, the track resembles a roller-coaster and the tree supports function as an automatically-generated scaffolding for the whole thing. Clever!
As mentioned, these results are from a couple of years ago; so this idea should work even better nowadays. Tree supports have come a long way since then, and are available in more slicers than just Cura.
If you’re going to do this, we suggest reducing or eliminating the support interface and distance, which is the spacing between the supports and the rest of the model. The interface makes supports easier to remove, but if one is intending to leave it attached, it makes more sense to have a solid connection.
And while we’re on the topic of misusing supports, we’d like to leave you with one more trick to keep in mind. [Angus] of Maker’s Muse tucked a great idea into one of his videos: print just the support structure, and use it as a stand for oddly-shaped objects. Just set the object itself to zero walls and zero infill, and the printer will generate (and print) only the support structure. Choose an attractive angle, and presto! A display stand that fits the object like a glove.
You can watch a brief video of the marble run embedded below. Again, tree supports both look better and are available in more slicers nowadays. Have you tried this? If so we’d love to hear about it, so let us know in the comments!