3D Printing Developments


3D Printing

3D printing is great, but it does have its downsides. Take a look at this article for example, it gives some idea of possible applications and uses for the technology.My colleague Christopher wrote that one, and it is a joy to see some young and optimistic blood writing about technology. As an old pessimistic dog however, I cannot overcome my cynical streak. Check out this article that I wrote about possible negative effects upon health related to 3D printing.

Anyway, on a blog with the grandeur of this one there is room for everything, and today I am going to dive into the abyss of optimism!

Now when we think of 3D printing we often think of small plastic models, and we all know that plastic is a problem for the world. It is cheap, does not degrade, you cannot get rid of it, it washes into plastic floating islands and it’s made from oil. But 3D printing offers much more than plastic models today.

Alternative Materials

A Dutch design company plans to use special robots to 3D-print a steel bridge across the Amsterdam Canal. A company called MX3D, which specializes in using robotics to 3D print, and Dutch designer Joris Laaram are behind the project. You see these kids can print with metal, as can the people who supply parts for Boeing, and use is far more common that we might imagine.

But MX3D go one better. They can print metals in position, so not in a lab or workshop but wherever they want, outside, in the open air, or over a canal. So they have robots that can build a bridge on site using 3D printing technology, as they sit on the half constructed bridge.

But that is not the end of it, of course. Printers can also use recycled products to produce artifacts. Plastic is a simple idea, but what about other materials? What about food waste? Well obviously you can.

Food Waste

Italy-based designer Marina Ceccolini is doing some experimenting in the field. Inspired by the rigidness of a dehydrated tangerine peel, the designer began creating her own potential 3D printing material called AgriDust. Ceccolini’s AgriDust is made from foods found in her local landfill: everything from coffee grounds to peanut shells, orange and lemon peels, tomato skins, and bean pods. Held together with potato starch Ceccolini believes that using a paste extruder, the material could be 3D printed into new objects. The 64.5% waste/35.5% binder composition could, the designer proposes, limit the plastic waste generated by 3D printers.

Now Check out this article, it describes everything and includes an interview with the designer.

One thing that comes to mind however is the problem of allergies. Can you make something that contains nuts? I doubt it. But the idea sounds really promising to me. And I certainly look forward to watching the bridge go up, it’s just down the road (or canal) from here.

A Drinkable Book

drinkable book


Water Filters in a Book

Dr Teri Dankovich, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh USA has developed and tested a book whose pages can be torn out and used to filter drinking water. Trails are impressive, with the process bringing the water up to US drinking water standards.

The book’s pages contain nanoparticles of silver or copper, which kill bacteria in the water as it passes through. Some of the particles do remain in the water however, but they remain within the legal limits.


Now here I have to add my own input to the debate. As readers might know I have written several posts about nanomaterials and it is one of the fields that I work in, and I would question how legal limits are defined.

Nanoparticles are treated like any other particles, and their scale is not taken in account, but this seems to raise some questions. The fact that they are so small means that they can pass easily into the blood stream, so their effects may not be the same as larger particles of the same materials.

So I have to leave an open question mark over the legal issue, but the fact that the water is drinkable is a great advantage. And this leads me to ponder the fact that innovation, and its level of responsibility and ethical justification, must be local. An invention or innovation that brings drinkable water to millions, is portable and cheap and could save many lives, must be seen within its context. Nanoparticles in the water in this situation, may not be same an nano particles found in water because of factory pollution or deliberate addition when other processes might be readily available.

An article on the BBC explains that “All you need to do is tear out a paper, put it in a simple filter holder and pour water into it from rivers, streams, wells etc and out comes clean water – and dead bacteria as well”. And one page can clean up to 100 litres of water. A book could filter one person’s water supply for four years.

The project is looking for funding, so if you are interested and have some money to spare click on the link at the start of the post and pass them over your pocket money.

As a final thought, nanotechnology has come in for criticism from the academic community for its lack of regulation, and rightly so. But it also brings a world of possibilities, many of which like the story above that could transform people’s lives. This is the fine line that interests me in my work, how to make the most of scientific developments at the least environmental and social costs, and for the highest number of people.

Fairphone, A Case of Responsible Innovation?


Fairphone, Responsible Innovation?

This week I want to carry on my investigation into Responsible innovation with an example. I think it might express the idea easily, which has been one of its problems. So meet the Fairphone.

I have seen Fairphone described as a responsible innovation, so let’s take a look at its credentials. Anyone who has ever looked into manufacturing practices of our favourite modern technology will know that there is a dark side to its use, from illegal mining, child labour, poor safety records, it is all there. And this seems to be what Fairphone are trying to counteract.

I take the following from the website:


We want to integrate materials in our supply chain that support local economies, not armed militias. We’re starting with conflict-free minerals from the DRC to stimulate alternative solutions.

Sounds like it might address some of the problems noted above.


We’re using design to change the relationship between people and their phones. We’re focusing on longevity and repairability to extend the phone’s usable life and give buyers more control over their products.

With all due respect to a certain company that makes phones that you cannot even change the battery on, I can feel someone turning in his grave!


Factory workers deserve safe conditions, fair wages and worker representation. We work closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing.

Sounds more than reasonable given the bad press that many manufacturers have had in recent years.

Life Cycle

We’re addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. We believe that our responsibility doesn’t end with sales.

Given how many are in circulation this must be a priority, and the problem of e-waste is well known.

Here is the publicity blurb:

A smartphone with social values

This quality smartphone lets us open up processes and start a conversation about what is truly fair. From conflict-free minerals to fair factory wages, we’re making improvements one step at a time. Your purchase supports better ways of doing business that aim to inspire the entire industry.

And for those of you who also care about other things:

Introducing the Fairphone 2

5-inch Full HD display with Gorilla® Glass 3

Android​​™​ 5.1 (​Lollipop)

32 GB internal storage​

Expandable storage via MicroSD slot​

Dual SIM

4G LTE/3G/2G

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 platform,​ 2GB RAM​

It looks like a serious piece of kit to me, and if all of the above is true, how could you say no?

The roadmap on the website goes into greater detail, I can certainly recommend a look. You can get a cost breakdown, as well as a financial statement (the project is financially independent). Now I should note that am not paid for this post, neither have I approached the manufacturer, I have never asked for anything from them and am fully independent myself, but I must say that it certainly looks like a fine project to me. They are now taking orders for Fairphone 2, and I am sorely tempted, I would be a hypocrite not to be!

529 Euros. Does that sound reasonable? It is out of my price range I am afraid, but more to the point does it explain what Responsible Innovation might be?

How does wireless charging work?

This is my two hundred and fiftieth (writing it out in full looks better than 250th) article on Technology Bloggers! It’s taken nearly four and a quarter years to get this far, but here I am, still blogging away. :-)
That’s an average of 5 posts per month!

Not that anyone’s keeping score, but Jonny is hot on my heals now with 165 – just 85 behind me!

Finally, wireless charging on a mainstream mobile phone has arrived. Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Active all come wireless charging ready. Unfortunately we aren’t yet at the stage where your phone can wirelessly charge in your pocket, you do have to buy a wireless charging pad and have it sit on that, but it’s a step further than we have ever been before. This article gives an incite into the technology behind wireless charging, and then in my next article I’m going to review Samsung’s official wireless charging pad.

Wireless Charging Technology

Tesla coil wireless power

A Tesla Coil being used to wirelessly power a light bulb

The capability to power things wirelessly is not a new phenomenon. Way back in the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla was using his Tesla Coil to power things from across the room. You might have done a similar experiment in science lessons at school, using a Tesla Coil to light up a light bulb.

The reason it’s taken so long for wireless charging to become mass market is because compared to wired charging, it is hugely inefficient. Wireless charging wastes a lot of energy as heat, meaning less is used to actually power the device. Wireless charging also takes longer than wired power, and as such is much more expensive.

Plugging my phone (the Galaxy S6) into a standard micro USB port will charge it from flat in around 2 hours. Plugging it into a fast charger takes just over an hour for a full charge. Charging wirelessly from flat takes over 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of electricity being used, compared to 1 in a fast charger.

Wireless charging has also taken a whole to become mainstream because of problems with proximity. Tesla could power a light bulb from across the room, but that wasn’t controllable. If he had 2 light bulbs and only wanted to power one, he had no way of stopping power reaching the other. With so many different devices and radio frequencies about today, it is essential that wireless charging works without interfering with any other signals – for example your mobiles 4G signal. As such wireless charging has a very low proximity range. My S6 quite literally has to be on or within an inch or two of the pad to charge. A range of 1 meter would be fantastic, however that could fry other bits of tech, or ruin the magnetic strip on my credit cards.

Despite over 100 years in the making, wireless charging is still in reasonable early stages of development. It is a great idea, and when it works, it is super convenient and very useful, but still has a long way to go.

If you want to find out more about how wireless charging works, I recommend this YouTube video as a good place to start.