That’s the question being considered by Duncan Graham-Rowe of New Scientist. The premise is whether the components that make up each of us can be replaced using modern technology.
Replacement bones are discussed, and as we’ve talked about before, they are a very good candidate for 3D print technology: they are relatively small 3D objects that are each unique and cannot be mass-manufactured.
But artificial bones are not perfect. One idea that may see them match natural bone’s strength and lightness is to build implants by zapping titanium powder with a laser. That can makes pores of different sizes in different areas of the finished product, controlling strength and stiffness in the same way as real bone.
We agree, printing 3D objects for non-critical applications such as model railways is perhaps a better use of 3D print tech at this time. The article continues to suggest that:
But growing living bone and cartilage to order is probably the best way to tackle the problems with getting the body to accept man-made materials.
Maybe. But we suspect that eventually 3D print tech will reliably produce inexpensive robust and light objects, far superior to naturally-grown components. Like we’ve done in all other areas of human endeavor, we’ll exploit this capability for bionics in the future. We just hope it doesn’t cost $6M.