towards a democratization of biomimetic technologies
3D printing and manufacturing additive could well reserve a bright future for biomimicry. They make possible the reproduction at industrial scale of natural structures and forms that were difficult to manufacture until now.
Due to the many needs of industrialists, as well as the work of many biology laboratories which increase our understanding of living organisms every day,biomimicry has developed strongly in the areas of surface coatings, structural design and system architectures.
In this regard, thanks to 3D printing and additive manufacturing, it is gradually becoming possible to copy structures at small scales (micro or nanometric) in order to develop new composites with multifunctional properties: resistance, flexibility, lightness, aerodynamics, adhesion, thermoregulation, ...
The democratization of 3D printing as a production lever is becoming essential for thinking about the organization of production chains and manufactured products.
At this very moment, many bio-inspired innovations under development aim to improve existing materials or industrialize new materials and processes through 3D printing. To the point where one could legitimately think that the prism of biomimicry increases the field of action of 3D printing and maximizes its relevance.
At this very moment, many bio-inspired innovations under development aim to improve existing materials as well as to instrumentalize new materials and processes through 3D printing. To the point where one could legitimately think that the prism of biomimicry increases the field of action of 3D printing and maximizes its relevance.
The three application cases presented below, respectively in the medical fields, aeronautics/defense and construction are particularly illustrative of the potential and challenges to be met for bio-inspired innovation.
3D printing and biomimicry:
©Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg
Bioengineering, and more specifically the manufacture of prosthetics for medical use, takes full advantage of the coupling of 3D printing and biomimicry.
Originally, these could only be made from solid pieces and therefore heavy and mechanically more fragile than biological bones, which are hollow and have an optimal mass/mechanical resistance ratio. However, thanks to 3D printing, it is now possible to reproduce these structures and even to make artificial cartilage and ligaments, ensuring reproduction as close as possible to life.
Tailor-made for each patient is also required, because the advent of 3D printing makes the customization of production both inexpensive and simple to implement.
Bio-inspired 3D printing: aeronautics and defense are one step ahead!
The aeronautic and defense industry, historically providers of innovations which then spilled over into the civil field (GPS, nuclear reactor, etc.) is also at the forefront of 3D printing.
This has already made inroads with several aircraft manufacturers. Thus, Airbus has been manufacturing since 2015 the largest cabin component printed in 3D from an alloy of aluminium, magnesium and scandium.
The world leader was particularly inspired by the cellular architecture of slime mold (or “blob”) and bone development in humans.
This new kind of part, resulting from additive manufacturing, has seen its mass reduced by 30 kg, or nearly 45%.The mass saving thus obtained allows significant savings in fuel, and thus contributes to the reduction of the carbon footprint of the aviation sector.
Reduce the use of aluminum
The drastic safety standards that weigh on aircraft manufacturers are not a major technical constraint for 3D printing.
Although part certification processes remain long and costly, certain processes such as additive manufacturing by energy deposition make it possible to print titanium to produce parts that are lighter than their aluminum equivalent.
This remarkable characteristic of 3D printed titanium parts could lead them to gradually replace their aluminum elders: the king metal in the aeronautics industry.
On this technology, some players are now supporting companies to integrate 3D printing into their value chains, including the Franco-French group AddUp from a joint venture between the machine tool manufacturer, Fives, and Michelin, the latter being the world leader in volume of parts printed by additive manufacturing in the world.
©Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg
Bio-inspired 3D printing to revolutionize construction.
In construction, materials have also evolved to allow the printing of concrete or metal infrastructures, even as the revolution of the single-family house printed in just one day is preparing.
XtreeE and Egis, for example, recently recreated a reef inspired by coralligenous, using cement specially designed by LafargeHolcim, in order to regenerate marine habitats in the Marseille region.
This approach also validates, in this respect, the wealth of innovations inspired by coral ecosystems after Calera in the United States developed a cement that generates less CO2 in production by taking inspiration from the bio-mineralization of the carbon present in water in this living organism.
3D printing and biomimicry :
a future marriage
In conclusion, in this period of strong technological innovation resulting in particular from the digital revolution, 3D printing will make it possible to reproduce organization patterns of materials invented by nature, which have given certain organic materials remarkable multifunctional properties (strength, flexibility, lightness, aerodynamics, grip, thermoregulation, etc.) that can bring significant benefits in the industrial world.
It thus completes the advent of biomimicry as a method of innovation and product design. It is also for this reason that Bioxegy is now supporting this revolution by offering its expertise in biomimicry, its network and innovation methods, to help companies take advantage of the library of life innovations, to rethink their value chain through a subtle but obviously relentless approach.