Pigs Bladder Football

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This article was written on 02 Jul 2012, and is filled under 2012, 3D Forms, Lab, News.

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3D Printed Scaffolds


After making the decision at the end of last year that the ball should be grown onto a 3D printed form which I will design (rather than using decellularized pigskin) I have been through various stages of thinking regards how a final shape should look and work.

Ultimately, I am quite keen on the 32 panel, hexagon and pentagon patch ball design (truncated icosahedron) which remains the image which leaps to mind whenever anyone has to draw a football even though this style of ball has long been superseded. As well as this though, I think it would be interesting to elude to a “natural” element too and I have given a lot of consideration to ways in which a “vascular” bifurcating structure could be incorporated into the design.

I have been working on some basic starting points for 3D printed scaffolds and during this week I will be experimenting with exporting these files to suitable stl. format in order to attempt some 3D prints. Perhaps, once I get the hang of this, I will be able to look at developing some more advanced meshes, resembling the kinds of tree-like, generative “vascular” structures imagined.

In terms of the shape, again, in a medical application context, data from CT scans have been used in order to model organ forms and this is something which I would like to explore in the future. I imagine a scenario where I could obtain primary CT Scan data from an actual living pig, and the artery structures could be mapped onto a 3D polygon shape. In terms of the work I am developing now, there are practical barriers to attempting this approach (for instance I was not able to get hold of any satisfactory data from existing CT Scans which I felt confident could be translated into a 3D structure.) Time deadlines for growing suitable pig bladder cells are my number one concern, so, I have resolved to try and simplify down the spec of these first few scaffolds.

In trying to determine a simple but also versatile way that to generate the kinds of stl. files required for printing the geometric 3D scaffold forms I have looked at various entry-level 3D modelling platforms (google sketch up, Blender) but, having, looked at the maths of basic geometric shapes and regular polygons I have decided that I want to get more involved in programming the maths of these forms myself. To this end I have begun working with the Processing development environment which is becoming a familiar tool to many artists (and therefore there is the potential for other people to make use of the work after). When combined with a user contributed Hemesh library Processing allows a mathematical and generative approach to designing 3D shapes.

These initial scaffolds which I will be producing are printed using PLA (polylactic acid) a corn derived polymer which biodegrades over a long enough period of time. In a medical context, 3D printed polymers used for the growth of artificial organs, are actually broken down within the body, leaving behind only the artificial organic form: My football scaffold forms won’t need to biodegrade, but it is interesting that such a capacity is possible, even within these proof of concept objects.

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