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Living in the Future: Silk-Steel, Spray-on Skin, and Commercial 3d Printing

First up: Genetic modification on silkworms creates silk stronger than steel. This strength has long been part of Spider silk, but spiders don’t spin enough of it for industrial production. So, a year ago, scientists and researchers at the University of Wyoming announced a hybrid silkworm that uses spider proteins for stronger silk. This silk is the strongest biological material known – and is 10 times tougher than kevlar, used in bulletproof vests.

In August this year, a company out of Fort Worth announced the commercial production of Spray-On Skin – a mixture of skin cells that can be sprayed onto wounds to help them heal faster. Unlike previous treatments, this spray-on skin uses cells from the wounded person – so that there are no grafting issues with rejecting replacement skin. Skin cells can be grown quickly in a petri dish, and then mixed into a solution to apply to the wound. This offers hope for burn victims who often required a long period of hospitalization to wait for their protective skin to regrow.

And seeing the influence of the independent 3d printing community, Staples now is offering paper-based 3d printing. This marks the first time that a major company has adopted 3d printing technology for sale, and Staples’ is set to leverage its position in the paper market by using a commercial 3d printer that uses paper as its feed. 3d printing is useful for rapid prototyping, to make a 3d model from a computer design – and this marks the first steps toward being able to simply print replacement parts instead of ordering them from a factory.

Buzzfeed has a great article on 27 science fictions that became science facts in 2012; two of the Living in the Future moments for today came from this article, and if you haven’t seen it already, you should check it out!