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  • Bolor Amgalan

7in7 Day 2: The Universal 3D Loom

Today I decided to focus on the craftsman's hands. I had an idea to re-purpose an old image to visualize a concept that has been slowly forming in my mind. I will call this prototype The Universal 3D Loom.

In regenerative medicine, various scaffolds with differing pore sizes are created to help cells grow, and form tissues with the right structural properties for use in tissue engineering. Various textile techniques have been explored by researchers to create tissue scaffolds and both weaving and knitting are such examples.

Given the future trajectory of this field and the increasingly popularized concept of synthetic tissues - from human tissues to animal and plant tissues - scaffold making for tissue engineering purposes is an interesting area to explore. Different knitting techniques for example produce different levels of porosity, stretch and rigidity. Leveraging the vast number of knit stitches that exist, it is then possible to design a scaffold that structurally perfectly integrates with existing tissue and behaves in similar fashion to real tissue with heterogeneous properties. For this, we need either a machine that can replicate highly intricate stitches to create custom scaffolds or human hands trained to weave/knit/craft to perfection.

In the past, I have experimented with various techniques of weaving and discovered that no loom exists that can enable a weaver to weave in true unrestricted three dimensions. Sophisticated industrial machines can only weave by following mechanized patterns that are not able to adapt to the requirements of custom scaffolds. If we wanted to weave a heart scaffold for a future when synthetic organs are common, or if we wanted to weave the scaffold for the perfect steak shape for a future when synthetic food is widely accepted (or needed), we will a new kind of loom.

The below prototype is a visualization of a loom that allows warp threads to be introduced to the scaffold from any angle in all 3 dimensions and it is equipped with an augmented reality system that projects a 3D model (can be a scan of the organ with the right specifications) where the weaver wants to weave inside the loom. In the prototype, there is a 3D model of a human heart at the center of the loom and the weaver is able to weave the scaffold with their bare hands (or perhaps they are covered by tight fitting gloves).

In the image above, the focus is not really the scaffold itself, it is the loom and the augmentation of the weavers' hands that makes it possible to weave highly complex structures to very specific requirements. The 3D heart model the weaver can see in their headset is there to guide the hands throughout the duration of the weaving process.

Inspiration image from "Soft robotic sleeve supports heart function". The scaffold here is in fact soft robotic sleeve that mimics the contraction of heart muscle (Ellen T. Roche, Science Translational Medicine, 18 Jan 2017).


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