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A Life Changing Procedure for Those with Conductive Hearing Loss

The world’s first transplant of middle-ear bones using 3D printed components has restored the hearing of a 40-year-old man with conductive hearing loss. The groundbreaking surgical procedure was pioneered by Mashudu Tshifularo, MD, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Health Sciences, and his medical team at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in South Africa.  

Hearing loss has long been accepted as part of the aging process.  According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately one third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.  This new procedure offers hope for those suffering from one particular type of hearing impairment: conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases.

Hearing works partly through the transmission of vibrations from the ear drum to the cochlea, the sensory organ of hearing, via three tiny bones in the middle ear known as ossicles. Ossicular conductive hearing loss occurs when the ossicles – the bones of the inner ear, and the smallest in the human body – become damaged. This patient, for example, was in a car accident that caused severe trauma to his ear.

Conductive hearing loss is traditionally treated through surgical reconstruction using patient-specific prostheses made from stainless steel and ceramic. However, this surgery has a high failure rate. “The ossicles are very small structures, and one reason the surgery fails is thought to be due to incorrect sizing of the prostheses,” says Jeffrey D. Hirsch, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore. “If you could custom-design a prosthesis with a more exact fit, then the procedure should have a higher rate of success.” 

That is exactly what Dr. Hirsch and his colleagues did. They studied 3D printing as a way to create customized prostheses for patients with conductive hearing loss.  The researchers removed the middle linking bone in the ossicular chain from three human cadavers, imaged the structures with CT, and then printed cadaver-specific implants.

Four surgeons were then asked to insert each prosthesis into the corresponding middle ear, blinded to the bone from and for which each was designed. All four surgeons were able to correctly match the prosthesis model to its intended temporal bone—the bone containing the middle and inner parts of the ear. The chances of this occurring randomly are 1 in 1,296, according to Dr. Hirsch.  “This study highlights the core strength of 3D printing—the ability to very accurately reproduce anatomic relationships in space to a sub-millimeter level,” he says. “With these models, it’s almost a snap fit.”

The transplant surgery, successfully performed by Dr. Tshifularo and his colleagues in South Africa, takes Hirsh’s work one step further. It is the world’s first middle ear transplant using 3D-printed bones: It effectively replaced the hammer, anvil, and stirrup – the ossicles that make up the middle ear. Using 3D printing technology, the medical team was able to print these bones and reconstruct the ossicles in surgery. Dr. Tshifularo explains that with 3D printing his team was able to take a scan and “get the same size bone, position, shape, weight and length and put it exactly where it needs to be – almost like a hip replacement.” 

He continues, “By replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known with prostheses and their associated surgical procedures. We used titanium for this procedure, which is biocompatible and an endoscope to do the replacement, so the transplant was quick – taking less than two hours, with minimal scarring,” Dr. Tshifularo said. Two weeks after the procedure, when his bandages were removed, the patient’s hearing had significantly improved.

The surgery further aims to simplify the reconstruction of ossicles during middle ear procedures, including ossiculoplasty and stapedectomy, because it lessens the risk of intrusion trauma.

The researchers hope to reduce the risks associated with traditional surgery, including the potential for facial nerve paralysis, which can occur if the facial nerve that passes through the middle ear space is damaged.

So far, the surgery, which can be performed on people of any age, has already been used to treat two patients. Dr. Tshifularo transplanted 3D printed ear bones into a second patient with an underdeveloped middle ear, replacing the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The process essentially rebuilt the patient’s middle ear ossicles with the help of titanium 3D printing.

Says Dr. Tshifularo, “3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought we could.”

Interested in learning more about how 3D printing is powering new innovations in healthcare? Take a closer look at the way Stratasys is driving medical innovation HERE.

The post World’s First Middle Ear Transplant Facilitated by 3D Printing Cures Deafness appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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Historically, the choice of part production method has been grounded in requirements. Mating geometries, strength and chemical resistance needs, and expected number of “cycles” have dictated choices in both material and manufacturing method.

There are now multiple processes that can produce parts that meet the same engineering requirements. Additive processes are often massively more cost-efficient than traditional manufacturing at small (and many times moderate) volumes. This opens up options for engineering and supply chain to collaborate on production efficiency.

Defining terms

At first, “Dual Manufacturing” may sound like a familiar supply chain term, “Dual Sourcing,” but there are important distinctions:

Dual Sourcing is the process of using two or more suppliers for a given component, raw material, or service. Often dual sourcing is used to reduce risk, lower cost, diversify geographically, or for other strategic reasons.

Dual Manufacturing is the process of using two production processes in parallel to produce equivalent parts. The production processes will complement each other to give some advantage (e.g. efficient production over a wide range of volumes, geographic diversity, or shortened lead times). Often, one process will be a traditional manufacturing process (injection molding, pressing, casting, etc.) which is efficient at volume, at the expense of flexibility and fixed startup cost. The second process usually makes use of digital production, like additive manufacturing or CNC machining.

Design for dual manufacturing

The flexibility of having two processes has a tradeoff. You gain increased production flexibility, but often incur some cost of engineering work to design for two manufacturing methods. Odds are low that a design will be optimal for two different manufacturing methods (i.e. injection molding and additive), so two part designs (equivalent parts) will typically be necessary.

As an example, a nylon gear (pictured) may be designed with an interior cutout to allow for part cooling when injection-molded. That same gear might be designed as a solid gear using additive to optimize for speed of printing and post-processing.

When dual manufacturing makes sense

Dual manufacturing can make sense when some aspect of production changes to make one type of manufacturing advantageous than another. Some examples:

  • Lead times become critical (e.g. for a production launch)
  • Volumes of production runs vary widely (because of seasonality, unexpected demand, or aftermarket needs)
  • Economics of production (labor costs, import duties, etc.) vary across different markets.

In the case of additive, dual manufacturing may make sense when you require production at an acceptable total cost per part at both high volumes (for production runs) and low volumes (for aftermarket needs).

Understanding the economics of dual manufacturing

Gleaning the economic advantages of dual manufacturing may sound daunting, but it comes down to understanding the cost drivers of your processes; something engineers and supply chain professionals will find familiar. As an example, let’s look at injection molding and fixed deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing.

In injection molding, fixed costs of production include tooling, line setup, and producing/verifying first articles. Those costs must be amortized across all the parts in your production run. In contrast, production using FDM 3D printing incurs none of these fixed costs and produces parts with very little lead time, but generally comes with higher material costs. In the case of long, predictable production runs, injection molding will be the right production method. However, if a short run is needed, additional production capacity is needed temporarialy, or a part stocks out unexpectedly in high demand, 3D printing sometimes will be the right way to go. Only by having both processes validated can your manufacturing operation achieve the advantages of both processes.

Additive manufacturing isn’t always the solution to every problem, but where the economics and engineering work, we’ve been able to help companies achieve impressive results:

  • 50% reductions in part cost for production line spare parts
  • Reduction of lead times from 6 months to 2 days for key repair parts
  • Low volume manufacturing enablement that makes entire product lines feasable

It is clear to me that additive has massive untapped potential as a manufacturing tool. On a personal level, that’s what’s exciting to me about working with Stratasys Consulting, where we’re clarifying these issues and partnering with clients to help them make informed decisions in their supply chains.

The post Dual Sourcing vs Dual Manufacturing: How supply chain and manufacturing can better understand AM in production. appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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Boom Supersonic Taps into the Power of 3D Printing

There’s a magic number in physics – and for Boom Supersonic alongside Stratasys 3D printing – it’s finally on the radar.

This special number is the speed at which a sound wave travels through air.  It changes based on atmospheric conditions like temperature, density, and pressure – but for reference – it’s about 760mph at standard sea level conditions. 

Early in aviation, it was thought an aircraft could never fly as fast as sound, because of the instability experienced as an aircraft approached this magic number.  Soon the ingenuity of engineers and the boldness of test pilots proved an aircraft could travel faster than sound. And when it did, a shockwave formed on the leading edge of the aircraft – heard on the ground as a sonic boom as the vehicle travels by.

And while traveling ahead of that sonic boom is not something experienced during commercial air travel in more than a decade, Boom Supersonic is set to change all that.

The airplane manufacturer is well on its way to bringing the supersonic experience back to commercial air travel.  Set to fly in coming months, the XB-1 supersonic demonstrator is a precursor to Boom’s Overture– which will carry commercial passengers at more than 2X the speed of sound.

But building airplanes that can safely travel at Mach 2.2 requires bringing together well-proven technologies to manufacture in a whole new way. Boom is doing just that by taking advantage of advances in engine technology, composites, and digital design that were unavailable the last time supersonic commercial air travel was attempted. Another technology that has reached maturity since the industry’s last attempt is 3D printing.


To learn more about putting the power of Stratasys additive manufacturing solutions to work in high-performance environments, explore our aerospace page.

Companies like Boom are starting to take flight with 3D printing from Stratasys.

Boom Supersonic has used the Stratasys F370 and Fortus 450mc 3D printers for two years – saving hundreds of hours of manufacturing time and rapidly 3D printing more than 200 parts for tooling, prototypes, a flight simulator, and test benches. As part of a new seven-year agreement, Boom is set to expand this use of 3D printing beyond what have become everyday uses of 3D printing – by capitalizing on the Stratasys F900 3D Printer with the Aircraft Interiors Solution (AIS) package.

Offering the highest repeatability and largest build size of any FDM system, the F900 AIS configuration is the 3D printing solution needed for companies relying on proven technology to quickly develop a new aircraft.  No other 3D printer is able to provide the combination of material properties and process control required to quickly qualify printed parts for on-aircraft applications.

Mike Jagemann, Head of XB-1 Production at Boom told us they love being able to 3D print critical parts and components on-site rather than purchasing them from a supplier, “We can create custom parts, increase our speed from engineering to manufacturing, focus on building the aircraft and fulfill our vision of commercial supersonic travel,” he says. “Stratasys’ standing as a global leader in 3D printed aerospace applications makes them the ideal partner for us in the long-term.”

To learn more about putting the power of Stratasys additive manufacturing solutions to work in high-performance environments, explore our aerospace page.

The runway is clear. Time to take off with 3D printing!

The post Sonic “Boom” – Cruising at 2X the Speed of Sound with Additive Manufacturing appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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For Marshall Aerospace and Defense Group, the time is now to take flight. As one of the world’s largest privately owned and independent aerospace and defense companies, Marshall is consistently pushing the boundaries to engineer accurate, complex, functional and lightweight parts with streamlined costs. That’s why additive manufacturing is becoming a natural fit for their production processes and they’re now using 3D printed parts from Stratasys that are built-to-fly.

Additive manufacturing is increasingly a “go-to” application as manufacturers aim to boost performance and reliability of complex, flight-ready parts – all at lower costs. These companies are adopting the technology to power faster design iterations, decision-making and responses to market changes – allowing fixtures and flight-ready parts to go from idea to production in a fraction of the time. And since it’s aerospace, all materials must align with the strict qualification and certification guidelines set by the industry.

For Marshall, 3D printing with Stratasys is a natural fit. The team is incorporating the solution to manufacture flight-ready parts for several of its military, civil and business aircraft – while engineering specific ground-running equipment at lower costs than typical aluminum alternatives. They’re also integrating Stratasys technology into 3D printed ductwork flying on heavily modified aircraft – as well as key aircraft interior components.

The manufacturer capitalizes on the Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D Printer and ULTEM 9085 resin as key components of their prototyping and manufacturing ecosystems. The FDM machine is purpose-built for advanced prototyping and production – designed to 3D print in complex, requirement-driven environments, such as aerospace and automotive industries.

The ULTEM resin is certified, high-performance FDM thermoplastic – allowing manufacturers to 3D print production-grade parts for lightweight, high-strength and certified applications. Advanced ULTEM materials ensure parts also meet the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for aircraft interiors.

3D printing has also been instrumental for Marshall to prove complex designs before moving to expensive production – including one of their key ducting adapter prototypes.

With this application, Marshall realized major cost savings for this 3D printed prototype, alongside a 63 percent reduction in overall part weight.

Marshall’s ducting adapter prototype.

The Fortus machine ensured Marshall could 3D print the prototype in ASA material, before investing in more expensive aluminum options during machining. This process allowed for development of a working prototype of that intricate component – ultimately proving it could be 3D printed in Nylon 12 rather than more costly options. 

According to Chris Botting, Materials, Processes and Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Marshall ADG – the company is completely invested in FDM technology:

“FDM technology has altered the way we work, and the aerospace-grade 3D printers and materials enable us to meet our increasing aggressive deadlines and complex manufacturing requirements. In the future, there’s no doubt that 3D printing will continue to have a significant impact in the way we design and manufacture in our business.”

Marshall is just one of hundreds of aerospace companies worldwide empowering business to take flight with additive manufacturing. Learn how to put the power of Stratasys technology to work in your high-requirement manufacturing environment.

For more information – and to help get ideas off the ground quickly – visit the Stratasys aerospace solutions page.

The post Additive Manufacturing Takes Flight with Marshall Aerospace appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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Researchers at Tel Aviv University say their ‘major medical breakthrough’ will advance possibilities for transplants

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are currently the only option available for patients with end-stage heart failure.  But the number of heart donors is in short supply and many die while waiting. Even when they do benefit, they can fall victim to their bodies rejecting the transplant — a problem a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University is seeking to overcome.

The Tel Aviv team has unveiled the world’s first complete 3D printed heart with human tissue and blood vessels calling it “a major breakthrough,” advancing the possibility for transplants. “Using the patient’s own tissue was important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected,” according to  Tal Dvir, who led the research and is senior author of the study published in the journal Advanced Science.

Dvir says this marks “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. Until now, scientists in regenerative medicine — a field positioned at the crossroads of biology and technology — have been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.” When asked to sum up this groundbreaking accomplishment, he states, “Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.”

So, you may wonder, where do you begin when 3D printing a living heart? The first step involves taking a biopsy of the fatty tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs from the patient. Researchers then separate the cells in the tissue from the rest of the contents, namely, the extracellular matrix linking the cells. After which, the cells are reprogrammed to become stem cells and the matrix is processed into a personalized hydrogel that serves as the printing “ink.” 

When mixed with the hydrogel, the stem cells differentiate into cardiac or epithelial cells, creating patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels, which later become an entire heart.  “At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart,” added Dvir. “But larger human hearts require the same technology.”

He also notes, “The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments. Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties as the patient’s own tissues. Here, we report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.” 

Next, the researchers plan to train the hearts to behave like hearts, Dvir explained, “The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together.” If researchers are successful, they plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animals and, after that, humans.

Although we may be years away from having organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world to enable these procedures to be conducted routinely, this is certainty a groundbreaking step toward engineering customized organs that can be transplanted with less risk of rejection.

More than 113,000 people are currently on the national transplant list. And with a shortage of donors, this means that about 20 people die every day while waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

The post A New Breakthrough in the Treatment of Heart Disease Maybe a Heartbeat Away appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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Researchers at Tel Aviv University say their ‘major medical breakthrough’ will advance possibilities for transplants

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are currently the only option available for patients with end-stage heart failure.  But the number of heart donors is in short supply and many die while waiting. Even when they do benefit, they can fall victim to their bodies rejecting the transplant — a problem a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University is seeking to overcome.

The Tel Aviv team has unveiled the world’s first complete 3D printed heart with human tissue and blood vessels calling it “a major breakthrough,” advancing the possibility for transplants. “Using the patient’s own tissue was important to eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected,” according to  Tal Dvir, who led the research and is senior author of the study published in the journal Advanced Science.

Dvir says this marks “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. Until now, scientists in regenerative medicine — a field positioned at the crossroads of biology and technology — have been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.” When asked to sum up this groundbreaking accomplishment, he states, “Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.”

So, you may wonder, where do you begin when 3D printing a living heart? The first step involves taking a biopsy of the fatty tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs from the patient. Researchers then separate the cells in the tissue from the rest of the contents, namely, the extracellular matrix linking the cells. After which, the cells are reprogrammed to become stem cells and the matrix is processed into a personalized hydrogel that serves as the printing “ink.” 

When mixed with the hydrogel, the stem cells differentiate into cardiac or epithelial cells, creating patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels, which later become an entire heart.  “At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart,” added Dvir. “But larger human hearts require the same technology.”

He also notes, “The biocompatibility of engineered materials is crucial to eliminating the risk of implant rejection, which jeopardizes the success of such treatments. Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties as the patient’s own tissues. Here, we report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.” 

Next, the researchers plan to train the hearts to behave like hearts, Dvir explained, “The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together.” If researchers are successful, they plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart in animals and, after that, humans.

Although we may be years away from having organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world to enable these procedures to be conducted routinely, this is certainty a groundbreaking step toward engineering customized organs that can be transplanted with less risk of rejection.

More than 113,000 people are currently on the national transplant list. And with a shortage of donors, this means that about 20 people die every day while waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

The post A New Breakthrough in the Treatment of Heart Disease Maybe a Heartbeat Away appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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Congrats to all 12 of the Stratasys Performance Partners who qualified at the Indianapolis 500!

The post Stratasys Performance Partners Qualify at Indianapolis 500 appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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For many years, 3D Printing was an abstract concept. The technology “could” be used to advance innovation, streamline design cycles, and power manufacturing, but there was little or no proof. Industries started to explore how to align additive manufacturing across business, but there were few use-cases to lean on. Fast-forward to present day and industrial-grade additive manufacturing is having a real and significant impact on markets ranging from aerospace to consumer packaged goods. But with this maturity comes an entirely new set of challenges.

The industry is at a place where 3D printing can actually reshape traditional manufacturing processes. As proven by Stratasys use-cases, the technology is quite effective at disrupting legacy models to boost innovation and design, power time-to-market. and accelerate revenue. But be careful – there’s still a ton of work to be done in education and training to bridge the gap between industry and academia.

The new Deloitte Insights report (co-authored by Stratasys and the Lanterman Group) stresses the critical nature of collaboration across business and education environments. Only by working together can the two better prepare and train the next-generation of additive manufacturing talent – effectively scaling AM into production uses. Based on countless interviews with both academics and industry experts, the piece analyzes best approaches to achieving a highly-capable additive manufacturing workforce through education.

Deloitte’s report notes today’s educational institutions are in a unique position to bridge this skills gap. Tools at their disposal include curriculum development, construction of world-class facilities, cutting-edge research, and accelerated internships – each exposing students to the right AM technology, know-how and real-world implementations. The missing element is real and long-lasting partnerships across industry leaders, educators, and even students.

But good news – the market is well aware of this gap, and seems willing to advance both design and process knowledge. To make this possible, both market and academic leaders must start directly focusing on five “musts” in workforce evolution:

  • Multi-disciplinary understanding of core AM knowledge sets, including material science, design and engineering
  • Robust design education and knowledge – specifically Design-for-AM (DfAM)
  • Programs to nurture powerful and innovative thinkers
  • Awareness of AM’s link to transforming legacy manufacturing processes
  • Construction of a business-case and ROI mindset

And while there’s no single approach to fit every circumstance, there are readily available methodologies, approaches and strategies that every company and academic institution CAN and SHOULD adopt – moving from opportunity to implementation. Now’s the time for each to step back and uncover the best approaches to connecting and collaborating with one another. That’s the only way true transformation is possible.

Want to take a closer look at the Deloitte research and use cases from Stratasys users? Learn more about the power of Stratasys’ industrial-grade technology – and then access the Deloitte paper here.

The post Mind the Gap… Aligning Industry and Academia to Power Additive Manufacturing appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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We like saying our customers can “Make it with Stratasys” – tapping into the power of 3D printing to turn great ideas into innovation and success. For three decades, our team has helped industry leaders capitalize on Additive Manufacturing to make things easier, faster and more reliably than ever before – from prototypes and tooling to final part production.  Now our technology is hitting the big screen, as Stratasys and LAIKA Studios partner to introduce the new animated feature film, “Missing Link” – hitting theaters worldwide tomorrow (April 12).

Based in Portland, Oregon, LAIKA is an award-winning production company behind such Hollywood films as “Coraline”, “Kubo and the Two Strings”, and “Paranorman”. Leveraging 3D printing to transform the centuries-old art of stop-motion animation, the studio has a rich history with Stratasys. Leveraging additive manufacturing, LAIKA is bringing imagination to life – creating the most realistic, true-to-life 3D printed puppets for its feature films.

Working with Stratasys J750 PolyJet technology, LAIKA develops animated characters with the richest colors, textures, and facial expressions. For “Missing Link”, the production company actually 3D printed more than 300,000 parts on the J750 – from character facial expressions down to the smallest set piece. The J750 is perfectly designed for these film-makers – with true, full-color capability, texture-mapping and color gradients. This results in parts with unmatched look, feel and operation.

Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype at LAIKA recently said, “Being able to have a 3D printer like the Stratasys J750 that’s repeatable and accurate with this full-range of color and materials has afforded us the idea of being able to achieve this shot-by-shot animation. [LAIKA’s relationship with Stratasys] has been reinforced film after film. There’s a level of trust that allows us to continue to push each other in really positive ways and I’m excited to forge this relationship on our next movie”.

And this next step is “Missing Link”, as Stratasys is the ONLY 3D printing technology used by LAIKA during this particular film production.  So when you listen to Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana or Zach Galifianakis crack jokes on the big screen, know that it’s Stratasys enabling the most colorful, vibrant and realistic 3D printed characters ever created for feature films.

Want more information on our work with LAIKA? Take a look at our case study, diving deep into the Stratasys – LAIKA relationship and the evolution of 3D printing click here. Then check out detailed information on the Stratasys J750 here – and understand how our technology drives innovation in your industry.

Don’t forget – buy your tickets for “Missing Link” at the box office this weekend – and witness how LAIKA Studios is “Making it with Stratasys”!

The post Stratasys Delivers the “Missing Link” for LAIKA Studios appeared first on Stratasys Blog.

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