Technology 3 min read

Storing 3D Printing Instructions in Everyday Objects

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Researchers have figured out a way to store extensive information — such as 3D printing instructions — on everyday objects.

In living things, the DNA carries operating instructions for development, functioning, growth, and reproduction.

Similarly, anyone who wishes to 3D print an object requires a set of instructions. That way, if they choose the same object again after a few years, the original digital information will be available.

Now here’s the problem.

Unlike living things, inanimate objects can’t store instructions. As a result, researchers usually depend on conventional storage mediums to keep 3D printing instructions.

But that’s about to change.

Thanks to researchers at ETH Zurich and an Isreali scientist, we can now store extensive information in almost any object. And yes, it includes 3D printing instructions.

Speaking about the project, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, Robert Grass said:

“With this method, we can integrate 3D-printing instructions into an object so that after decades, or even centuries, it will be possible to obtain those instructions directly from the object itself.”

Here’s how the researchers attained this feat.

Using the DNA of Things to Store 3D Printing Instructions

The project built on past advancements in storing information in the DNA.

For example, Grass developed a method for marking products with a DNA barcode that’s embedded in tiny glass beads. Similarly, Grass’s colleague, Yaniv Erlich, had previously created a technique that makes storing 215,000 terabytes of data in a single gram of DNA possible.

By combining these methods, the two scientists developed a new form of data storage. They’re calling the “DNA of Things” — a takeoff on the Internet of Things.

To test the new storage medium, the researchers embedded tiny glass beads containing DNA into a plastics. Expectedly, the DNA carried 3D printing instruction for the inanimate object.

Using this information, the researchers were able to print a plastic bunny. “Just like real rabbits, our rabbit also carries its blueprint,” Grass says.

What’s more, Grass and his colleagues were able to retrieve the information from a small part of the rabbit to print a new one. They repeated this process five times, creating several plastic bunny descendants.

The technology’s potential application extends beyond storing 3D information to print inanimate rabbits.

It’s useful in steganography — the practice of concealing information within everyday objects. Also, the technology could be used to mark medications or construction materials like paints and adhesives.

Read More: 3D-Printed Corals as Replacement for Natural Coral Reef Systems

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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