3D printing has revolutionized everything from the manufacturing industry to the healthcare system. It seems that with each passing day, someone finds a brand-new way to utilize 3D printing to its full potential. Recently, the FDA in conjunction with MIT and the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) discovered that they could 3D print a dog’s sensitive nose.
Dogs and National Security
For decades now, the government has utilized man’s best friend as a valuable tool in protecting national security. A dog has a sense of smell that is far superior to that of a human, which means a canine can sniff out some of the biggest threats to security. In fact, dogs can sniff out more than just bombs or narcotic substances; they can even detect airborne pathogens or cancer just by smelling them. Although they’re great at their jobs, many government agencies have turned to vapor detection devices, which are far more expendable than canine lives. The research conducted by MIT, the FDA, and the NIST aimed to improve upon these sensitive man-made devices.
The Move to Vapor Detection Devices
Existing research shows that dogs have 40 times more olfactory receptors than human beings, which sheds some insight onto why these animals are so much better at detecting scents. Vapor detection devices have been designed with the dog’s anatomy in mind, but they’re missing one very important detail – they cannot mimic the way that dogs exhale, which is also important to scent detection. As dogs exhale, they do so in a way that allows the vapor carrying the scent to move closer to their snouts. Vapor detection devices cannot do this yet.
The 3D Printed Model
The researchers printed an anatomically correct model of the nose of a golden retriever in an effort to understand why dogs are so adept at picking up on scents. Once the model was complete, they used a very sensitive optical system to evaluate the way air moves as a dog sniffs. They found that the nostrils lined up perfectly to move air away from their snouts, which allowed for better airflow from the odor source. After the research was complete, the team then 3D printed nostrils just like those found on the golden retriever and added them to their vapor detection devices. The detectors were then far superior to their predecessors, which makes them more valuable to national security than ever before.
Other Uses for Vapor Detection
Now that vapor detection device prototypes are being fitted with dog-like olfactory systems, researchers and experts believe that these new devices will be used for more than just sniffing bombs or drugs. Like dogs, they hope to program the machines to pick up on things like airborne pathogens, chemicals that may be used in warfare, and even cancer, which would make them incredibly valuable to the healthcare industry.
It’s obvious that 3D printing is advancing at an exponential rate. Each and every day, some of the brightest minds in the country are finding new ways to use this technology for the betterment of humankind. Although it’s dogs’ noses for the protection of national security today, it may be a lifesaving breakthrough tomorrow.