Vatican Corner 07-22-18

Three dimensional (3D) printing is a manufacturing process using digital data and a printing machine to build up material layer by layer to create tangible objects. Plastics, carbon – fibers, metals, and food are some of the materials being used today in these printers. Such items as artificial limbs, jewelry, high performance auto parts, unmanned aircraft, cake decorations, food sculptures, and even 3D printers are being created in this way. A new plastic helmet intended to replace the one currently in use by the Swiss Guard, the small army that protect the pope, has been created using 3D printing. The helmet was unveiled prior to the annual swearing in ceremony of the new 32 Swiss Guard recruits on May 6, 2018. The helmet is part of the Guard ’ s famous blue, red, orange and yellow Gala Uniform that was created in the early 20th century, and is used only for ceremony and serves no defensive purpose. At other times, such as night sentry duty, the Guard wears much simpler uniforms topped by a beret. The helmet that is being replaced is made of sheet steel, stamped with the coat – of – arms of Pope Julius II, who founded the small army in 1506. Today being a Guardsman is an extremely physically demanding job, involving long periods of standing motionless. The current helmet is heavy and some Guardsmen have complained of burns from the steel heated by the sun. It was time for a change, so an impact and weather – resistant PVC plastic was selected for 3D printing. Not only does the new one piece helmet match the old one in appearance, but it is lighter and less heat – attractive with ventilation channels integrated inside to keep it cooler. The new helmet costs only about half that of the old at $1,050, and takes only 14 hours to produce rather than 100 hours for the forged steel version. The first 40 helmets have been paid for thanks to private donors. The public is being asked to donate the remaining 60 helmets. The Swiss Guard has also been considering more breathable and waterproof fabric for its uniforms. Scientists have found that human cells can also be 3D printed to create human tissue. They are working to- wards creating human organs someday. The hope is that by using a patient ’ s own cells, that replacement organs can be created so that transplant candidate will have a greater chance of avoiding organ rejection. Also such organs could help end the organ shortage available for transplant. So whether its helping the Swiss Guard protect the Vatican or helping keep people alive, the possibilities of 3D printing seem to be endless.