Tech Talk.jpg

A collection of metal 3D-printed objects from professor Andrew Wessman and students. 

Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments in science and technology around Tucson.

3D printing metals. The manufacturing company Honeywell recently provided a new 3D printer to the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering with the ability to build objects as diverse as heat-resistant jet engines parts to  surgical implants. The “MLab Cusing 200R” model printer, worth $400,000, is the first and only machine on the university’s campus with the ability to create metal objects. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, “prints” physical objects by depositing molten material one layer at a time until it hardens into a 3D shape. The MLab Cusing 200R is able to print metal objects by using lasers to melt metal powders like nickel alloys, stainless steel and titanium. According to a 2019 “Additive Manufacturing Market Analysis” by Reports and Data, the 3D printing market will reach more than a $23 billion value by 2026.

Fighting opioid addiction. The Tucson Police Department, Pima County, UA, CODAC Health, and Recovery and Wellness are partnering together for a three-year, $1.47 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The project, called “Unified Medication Assisted Treatment Targeted Engagement Response,” is designed to help people with opioid use disorders avoid jail and receive treatment. Before reworking their process on opioid treatment, the TPD officers would arrest people in the community who were using substances or had drug paraphernalia on them. With this new approach, officers are connected with a large community of local organizations that are able to help users begin recovery. In addition, the U-MATTER program ensures “any community member can approach TPD to seek help in getting connected to treatment, and the police must help”. This is just the latest step in combating the growing opioid addiction rates in Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, opioid deaths increased 74 percent between 2012 and 2016, resulting in 790 deaths in a single year. Through the U-MATTER program, 32 percent of opioid-involved individuals were persuaded by officers to seek treatment after initially declining. 

Healing with light. New research from UA psychiatry professor William Killgore indicates that blue light can reset sleep patterns in adults recovering from concussions. According to Killgore, daily exposure to blue wavelength light each morning helps to re-entrain the circadian rhythm [the body’s sleep-wake cycle associated with night and day] so that people get better, more regular sleep. While this is most likely true for many, this recent study focused on people recovering from a “mild traumatic brain injury” such as a concussion. During the study, the blue light therapy led to improvements in sleep, which in turn led to “improvements in cognitive function, reduced daytime sleepiness and actual brain repair.” According to Killgore, roughly 50 percent of people recovering from a mild traumatic brain injury experience problems sleeping. During the study, adults with mild traumatic brain injuries had a blue light shined on them for 30 minutes early each morning for six weeks. Control groups were exposed to an amber light. After the blue light treatment, “participants fell asleep and woke an average of one hour earlier than before the trial and were less sleepy during the daytime.” Participants also experienced improved speed and brain processing. This is believed to be because blue light suppresses brain production of melatonin, a chemical that prepares the brain to sleep. The resulting theory is that a mild traumatic brain injury may offset people’s circadian rhythms, and blue lighting may help the brain normalize afterward.