3D-printing giant bugs out of titanium... for science!

Australia's national science agency is printing out magnified 3D copies of tiny insects in a bid to study them more closely.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Printed bugs
These bugs are larger than life. CSIRO

Australia is known for its overly large bugs, like the up-to-20-inch Titan stick insect. But the country also has tiny insects, like the itsy-bitsy wheat wheevil. Researchers with Australia's national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), are trying out a method of super-sizing insects through 3D printing.

Small, sometimes nearly microscopic, insects from the Australian National Insect Collection are run through a 3D-scanning system and then printed out at magnified sizes in titanium. Why would you want to do this other than to leave one on someone's seat as a prank? The bigger versions give scientists a better look at the insect's anatomy in order to learn more about their surface characteristics or determine gender. Plus, it's just plain cool.

The first purpose of the printed insects was for art rather than science. The models were created for a national art exhibit. "We combined science and art to engage the public and through the process we've discovered that 3D printing could be the way of the future for studying these creatures," says CSIRO Science Art Fellow Eleanor Gates-Stuart.

CSIRO's advanced 3D printer can output up to 12 bugs at a time, producing them in about 10 hours. While CSIRO says it is using the bug-printing exercise to explore better ways of investigating insect characteristics, I'm hoping they're actually creating giant bug armies to take into play battles. Rawr! Here comes the Attack-Weevil of Doom!

3D-printed bugs
CSIRO's Chad Henry shows off some 3D-printed bugs. CSIRO