Shark skin is the envy of swimsuit wearers and designers because of its sleek texture and dragless characteristics, which allow sharks to propel themselves through the water at speed like it's nobody's business. Up close however, shark skin looks like a strange matrix of micro-sized tooth-shaped scales. Scientists are now 3D printing replica shark skin to assist swimmers.
Harvard professor George Lauber and his team began by scanning a piece of mako shark skin bought from a local fish market. They then spent a year figuring out how to recreate it in a lab. The end result is a flexible artificial sharp skin embedded with the tooth-shaped scales -- called 'denticles' -- that cover real shark skin.
The 3D-printed denticles are nowhere near the size of the real thing, but the shark skin still worked. At low speeds, it reduced drag by up to 8.7%.