New Flexible Devices created by 3D Printing
3D Printing, which includes additive manufacturing techniques, has been developed further to branch out into creating new medical devices which are flexible and personalised to each patient. As the field continues to grow, new meshes and devices such as hearing aids, implants and prosthetics are being developed with this technique.
Despite these already being produced, they have so far been fairly rigid and unforgiving, however the MIT have developed a pliable 3D mesh which is much more flexible, allowing the device to fully support and emulate the tissue of the surrounding area.
“3D-printed clothing and devices tend to be very bulky,” Pattinson said. “We were trying to think of how we can make 3D-printed constructs more flexible and comfortable, like textiles and fabrics.”
The idea was inspired by collagen and its wavy molecular structure. Collagen in the body can stretch and straighten out, but cannot be extended past a certain point. Therefore, Pattinson from MIT developed a mesh which followed this model to create a similar structure which would imitate the flexible nature of the collagen, but also the support and stiffness when stretched.
“The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity and versatility. Mesh can be made on a basic desktop 3D printer, and the mechanics can be tailored to precisely match those of soft tissue,” said John Hart, an associate professor and co-author of the team’s study detailing the research in Advanced Functional Materials.
“There’s potential to make all sorts of devices that interface with the human body,” Pattinson said. “Surgical meshes, orthoses, even cardiovascular devices like stents – you can imagine all potentially benefiting from the kinds of structures we show.”
June 21, 2019
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