Developing the future’s parts
As age increases the body is bound to degrade, the causes of body degradation are not just age but also injury disease among many others,
irrespective of the cause there is a growing need for treatments to replace either bones or body parts.
Scientists at Uppsala University are using 3D printers to design the future’s biomaterials.
“3D printing is fun because of its dexterity and the way it triggers people’s innovation,” says materials researcher Cecilia Persson.
While achieving immortality is still far from us, Living s pain-free life is still attainable.
Transplanting new body parts to old ones is already possible in practice,
and the limit to the human parts we can produce are being more and more extended.
In the past couple of years, 3D printing has steadily made increases in innovation and use cases.
A breakthrough for 3D printing in the development of a 3D printed titanium-mesh cranial implant that assists bone regeneration was developed by scientists at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Ångström Laboratory.
Healing major bone deficiency
Another team of researchers from the same department are currently studying the probability of restoring bone deficiencies or worn out backs using 3D printed parts.
While the current versions are not degradable.
it is hoped that in the future through soluble metals,
it would be possible to design degradable parts that generate load-bearing bones.
“The most researched degradable materials are either ceramics or polymer,”
notes Cecilia Persson,
“However Polymers are not strong enough and ceramics too delicate and can’t be bent.
this s the reason we want to print metal materials that degrade over time.”
The concept is to put replacement metal parts where the bone has degenerated or been impaired,
As the metal degrades, the body’s bone regenerates, the real test is finding the right metal composite material.
“The metals we are looking at reacting in aqueous solutions,
which is why we want to use them,” points out Cecilia Persson,
“but when used for printing they are also most likely to react with the oxygen in the atmosphere,
causing oxidisation that makes printing difficult.
So, it’s crucial to control oxygen content if we are to print working materials.”
To help the researchers in their quest, they have both a 3D scanner and printer that meets their required need
this machine which has a heating bed that reaches temperatures of 800°C, makes up a large part of the lab.
What are the limits?
Are there any limits to which human body parts we can print out?
The solution may well lie with fellow researchers in the fields of medicine and pharmacy.
Their U-PRINT 3D printing facility specialises in developing and fabricating organ and tissue-like structures for biomedical research, with the long-term aim of finding applications in regenerative medicine.
Printouts are currently used as training models for surgical procedures or to evaluate new materials and drugs.
“U-PRINT can print objects in plastic for the hospital, so they can visualise the physical problem or show relatives how an operation will be performed,” says Cecilia Persson.
“3D printing is an ideal technology for many areas of research. It’s very exciting to see how new areas of application are constantly arising.”