The University of Florida 3D prints medical device implants using silicone
The University of Florida (UF) is making headlines again today for their latest developments in 3D printed medical device implants. Created at UF, this new advancement boasts “quicker implantation of devices that are stronger, less expensive, more flexible and more comfortable than anything currently available.”
This development in medical device implants is thanks to a project under Thomas Angelini, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace and his team of fellow UF researchers. For the last several years, Angelini and his time have been working on a project on printable organs and tissues. But, it was only a discovery made two years ago in manufacturing soft materials using 3D printing and miscroscopic hydrogel particles, that they were able to make the headway need to have the results that they are seeing today.
This unique method directly manipulates liquid silicone rather than using injection molding to create a specific shape. In order to accomplish this, the team of researchers 3D printed the silicone into a supporting material that is similar to that of a jelly-type block; an idea that came about during the team’s ongoing research on tissue engineering.
Typically when it comes to 3D printing of this sort, hydrogel particles are commonly used to support the organic substances such as living cells. Because hydrogels are made almost entirely of water, they do not mix well with oily inks like silicone. The team, therefore, decided to print the oily silicone inks into the microgel material, giving them a gel-like substance that enabled them to print their silicone parts.
A video that shows some of the parts made using this technology:
“The public is more sensitive to the high costs of medical care than ever before. Almost monthly we see major media and public outcry against high healthcare costs, wasteful spending in hospitals and exorbitant pharmaceutical costs,” explained Thomas Angelini. “Everybody agrees on the need to reduce costs in medicine.”
While the team’s primary goal continues towards the manufacturing of organs and tissues, they know it is not something that can be implemented in the near future; as 3D bioprinting is still far from widespread use. On the other hand, medical devices today are widely accepted, used and needed; so the possibility of seeing these 3D printed implants in humans could become a reality in the near future.
To learn more about this new technology, check out the UF news article here.