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3D printing in the Biomedical sector

When we think of 3D printing, we might envision a printer-like device producing three-dimensional objects with various applications, such as creating prototypes, customized products, or even intricate works of art. But 3D printing is much more than that!

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a family of techniques, commonly known as 3D printing, which can produce objects through a layer-by-layer addition of plastic, metal or even ceramic material. During the last 20 years, AM has revolutionized the manufacturing panorama with applications spanning various industries, bringing groundbreaking advantages to the engineering world.

The possibility of producing customizable parts with unrivalled freedom of shape without using one mold for each part type is the main driving force for the application of AM to many industries, from aerospace to the biomedical sector.

One of the most notable contributions of 3D printing in the biomedical field is its role in personalized medicine. Traditional medical practices often employ a one-size-fits-all approach, but 3D printing allows for creating bespoke solutions tailored to individual patients. From custom implants to patient-specific surgical guides, this technology enables healthcare professionals to provide personalized and precise treatments.

Prosthetics and orthopedics have seen remarkable advancements with the integration of AM. The technology allows for the creation of prosthetic limbs that not only match the individual's anatomy but are also more affordable and quicker to produce. In orthopedics, patient-specific implants and surgical guides are crafted, enhancing the accuracy and success of complex procedures.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring application is in bio-fabrication, where 3D printing is used to create living tissues and organs. While still in the early stages, researchers are making strides in developing functional tissues, opening doors to the possibility of customized organ transplants with reduced rejection risks. This breakthrough has the potential to address the global shortage of organ donors and transform the future of transplantation.

3D printing is reshaping the landscape of biomedicine, offering innovative solutions that were once thought impossible. But even more awe-inspiring possibilities can be achieved with the coming together of advanced manufacturing and smart materials. From drug delivery systems, to biomechanical sensors, shape memory polymers, bioresponsive hydrogels, artificial muscles and electric organs, the possibilities are limitless.

Our partners in the INTEGRATE consortium are working on the latter two objectives, pushing the boundaries of the research field by applying Material Extrusion 3D printing techniques to fabricate artificial muscles with a custom developed stimuli-responsive hydrogel.



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