Although 3D printing and the future are consistently mentioned together, what is already happening in the here and now is of great importance—and inspiration. We see 3D printing being used in many different types of industry, as well as factories for mass production already. Engineers are also using 3D printing to create parts for rocket engines and space robots, cars, homes, and so much more. And while researchers are working on new methods that may not come to fruition for years, what they have done so far—and what they are working toward—is already having an enormous impact in areas like medicine.
The University of Florida partners an innovative lab where researchers with backgrounds in physics, engineering, and medical research are all contributing and collaborating in a high-tech incubator known as the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). Their website describes the New Hampshire-based center’s purpose as the ‘manufacturing of the future of biofabrication.’
“ARMI will make practical the large-scale manufacturing of engineered tissues and tissue-related technologies, to benefit existing industries and grow new ones,” states the Institute as their mission.
The center has received part of a $300 million grant, according to Dr. Angelini, an associate professor who has been working at the Institute since it began, with a major focus on 3D printing.
PhD student Christopher O’Bryan sees their work as a major breakthrough.
“This institute is part of a larger network of institutes… whose mission is to revitalize manufacturing in the U.S. and this institute is focused on bio-manufacturing,” said Dr. Angelini.
The bath is made up of salts that function as silicone stabilizers. Silicone is also the substrate used in their lab’s 3D printer, meaning the research team is able to fabricate structures with more detailed and complex geometries. The team has already been able to create 3D printed tubes that will be useful in medical devices such as brain shunts.
“The real invention here is the material we are printing into, the micro-gel support bath,” said O’Bryan.
“We’ve actually hooked this up to pipe fittings and flown water through it that goes in the bottom and comes out the top,” O’Bryan explained.
The team realizes that in converting MRIs and CT scans to 3D digital data for 3D printing, they can create affordable patient-specific implants for repairing deformities and defects. Dr. Angelini is also experimenting with live cancer cells that can be 3D printed.
“That’s definitely one of our goals, to take cells out of a patient, expand them, print them into micro-tissues and then test the response of those micro-tissues to drugs,” he said.
Dr. Angelini sees these tissues being 3D printed and packaged for use by a variety of companies in the future, especially those involved in drug testing. And not only does that alleviate testing performed on both animals and humans, this process should allow for the creation of many new jobs in the industry—all dedicated to the mission of finding a cure for cancer.
Discuss in the ARMI 3D Printing Cancer Cells forum thread at 3DPB.com.[Source: Fox 13]
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