New materials for 3D printing are being developed on a regular basis, and a subset of materials developers are focusing specifically on biomaterials. Biomaterials are exactly what they sound like – 3D printing or other manufacturing materials that are made out of a biological base. Biomaterials have lots of advantages – they’re typically good for the environment, as they’re biodegradable and often use material that otherwise would go to a landfill; they’re safer for humans to use; and they often impart their own unique qualities to manufacturing. Cellulose, for example, is a material that has been much-talked-about in 3D printing for its mechanical properties, but there has also been filament made from algae, from beer, from coffee, and other organic materials.

[Image: Poly6]

Poly6, an MIT spin-out company, recently developed a new biomaterial called Citrene, made from citrus rinds. Citrene resins are strong, flexible materials that are safe and biodegradable. According to Poly6, Citrene outperforms other materials, offering not only safety and environmental friendliness but better efficiency that can cut costs for manufacturers. Unique chemistries in the citrus rinds offer advanced capabilities, and its main ingredient, a natural oil, is suitable for human consumption.

The main industries Poly6 is focusing its attentions on for Citrene are 3D printing, inkjet additives, and flexible electronics, although it also has its eye on several other applications such as medical products, home decor, textiles, orthopedics and even nail polish. Medical applications will be the focus of MIT, which will use a bioprinter from Aether to explore and develop medical uses for Citrene.

Aether is the developer of the Aether 1, a bioprinter that includes up to 8 fabrication methods and allows users to 3D print with 24 different materials simultaneously. The company has sent beta units of the 3D printer to educational institutions around the world as part of a massive research collaboration, and MIT students will now use the Aether 1 to investigate the capabilities and medical possibilities of Citrene.

“There are students out there who could create and invent important new things, just as good as any Fortune 500 company, if only they had access to the same tools,” Aether CEO Ryan Franks told 3DPrint.com.

“That’s why we’ve been aggressively expanding our presence into the education market. We think giving students of all ages courses about the latest 3D printing technologies by teaching them with Aether bioprinters will be a game-changer for education in the US and worldwide.”

[Image: Aether]

Students will work with Citrene and the Aether 1 in a new course called Materials, Societal Impact and Social Innovation. The course will involve team-based research projects in collaboration with local startups and research laboratories.

MIT selected Aether 1 because of its multiple fabrication methods, automation features, and wide range of 3D printable materials. Working with Poly6, the students will learn advanced 3D printing and bioprinting techniques while unlocking the potential of a brand new biomaterial.

“Uniting the brightest minds with the newest technologies, and focusing that potential on medical applications, is an incredible way to teach students while using their immense creativity to really help people,” said Franks. “We’re happy to give the legendary young geniuses of MIT early access to Aether 1, and can’t wait to see what they make.”

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