FEMTOprint, headquartered in Muzzano, Switzerland, has recently partnered with Galatea Lab, Instant Lab (EPFL, Switzerland), and the Jules-Gonin Ophthalmic Hospital (Lausanne, Switzerland) to explore how 3D printing can further the med-tech industry.
In creating a consortium for developing new innovations together, this team of researchers has created a glass-based compliant puncture tool for retinal vein occlusion. RVO is a vascular condition that affects the retina and can result in substantial loss of vision. With 16 million patients suffering from RVO (usually individuals over 50) around the world, there is a definite need for a greater focus on research and progress in this area. The research team began by asking themselves what types of applications they could 3D print on the micro-scale, as well as how new tools could help in fighting a disease such as RVO.
They answered with a 3D printable tool for retinal vein cannulation. The new device operates on a buckling mechanical principle which allows surgeons to cannulate veins with accuracy. Precision is especially key during the cannulation process as it can be a difficult and even risky procedure due to the fragile tissue and corresponding sensitive puncture force which must be employed.To create such a tool, the team used FEMTOprint glass technology, allowing for flexibility, biocompatibility, and the transparency required.
The new tool was fabricated with a fused silica monolith with three main elements:
“Experiments conducted to-date have been very promising,” states the FEMTOprint team on their website. “The stability programming of the double pinned bistable beam gives control over puncture force and stroke. The puncturing method has then been validated by FEM simulations and experimental measurements, demonstrating several advantages for both the patient and the surgeon.”
- Mechanical 3D cross pivots, serving as bistable mechanisms
- Fluidic channels in the needle tip
- Optimal elements to measure applied forces
The cannulation tool has been tested successfully in operating on pig retinas. Although it is still in further development for surgical use on humans, when made available for operating rooms there will be two options: stand-alone mode or mounting on a robotic system.
FEMTOprint explains more about their new applications in a recent paper, “3D Micro-Printing: A new Era for Med-Tech Applications,” authored by Alexander Steimle, FEMTOprint Business Developer and Head of Sales, responsible for med-tech application developments.
Steimle outlines the history of additive manufacturing and the potential for 3D printing in manufacturing and medicine, but he also makes us aware of what role glass can play, as the originating material.
“At micro-scale, from an ordinary, amorphous material, it takes on surprising properties – including, but not limited to, optical transparency, thermal and chemical stability, low thermal expansion, high elasticity (as it is known from optical fibers), biocompatibility, homogeneity and unusual dielectric properties – that offers a powerful combination for new types of med-tech tools, biomedical chips with antibacterial surface treatments, micro-nozzles for nebulizers, integrated optical devices and interconnects, to end up in micromechanical watch components with embedded microfluidic channels and shock absorber,” states Steimle.
Funded by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), this project was a challenge in research and development that Steimle says shows what can happen when engineers work creatively in designing 3D free forms, using materials at sub-micron resolution.
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