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3D printing has made major impacts on so many industries today. Innovations in aerospace, the automotive industry, construction, and medical stand out—and are often created on the larger scale; for instance, NASA is using 3D printing for rocket components, automotive companies continue to create progressive new vehicles, and the WASP BigDelta 3D printer is being used to create an entire village. For the medical field, 3D printing is widespread, with items such as models, surgical guides, prosthetics, and implants allowing for patient-specific care and better diagnostics—and more affordably so.

There are many other materials and structures being created though—usually in research labs—and often on the molecular scale. While they may not get quite as much attention, many of these creations are allowing scientists to use progressive new processes that will supersede those used in the past. As evidence of this, Aalto University researchers are now using a new technique employing superhydrophobic interfaces to manipulate bacterial cellulose (BC) nanofibers in 3D, creating a variety of hollow objects.

Bacterial cellulose bio-fabricated in the shape of an ear via superhydrophobized molding. [Image: Luiz G. Greca]

This new technique was outlined recently in a published paper, ‘Biofabrication of multifunctional nanocellulosic 3D structures: a facile and customizable route,’ by Luiz G. Greca, Janika Lehtonen, Blaise L. Tardy, Jiaqi Guo, and Orlando J. Rojas.

“… we describe a simple yet customizable process to finely engineer the morphology of BC in all (x, y, z) directions, enabling new advanced functionalities, by using hydrophobic particles and superhydrophobized surfaces,” state the researchers in their abstract. “This results in hollow, seamless, cellulose-based objects of given shapes and with sizes from ca. 200 μm to several centimeters.

“We demonstrate some of the unique properties of the process and the resulting objects via post-fabrication merging (biowelding), by in situ encapsulation of active cargo and by multi-compartmentalization for near limitless combinations, thus extending current and new applications for example in advanced carbon materials or regenerative medicine.”

Bacterial cellulose occurs as a culture medium and air meet, allowing aerobic bacteria to be introduced to oxygen. This pure nanocellulose is useful in current research and a variety of applications due to its:

  • Biocompatibility
  • Biodegradability
  • High thermal stability
  • Mechanical strength

“The developed process is an easy and accessible platform for 3D biofabrication that we demonstrated for the synthesis of geometries with excellent fidelity. Fabrication of hollow and complex objects was made possible. Interesting functions were enabled via multi-compartmentalization and encapsulation. For example, we tested in situ loading of functional particles or enzymes with metal organic frameworks, metal nanoparticles with plasmon adsorption, and capsule-in-capsule systems with thermal and chemical resistance,” said Professor Orlando Rojas, co-author of the paper.

Because of its strength and versatility, the team sees potential for BC in applications like cosmetics, food, and a range of medical uses like tissue growth, implants, synthetic blood vessels, treatment of burns and wounds, and more.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Aalto University]

 

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