Losing a limb is traumatic enough, but adjusting to a prosthetic device can be a brand new challenge in itself. Not only is the person getting used to working with an artificial limb, but those limbs can present complications. In fact, 40% of prosthetic device uses suffer from some kind of skin condition, as do non-amputee patients who use some sort of orthopedic device. This is due to the fact that these devices are typically quite difficult to clean, as they’re made from porous material and have complex geometries – especially 3D printed ones.
The conditions caused by these devices include dermatitis, folliculitis, or other fungal or bacterial infections. These aren’t just annoyances – if they progress to a serious state, they can cause permanent damage or even be fatal. The World Health Organization estimates that in the United States, nearly 100,000 people die from intrahospital infections every year, including skin infections.
Chilean startup Copper3D believes that it may have the solution to prosthetic- and orthopedic-caused skin problems. The answer: antibacterial 3D printing materials.
“We started prototyping a new polymer for 3D printing with an internationally patented additive containing copper nanoparticles among other elements, extremely effective in eliminating fungi, viruses and bacteria, but harmless to humans at the right concentrations,” said Daniel Martínez, Director of Innovation.
Copper3D was founded by Martínez, a physical therapist, along with civil engineer Andrés Acuña and Claudio Soto, MD. Preliminary trials in Chile were successful, so the company began the industrial manufacture of the material in the Netherlands for subsequent commercialization. Copper3D’s first product is already available: a high-quality PLA polymer with additive concentrations of 1, 2 and 3%. The product is called PLACTIVE, as it is active in the elimination of microorganisms.
“We already have developed a medical grade material called NANOCLEAN, which is made with a high quality PETG polymer with additive concentrations of 2 and 3% and aimed at more specific purposes in the world of medical devices,” said Martínez.
The 3D printing materials and the items printed with them have been studied and validated as antibacterial by the Microbiology Laboratory at the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and PLACTIVE is already being used in the United States – by Jorge M. Zuniga PhD, a 3D printing expert and researcher in the Department of Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Dr. Zuniga is conducting a study on partial finger prostheses for war veterans. In addition, microbiological tests are being performed with an independent US laboratory to confirm the antibacterial properties of PLACTIVE.As more and more prosthetics, orthopedics and other medical devices are being 3D printed, a material like PLACTIVE could go a long way in making these devices safer.
“I believe that this new technology represents a before and after in the 3D printing industry for biomedical purposes,” said Dr. Zuniga. “PLACTIVE solves one of the major problems of the 3D printing industry, the bacterial burden housed in these materials and devices. This new 3D printing filament could be the beginning of a whole new family of customized items with antibacterial properties, a huge breakthrough for developers, manufacturers, physicians and patients.”
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