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Anyone who reads or watches the news is becoming increasingly aware that the possibilities with 3D printing are staggering, seemingly infinite. It’s also clear that 3D printing has all but cemented itself in the medical sector these days, allowing medical professionals to use the technology to 3D print models for training, diagnostics, and more, along with manufacturing implants, prosthetics and stents.

3D printing allows many “what if?” moments. Beyond that, the technology offers the chance for scientists, engineers, and many others to take innovative concepts from dreams to reality by 3D printing objects, parts, and prototypes that offer a chance to change the quality of life for individuals—as well as, in some cases, changing our world.

2015-01-12 GTS -3D Printing - 2015-01-12 GTS -3D Printing - 3D Printed Porous Bioactive Glass Scaffold, printed with GTS Additive Manufacturing Technology_250px

3D Printed Porous Bioactive Glass Scaffold, printed with GTS Additive Manufacturing Technology

It can be hard to narrow down which area 3D printing is having the most impact on as so many innovators are taking the technology in so many directions, with a variety of wondrous results. The medical sector is definitely at the top of the list as it is a science that involves making people feel better and sometimes saving their lives, as well as helping future generations who will reap the rewards of the leaps and bounds happening now.

Glass Technology Services, Ltd. of the UK has no question which direction they aim to go in though, as the recipients of part of an £8.4 million grant in the UK awarded to multiple entities for the development of new innovations through 3D printing. As part of a larger group, GTS will be able to focus on research and development to use glass and metals in 3D printing for biomedical and photovoltaic (the conversion of light into electricity) purposes.

The funding is provided by a government investment program, Innovate UK, which is the national innovation agency. GTS will be collaborating with:

  • JRI Orthopaedics
  • 3T RPD
  • Delta T Devices
  • The Mercury Centre for Innovative Materials and Manufacturing (based at Sheffield University)
  • The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)

Access to these funds is a great privilege and the ‘winners’ were able to meet with Business Secretary, Vince Cable, at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry. The MTC was established to encourage innovation in the UK with coordinating institutions from a broad range of disciplines that are all mutually beneficial to one another in research and development. Their stated goal, much appropriate to the subject at hand, is to ‘challenge the boundaries of manufacturing.’

“Investing in tomorrow’s technology will bring jobs and economic growth throughout the UK. That’s why the Government has announced the biggest ever investment in the work of the Technology Strategy Board, who will support new manufacturing techniques to maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in technology and design,” said Cable. “This joint investment with the Research Councils highlights the commitment from across the sector to boost manufacturing in the UK.”

315c744Harnessing the ideas and resources of each of these entities, the aim is ‘to apply interpenetrating 3D glass and metallic composite structures onto 3D surfaces.’ With the new materials they will be creating, GTS and the other organizations hope to create and produce medical implants that will have more rapid integration with bone. The glass and metallic combination is meant to improve the quality of implants and the quality of the experience for patients in multitudinous ways, from production of better products that will last longer, a decrease in the amount of time it takes for patients to recover after surgery and the insertion of implants, as well as—of course—saving money in terms of medical procedures and services provided.

“Developing new technologies is crucial to advancing our understanding and capabilities in material science. We are very proud to be joining experts from the AM design and supply chain, to develop a novel solution for orthopaedic implants,” said Rob Ireson, Innovation Team Leader at Glass Technology Services Ltd.

GTS, a company that currently offers comprehensive services in the glass industry from analysis to R&D, will play the part of using their expertise in glass to develop a material that will work in the biomedical and photovoltaic fields, as well as developing equipment capable of producing 3D printed glass.

What do you think the potential is for 3D printing with glass and metal? Have you 3D printed with any nontraditional materials? Share with us in the Glass Technology Services Explores 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.

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