Research scientists are able to use 3D printing in a number of promising applications, but it takes time, resources, and most of all–funding. All of these elements are coming together though at the University of Nottingham as they have the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on their side, funding a lab complete with equipment for analysis as well as £2.7m (translates to roughly $4.2 million USD) of the world’s best 3D printing equipment.
The priority in this new research lab will be for scientists from the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group (3DPRG) to have everything they need for studying subject matter that many of us are already wondering about in regards to 3D printing: pharmaceuticals.
Working in collaboration with the School of Pharmacy, 3DPRG will be specifically examining how 3D printing can be used for dosages, delivery, as well as developing implants. Not just content to stop there, 3DPRG has also developed another entity, Added Scientific.
This spinoff is meant to encourage and assist business across a multitude of sectors both to explore 3D printing and see how it can benefit them–from use in the sectors of medicine, aerospace, and more–to nanotechnology, which is being heavily explored right now with conductive 4D printed smart materials which can morph depending on their environment.
Each of these sectors is one that is looking for innovative and utilitarian applications that can actually work for their customers, allowing for better quality while also adding greater affordability. It might sound like too much to ask for, but it’s the reward of what comes with 3D printing, not to mention accelerated productivity.
“This new lab and Added Scientific represent a huge step forward in additive manufacturing research and development. We aren’t about printing just shapes or creating objects for their own sake, but about using science and engineering to find new ways to apply additive manufacturing to the real world,” said Professor Richard Hague, project leader for 3DPRG and Director of the University’s EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing. “The state-of-the-art equipment in our new lab will allow us to refine the process of multi-functional 3D printing, working with research organizations and industry partners to make 3D printed electronics, pharmaceuticals, and conductive materials a safe, viable, and cost-effective reality.”
The teams will be working with superior tools, such as the following:
- Bespoke PiXDRO JETx six head ink jetting system by Roth & Rau – this 3D printer will allow researchers to develop an efficient way to print drugs that can be customized to the individual, as well as working as vehicles for common vaccines. A variety of alternative materials can be used also, such as metallic and ceramic inks, and sensitive polymers.
- A two-photon lithography system from Nanoscribe – this system will be used for creating industrial 3D prints with superior nanotechnology that allows for production of items for smartphones, medical devices, and more. With nanotechnology, not only can items like lenses and antennas be created and used in smart devices, the technology is actually compatible with smart materials that are sensitive to environment and variations that might indicate flaws or a need for adaption.
- A four head metal-jetting system, developed in partnership with DEMCON – this 3D printer will be used to experiment with and produce items that are not only 3D printed, but imbued with electronic qualities due to conductive materials.
“The EPSRC is dedicated to developing UK innovation by providing grants and funding for science and engineering research,” said Karen Brakspear of EPSRC. “3DPRG’s work at The University of Nottingham continues to drive the capabilities additive manufacturing forward.”
“We are pleased to be behind a team performing such ground-breaking research and look forward to its continued impact on not only the scientific community, but on the UK business, engineering and industrial communities.”
While 3D printing offers inspiration and instills creativity in many all over the world, research labs like that of 3DPRG–and all those collaborating–are hotspots for paving the way of the future in areas for 3D printing of much-needed medicine and implants, as well as many other products, prototypes, and components.
Discuss your thoughts on the new lab at the University of Nottingham in the Multi-Faceted 3D Printing Research Lab forum over at 3DPB.com.