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3D printing for personalised medical devices

13 June 2016

The EU is investing in research to help European manufacturers remain competitive in a growing market for personalised medical products.

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Two projects are developing ways to use 3D printing to make tailor-made components for the benefit of patients.

Advances in Additive Manufacturing (AM), often referred to as 3D printing, provide a resource- and cost-efficient way to produce highly complex and customised components, single parts or small batches of products. There is great potential for medical applications, including prostheses and implants that are highly customised for a perfect fit.

However, manufacturing such complex parts requires the development of new manufacturing processes and machines that integrate design and appropriate controls to ensure products meet strict safety and health specifications.

Symbionica’s approach is to focus on the development of a 3D printer that can make customised prostheses on demand. The printer will be able to make complex products in one processing step, incorporating different types of materials – a real novelty in the AM field.

The researchers plan to integrate the printer in a platform on which designers, engineers and other stakeholders can collaborate to customise prostheses.

Symbionica is also creating what the project describes as a ‘bionic through-life sensing system’. This would provide ongoing support to patients fitted with prostheses. The assistance would include personalised exercise plans and sensors to monitor patients’ health conditions.
Ceramic implants

Additive Manufacturing also opens up new opportunities for using ceramic materials. CerAMfacturing plans to use 3D printing to develop a new approach to make customised medical and consumer products from ceramics. These include implants with special properties – such as the ability to conduct electricity – and micro surgical tools.

The researchers are also studying materials made of mixes of ceramics and metals. They will combine 3D printing with conventional manufacturing techniques, such as tape casting and ceramic injection moulding, to shape these types of mixes.

The project will demonstrate whether the combination of these technologies can make the large-scale production of personalised components more efficient.
The project also aims to develop suspension-based additive manufacturing methods as these promise to achieve much better quality than powder-based 3D printing methods.

The project hopes to achieve savings and cut production time for the Additive Manufacturing of multi-material components.

“The new methods will also be cleaner and more environmentally friendly than conventional methods,” the project states.

For more information, visit the European Commission website.




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