November 30, 2023 Update: Highlights and Updates in 3D Printing – Material Database, Bone Scaffolds and More!


Starting today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, we have many materials news from Replique, Asahi Kasei, and Arkema. Not to forget a team of researchers who are 3D printing metals with contrasting properties. In terms of research, Georgia Tech researchers are utilizing UV light rather than high temperatures, to 3D print glass microstructures, while researchers from the University of Oxford are 3D printing neural cells that duplicate brain architecture. Finally, a research team from the University of Mississippi developed a 3D printed film that assists cervical cancer research, and BellaSeno has a novel production workflow for customized, 3D printed bone scaffolds.

Replique Launches Open Material Database for AM at Formnext

During the recent Formnext 2023, Replique, a company that offers a decentralized 3D printing platform for secure and reliable production of industrial-grade parts, announced the launch of a thorough, open material database for 3D printing. For AM projects to thrive, appropriate materials are needed, however, the research process to find the suitable one is laborious. Replique’s new database streamlines and eases material selection, providing users with an intuitive platform — with support from its trusted material partners — that saves time and expenditure. The database offers various filtering options such as industry standards, application fields, and technical specifications. Furthermore, the platform will offer quick access to reference cases and certificates. This open system is beneficial for printer manufacturers, service providers, and end-users who can also contribute to the database with their material insights.

“Through our daily engagement with material data, we have built a rich knowledge hub that we are now eager to share with the wider community,” explained Dr. Henrike Wonneberger, CEO and Co-Founder of Replique. “The launch of our material database represents another significant step in our mission to drive the industrialization of additive manufacturing and provide comprehensive support to our customers at every stage of their journey.”

Asahi Kasei Starts Sales for 3D Printing Filaments in North America

The Asahi Kasei Group, founded in 1922 and now boasting 48,000 employees worldwide, is expanding to the North American 3D printing market with filament sales through Asahi Kasei Plastics North America, Inc. (APNA), which manufactures high-performance, engineered polymers and chemically coupled polypropylene resins. APNA will advance two AM-focused business initiatives, starting with successful filament sales in North America and then a global expansion. The soft launch will start with filaments from the XYRON modified polyphenylene ether (mPPE) resin product line, with properties including heat resistance, impact strength, and printability, and then grow to include the Thermylene polypropylene (PP) group, which features creep and chemical resistance, high tensile strength, and elevated temperature performance.

APNA has extended its computer-aided engineering (CAE) services, now incorporating 3D printing to provide filament support. In May, Asahi Kasei Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) made an investment in CASTOR Technologies to fortify its CAE and together they are currently designing a specialised 3D printing software that features automatic complex simulations. Hence, the second AM-focused business strategy is primarily about enhancing customer support using more sophisticated resources via CAE.

Collaboration of Arkema with AM Leaders for Creation of New-Gen Materials

Arkema continues to cater to their customers’ needs by offering environmentally friendly, high-performance 3D printing materials, such as its bio-based Rilsan® Polyamide 11. To that aim, Arkema has announced collaborations with a number of leaders in the industry. At Formnext 2023, the group presented a lineup of advanced 3D printing materials, involving material solutions from their new partners. Together with HP, Arkema launched a new polyamide 12 powder for Multi Jet Fusion named 3D High Reusability PA 12S, designed for manufacturing functional parts. Moreover, the company partnered with GENERA for 3D printed custom eyewear using GENERA’s automated DLP process and Arkema’s N3xtDimension UV-curable material N3D-GEN976.

Rapid Shape and Arkema are collaborating to mandating AM through a series of tailor-made N3xtDimension formulations designed for high performance in the former’s DLP printers. The company is also teaming up with software provider 3YOURMIND to enhance the Easy3D digital platform with recommendations for advanced material and on-demand expansion, with the end goal being the implementation of N3xtDimension liquid resins. EOS Company Advanced Laser Materials is teaming up with Arkema to offer PEKK-100 powder based on Kepstan PEKK to EOS P810 users in challenging sectors like aeronautics. Ultimately, French service bureau Erpro 3D Factory has created an integrated supply chain in Europe for SLS 3D printed custom parts made with Arkema’s Pebax Rnew elastomers.

Researchers 3D Printing Customized Metal Parts with Different Properties

A scanning electron microscope photo of a stainless steel part 3D printed using the new method developed by NTU Singapore and the University of Cambridge. The white regions of the metal part are mechanically weak, while the blue-green regions are strong. (Credit: NTU Singapore)

A team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), came up with a new method to make customized 3D printed metal parts with different properties, like having some regions of metal parts stronger than others. Inspired by traditional “heating and beating” methods used in blacksmithing, the interdisciplinary team combined materials science, mechanical engineering principles, and 3D printing techniques normally used to remove and prevent defects in metals, and developed a method that can alter microscopic structures in the metals to change their properties. Additionally, the method makes it possible to decide what type of internal microstructure, and type of property, you want, and where it can be formed in the metal. Theoretically, manufacturers could use this process to design metal parts with features like different levels of corrosion resistance or electrical conductivity. You can learn more in the team’s research paper.

“Our method opens the way for designing high-performance metal parts with microstructures that can be finetuned to adjust the parts’ mechanical and functional properties, even at specific points, and allowing them to be shaped in complex ways with 3D printing,” explained Professor Gao, from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE).

Other scientists on the team were from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech); A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC); Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI); the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland; and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Georgia Tech 3D Printing Glass Microstructures with UV Light and Low Temperatures

Instead of relying on very high temperatures, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) have developed a new process for 3D printing glass microstructures that uses fast ultraviolet (UV) curing. The method shortens curing time from 12 hours to five, and reduces the heat needed to convert printed polymer resin to silica glass from 1,100°C to around 220°C. Typically, 3D printing glass requires burning away polymer mixtures once the final shape is formed, but the team used a light-sensitive photoresin, based on soft PDMS, that is converted to glass using deep UV light, which enables the lower temperatures that save heating energy. Plus, they don’t have to add silica nanoparticles, which means fewer resources are involved. As they explain in their research paper, the team’s process could be used to print tiny glasses lenses for medical devices and imaging, as well as microfluidic devices and microelectronics with glass structures.

“This is one of the exploratory examples showing that it is possible to fabricate ceramics at mild conditions, because silica is a kind of ceramic. It is a very challenging problem,” explained George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Professor H. Jerry Qi, who led the research. “We have a team that includes people from chemistry and materials science engaged in a data-driven approach to push the boundary and see if we can produce more ceramics with this approach.”

University of Oxford 3D Printing Neural Cells to Repair Brain Injuries

Brain injuries, caused by stroke, tumor surgery, and trauma, most often result in major damage to the outer layer of the brain, called the cerebral cortex, which causes difficulties with communication, cognition, and movement. Tissue regenerative therapies could one day help treat brain injuries, but until now, there hasn’t been a way to ensure that implanted stem cells mimic human brain architecture. But a study out of the Oxford Martin Programme on 3D Printing for Brain Repair could help change that: for the first time, researchers showed that neural cells can be 3D printed to mimic the architecture of the cerebral cortex, which is promising for repairing brain injuries.

The team constructed the cortical structure using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). These were differentiated into neural progenitor cells for two different cerebral cortex layers and suspended in solution to forge two bioinks. The bioinks were utilized to print a two-layered brain tissue structure. After implantation of the printed tissue into mouse brain slices, the cells displayed robust integration and signaling activity. This evidence signifies the communication between mouse and human cells. Looking forward, the researchers anticipate enhancing their droplet printing method in order to create intricate, multi-layered cerebral cortex tissues resembling the architecture of the human brain even more accurately.

Potential Improvement in Cervical Cancer Drug Delivery Options with 3D Printed Film

Eman Ashour, an assistant professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, closely examines a 3D printed film developed by the University of Mississippi researchers. The development of this film could positively transform drug delivery options for cervical cancer patients.

Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4,000 women in the U.S. succumb to cervical cancer yearly. Mississippi ranks second highest in the nation for age-adjusted cervical cancer mortality, with 3.4 deaths per 100,000 women and girls each year. Researchers at the University of Mississippi (UM) are hard at work to enhance the drug delivery of disulfiram, which holds potential as a cancer treatment.

Typically, most medications are oral, potentially leading to absorption issues and side effects. Conversely, vaginal delivery is far more targeted. The UM team focused on this approach in their research. They utilized hot-melt extrusion (HME), a process which involves melting a material and reshaping it while it cools, to produce drug-loaded filaments. They then 3D printed the accurate dosage.

Given that disulfiram is heat-sensitive, making vaginal delivery potentially problematic, the team optimized the drug’s design and the processing temperatures of HME to create a film. As a result, they were able to enable drug delivery directly to the target site.

“Vaginal drug delivery offers targeted, localized delivery. The vaginal film’s sticking properties help extend the film’s retention and the drug release, which is an added advantage,” said Eman Ashour, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery.

“The results of this user-inspired study will contribute to improving patient outcomes and treatment alternatives. “We hope to build new technologies based on this project’s success and explore other disease states and uses in the future.”

BellaSeno’s Production Workflow for 3D Printed Bone Scaffolds Presented

Finally, BellaSeno GmbH, a German medtech company, presented data about the novel workflow for its customized, 3D printed bone scaffolds at the German Congress of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (DKOU 2023). It’s one of the first companies to present an MDR-compliant (Medical Device Regulation) and ISO 13485 audited workflow for the design and production of custom, 3D printed, resorbable polycaprolactone (PCL) scaffolds for treating large (> 5cm size) segmental bone defects in conjunction with an autologous bone graft. In BellaSeno’s workflow, 3D reconstruction is used to digitally segment the CT scan, followed by the creation of an anatomically-oriented design to fill the defect under the instruction of the treating surgeon. After adjusting parameters to customize the scaffold’s fit and mechanical performance, a prototype is printed using FDM technology, and sent to a practitioner for “design freeze” and biomechanical testing. The final scaffold is produced under clean-room conditions, and finished with post-processing and sterilization.

“This specific workflow allows a very time- and cost-effective manufacturing process for patient-specific scaffolds while complying with highest regulatory standards. Depending on the desired properties of the scaffolds, the products can absorb static non-deformable axial forces of up to 4,000 N or shorten by up to 1cm under a load of up to 1,000N in a controlled manner without breaking,” stated Dr. med. Tobias Grossner, Chief Medical Officer of BellaSeno. “This results in a new generation of high-performance bone scaffolds which are well suited for the biological reconstruction of large bone defects.”

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