A team of researchers has developed an innovative 3-D printing technology that uses magnetic fields to shape composite materials--mixes of plastics and ceramics--into patient-specific products. The biomedical devices they are developing will be both stronger and lighter than current models and, with their customized design, ensure an appropriate fit.
Their paper on the new technology appears in the journal Nature Communications.
One specific application of this new technology is developing patient-specific catheters, especially for premature newborns. Today's catheters only come in standard sizes and shapes, which means they cannot accommodate the needs of all premature babies.
The technology enables them to control how the ceramic fibers are arranged--and hence control the mechanical properties of the material itself. That control is critical if you're crafting devices with complex architectures, such as customized miniature biomedical devices. Within a single patient-specific device, the corners, the curves, and the holes must all be reinforced by ceramic fibers arranged in just the right configuration to make the device durable. This is the strategy taken by many natural composites from bones to trees.