Bone-like materials for orthopedic or dental applications have been made with a variety of manufacturing techniques, and the latest uses a 3-D inkjet printer to create a scaffold for new bone growth that is able to later dissolve. Researchers at Washington State University (Pullman, WA) have been performing in vitro test on rats and rabbits successfully, and believe that in the next few years, the technology has the ability to produce custom replacement bone tissue.
To create the scaffold, a team of engineers spent a year modifying a 3-D printer designed to make metal objects to print with other materials. The inkjet printer sprays a plastic binder in layers 20 microns thick over a bed of powder. Following a CAD file, the printer builds up a channeled cylinder a layer at a time. And by adding zinc and silicon to the main calcium phosphate material, the team discovered that the strength was nearly doubled.
When introducing the scaffold to a medium with immature human bone cells, in just a week a network of new bone cells was supported by the scaffold. Susmita Bose, co-author and professor in WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, hopes that with this technology, a doctor could perform a CT scan of a defect, which could be converted to a CAD file to create a custom replacement. The technology could also be used to deliver medicine for treating osteoporosis. The results were reported in the journal Dental Materials.
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