3D-Printed medical devices saving lives with precision

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By creating a pliable 3D model of the young patient’s heart, doctors were able to chart the best treatment course. What they discovered through the model was groundbreaking—traditional open-heart surgery wouldn’t work. Instead, they opted for a minimally invasive thermal ablation, sparing the young patient from a more invasive procedure. This heart model not only guided the surgical team but also helped explain the procedure to the patient and their family.

Dr. Glenn Green, a physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, had a vision more than a decade ago. He wanted to solve a medical problem close to his heart—helping children with tracheobronchomalacia, a life-threatening condition that causes airway collapse. Green and biomedical engineer Dr. Scott Hollister teamed up to create a 3D-printed splint from a dissolvable material. This splint could be implanted in the airways of babies with the condition, giving them a chance to grow out of it. Materialise’s 3D printing facility in Ann Arbor played a crucial role in making this lifesaving device. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted special emergency authorization for its use in children who would otherwise face certain death.

Kaiba Gionfriddo, one of the first children to receive this groundbreaking treatment, wouldn’t have survived without it. Today, he’s a thriving 12-year-old who enjoys school, pets, and video games. He’s not alone; approximately 50 other children have received these 3D-printed tracheal-bronchial splints at the University of Michigan. Families from around the country flock to U-M, grateful that their children can finally go home after spending most of their lives in the hospital.

Materialise’s innovative 3D-printed medical devices are changing the landscape of healthcare. From anatomical models that aid in complex surgeries to life-saving implants that give children a chance at a normal life, this technology is rewriting the rules of modern medicine. The precision and customization offered by 3D printing open doors to treatments and solutions that were once unimaginable.

Kristen Jordan Shamus. Detroit Free Press. 3D-printed medical devices made by Materialise in Plymouth Township are saving lives.

LLNL’s innovative 3D Printing process for wearable devices

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Meta Platforms, a prominent multinational technology company, that also owns Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp, partnered with LLNL in this ambitious endeavor. The researchers have harnessed the power of light to create seamless variations in stiffness, addressing a significant challenge in creating more lifelike “wearables.”

Meta Platforms’ engineer, Sijia Huang, who is also the study’s lead author, explains, “Engineers make a part that is stiff and another part that is soft, and then manually assemble them, so we have a very sharp interface that compromises the mechanical property.” The LLNL-Meta collaboration sought to overcome this challenge by designing continuous mechanical gradients, transitioning from soft to stiff, within a single resin system. The key to this process lies in manipulating the intensity of light applied to a photopolymer resin through Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printing, a layer-by-layer technique that enables the rapid production of parts by projecting light into a liquid resin. This modulation of light intensity governs the properties of the deposited plastic material. Lower light intensity yields a softer material, while higher light intensity results in a stiffer material.

A notable demonstration of this material’s capabilities was the creation of a 3D-printed wearable device that can be worn on a finger and “translate” text messages on a cell phone into braille by strategically filling the device with air at specific points.

This groundbreaking 3D printing process holds immense potential for applications beyond wearables. Huang envisions its use in crafting energy-absorbing materials, soft robotics, and various other wearable electronic devices.

Meta and LLNL have pioneered a technology that not only expands the horizons of wearables but also showcases the power of collaboration between research institutions and innovative tech giants.

LLNL Creates 3-D Printing Process for Wearable Devices.