Researchers use a 3D printer to make bone-like material (w/ video)

November 29, 2011

It looks like bone. It feels like bone. For the most part, it acts like bone. And it came off an inkjet printer.

Washington State University researchers have used a 3D printer to create a bone-like material and structure that can be used in orthopedic procedures, dental work, and to deliver medicine for treating osteoporosis. Paired with actual bone, it acts as a for new bone to grow on and ultimately dissolves with no apparent ill effects.

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The authors report on successful in vitro tests in the journal Dental Materials and say they're already seeing promising results with in vivo tests on rats and rabbits. It's possible that doctors will be able to custom order replacement in a few years, says Susmita Bose, co-author and a professor in WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

"If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect," Bose says.

The material grows out of a four-year interdisciplinary effort involving chemistry, materials science, biology and manufacturing. A main finding of the paper is that the addition of silicon and zinc more than doubled the strength of the main material, . The researchers also spent a year optimizing a commercially available ProMetal designed to make metal objects.

The printer works by having an inkjet spray a plastic binder over a bed of powder in layers of 20 microns, about half the width of a human hair. Following a computer's directions, it creates a channeled cylinder the size of a pencil eraser.

After just a week in a medium with immature human , the scaffold was supporting a network of new bone cells.

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5 comments

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Vendicar_Decarian
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2011
This government funded research is a complete waste of precious tax payer money which would be better spent on killing our allies in Pakistan.

Cut ALL medical research funding NOW. It is pure, unadulterated Communism.
GDM
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2011
jeez, VD, cut the satire. The nuts out there already believe you.
fixer
3 / 5 (2) Nov 29, 2011
I first suggested this to a surgeon two years ago when prototyping machines became accessible.

Next step is to print vertabrae to replace osteoporotic joints, the discs are already in manufacture.

For the bloke with a smashed leg this tech is ideal but expect it to be vigorously opposed by artificial limb manufacturers.
Crucialitis
3 / 5 (2) Nov 29, 2011
I'd wager artificial limb makers will eventually give the real thing competition in the eyes of many. It'll be interesting to see how it pans out.
Nerdyguy
3 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2011
This not even remotely new. It's been done multiple times in the lab and, more importantly, in the operating room.

Judging from the source, it's really a press release from WSU. But, the more times this is replicated, the better for us all.

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