In medical fields such as cardiac surgeries, manufacturing orthopedic implants and as guides to accurately put them in place; 3D printing is being utilized extensively.
Given its wide utility, its use for clinicians is being furthered to make customizable devices that are soft and flexible but that the same time can offer great support when required; by engineers at MIT.
Bespoke, flexible meshes made out of thermoplastic polyurethane are being printed by researchers now. These have characteristics which are very similar to collagen’s microscopic-scale internal structure.
Collagen’s strength and pliability derives partially from its intertwined strands, which are flexible and stretchable, but at some point begin to forcefully resist deformation when taken to their limit.
Furthermore, the pattern of the new material is likewise wavy. It can be made to be tighter and closer together to create areas of greater stiffness. Different areas can have different physical characteristics, throughout the material.
This can facilitate in stabilizing a joint in one direction while giving it free reign in another.
A special mesh for an ankle brace was created by the team of MIT engineers in order to test the clinical applicability of their material. The idea was to ensure, that freedom to make safe movements normally used for walking, thus checking that the foot doesn’t turn inward while doing so.
A quick way for the patients to recover can be possible once prevention of repeat injury to an ankle is ascertained. The awkward shape of the knee, due to bending repeatedly while walking needed stabilization; for this purpose, another device was created by the researchers.
Currently the proof- of- concept devices are designed for external use only. However, given the soft- tissue like characteristics of the material, it may be used for implants in a variety of locations in the body according to the research team.