In the world of 3D printing - one of the fastest growing sectors - materials is an important subject. Remarkable innovations can constantly be seen throughout this field. For instance, materials with an improved mechanical performance or medical grade, implantable and biodegradable materials, complex composites that integrate properties of their base materials to adopt new features, and even recycled materials with an emphasis on circular economy.
In short, it is a diverse and vibrant world, with many things taking place. It provides enormous options to produce 3D-printed objects with numerous new features.
However, the materials do not have to be inert structures anymore. The newest advances in this field point to the progress of Active Materials - materials that are not “passive” or support structures, but that are “active” components with a definite role to play. They incorporate an immense value into the final 3D-printed product.
These materials could provide the potential to manipulate the flow of ionic currents, contract or expand, change thermal conductivity, electrical resistance and hardness, or even perform as a real antibiotic!
Antimicrobial Active Materials
It is exactly in this capacity that Copper3D has been functioning over the past few years, to develop an interesting catalog of active materials comprising of 100% antimicrobial characteristics for the biomedical 3D printing sector.
The path has not been simple and has involved overcoming numerous technical difficulties, including; going through a stringent laboratory and clinical validation process, creating an intricate network of strategic alliances with institutions such as the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), the Universidad de Chile, Mitsubishi Chemicals, UneMed, UneTech, and Greater Omaha, and developing a solid network of distributors in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. It has also been necessary to form a whole ecosystem around the concept of “Antimicrobial 3D Printing.”
The issues solved by this catalog of antimicrobial active materials are numerous. Actually, there are so many that the applications that have even drawn the interest of NASA!
NASA is very keen to use the advantages of 3D printing in space missions and in the International Space Station (ISS). As a matter of fact, NASA has already installed a Zero-G 3D Printer in the ISS, designed by the creators of Made In Space.
However, NASA also has to deal with other challenges such as the occurrence called Immune System Dysregulation, which causes, among other things, astronauts to be highly susceptible to infections in space missions extending over six months. It is still a matter under examination, but NASA already believes that Antimicrobial 3D Printing could be a remarkable solution to this issue and is already steering two studies in partnership with UNO and Copper3D to assess these materials in highly demanding settings.
The WHO reports that about 10% of all the patients who are admitted in hospitals around the world will contract an infection brought on from the care they received in the hospital. This figure of 10% is somewhat lower in developed countries but can reach over 25% in developing countries. In other words, millions of people can be infected yearly, millions die every year, and trillions of dollars are spent in direct and indirect costs for healthcare systems, countries, and families.
Other data (Kenawy, E. 2007) reveals that at least 50% of these Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are caused by contamination of Medical Devices, and Copper3D believes that 3D printing will draw a lot of attention in the next couple of years in this sector. Copper3D is convinced that with 3D printing, these devices should be economical, tailored, and produced on demand in a lesser span of time than conventional manufacturing. If the attribute of Antimicrobial-Active Devices is added to these factors, a very promising situation is awaiting hospitals, patients, doctors, companies of 3D-printed services, and the healthcare systems.
For Copper3D, all this has been an exhilarating journey, filled with learning and continuous discovery of new applications for its materials. These investigations with NASA will help Copper3D to confirm this concept in very challenging conditions, which also opens the door to look at this new type of material as being very beneficial in solving significant challenges and problems faced here on earth in other industries apart from healthcare, such as animal health, toys, livestock farming, moms and babies appliances, and more.
This is merely the beginning and could soon be a massive revolution in the way the industry understands manufacturing and the nature of materials.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Copper3D.
For more information on this source, please visit Copper3D.