Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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4D multi-material printing with potential in tissue engineering

12 January 2020

Pulling Faces

From tiny cages carrying drugs inside the body to custom-designed transplants 'printed' out of a patient’s cells, 3D printing is changing modern medicine. Researchers are now looking towards the fourth dimension – time. Here tiny looping 'ribs' of different silicon-based inks are piped in a careful overlapping design – all thanks to a mixture of mathematics, computing and materials science. Each ink responds differently to changes in temperature, growing or shrinking over time – the flat layers of ribs can be triggered to pull themselves into a pre-defined 3D shape. This particular design is the face of Carl Friedrich Gauss, whose geometry inspired the technique. In the future, though, similar principles couple be applied to tissue engineering, or prosthetics – creating shape-shifting designs that adapt to their environment and purpose over time.

Written by John Ankers

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