A group of Australian biomedical engineers have created a small, flexible robot that can be used to 3D print biomaterials inside the human body, with the goal of simplifying future medical procedures.
In 3D bioprinting, living cells and other natural tissues, collectively referred to as “bio-ink,” are used to print tissue-like structures for use in the repair of damaged organs, tissues, or blood vessels.
These artificial constructions can integrate with a person’s body and even grow with them thanks to the usage of living cells in the 3D printing process.
Currently, biomaterials are developed in vitro and then surgically implanted into the body, a process that can result in significant blood loss, infection, and other complications.
Thanh Nho Do, leader of the development team, claims that the F3DB device will make these problems and dangers obsolete by printing inside the body. Direct 3D printing inside the human body is not possible with current commercially available technology, He told.
F3DB has a hydraulically flexible printing head that can bend and twist on all three axes. If more complex or unpredictable printing is needed, the printing nozzle can be operated manually.
The current smallest prototype is 11–13 mm in diameter, making it roughly the same size as a commercial endoscope; however, this could be reduced further in the near future.
Soft robots can best interact with humans
According to Do, who oversees the Medical Robotics Lab at the University of New South Wales, “soft robots” are ideal for interacting with humans.
“They have the potential for great malleability and adaptability. What this means is that they can conform to any space within a person’s body.”
Do predicts that, barring any unexpected results from further clinical trials, the device will be ready for commercialization within the next five to seven years.
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