Top Story, Devices & Diagnostics

New 3D printing tech using magnets is designed for patient-specific devices

Researchers at Northeastern University are using 3D magnetic printing to make customized medical devices, technology that will be especially focused on catheters for premature babies.

Patients come in all shapes and sizes, but most medical devices are available in standard sizes. This can be particularly challenging to work with when it comes to treating premature babies. Having customized medical devices for each individual could soon be possible with a new approach to 3D printing coming from researchers at Northeastern University.

“With neonatal care, each baby is a dif­ferent size, each baby has a dif­ferent set of prob­lems,” said lead author Ran­dall Erb, assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering, according to news@Northeastern. “If you can print a catheter whose geom­etry is spe­cific to the indi­vidual patient, you can insert it up to a cer­tain crit­ical spot, you can avoid punc­turing veins, and you can expe­dite delivery of the contents.”

Erb received a $225,000 Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Institute of Health to use the technology to develop catheters for newborn babies.

Ceramic fibers are aligned with liquid plastic by using ultralow magnetic fields. The structure almost mimics how our bodies naturally orientate calcium phosphate fibers in bone around blood vessel holes. Then a process called stereolithography is used to stack layers on top of one another and then a computer-controlled laser beam hardens the plastic.

Because the researchers have control over how the ceramic fibers are arranged, they can change the mechanical properties of the material, like the configuration of holes, curves and the size of catheters so that it is customized to a particular patient’s needs.

I believe our research is opening a new fron­tier in materials-??science research,” said Joshua Martin, the doc­toral can­di­date who helped design and run many of the exper­i­ments. “For a long time, researchers have been trying to design better mate­rials, but there’s always been a gap between theory and exper­i­ment. With this tech­nology, we’re finally scratching the sur­face where we can the­o­ret­i­cally deter­mine that a par­tic­ular fiber archi­tec­ture leads to improved mechan­ical prop­er­ties and we can also pro­duce those com­pli­cated architectures.”

Screenshot via news@Northeastern