3D printer yields 'bone-like' material

Researchers at Washington State University have used a custom built 3D printer to create a bone-like material that can be used in orthopaedic procedures and dental work.

The promising new material, the result of a four year interdisciplinary effort, acts as a scaffold for new bone to grow on and is said to dissolve with no apparent ill effects. "If a doctor has a CT scan of a defect, we can convert it to a CAD file and make the scaffold according to the defect," explained Professor Susmita Bose of the university's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. The researchers spent a year optimising a ProMetal 3D printer designed to make metal objects. The re-purposed printer works by having an inkjet spray a plastic binder over a bed of powder in layers of 20microns, about half the width of a human hair. Following computer directions, it then creates a channelled cylinder the size of a pencil rubber. The Washington researchers say they've already seen promising results with in vivo tests on rats and rabbits and believe the material could lead to custom orders for replacement bone tissue in just a few years.