We’ve been hearing a lot about the applications for 3D printing in the medical industry, but most of those stories are decades away from being applied in the real world, and years away from human trials. However, one company has already taken that leap – Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials Technology just announced the company’s new bioprinter, the PCPrinter BCTM, and that the company was about to begin human trails.
What’s the PCPrinter?
According to the Chinese company, “The PCPrinter is the most advanced 3D bioprinting device on the market today.” It’s designed to create 3D printed bone implants, but also has some significant implications for the areas of orthopedic defects and complicated bone fractures.
It has already been used in an experimental surgery on a rabbit (March 2015), and the company is intent on building upon that success.
The secret to the PCPrinter’s success is that it is able to create identical bone replacements, all the way down to the bone’s internal pore structures and mechanical strength. This results in a perfect replacement for broken or damaged sections of bone.
According to Yang Kun, the firm’s CEO, “The printer is widely used in bone regeneration and soft tissue biological structures and controlled drug release and other materials. It is therefore the perfect equipment for the experts of the life sciences, materials science researchers, for tissue engineering and drug development in internal areas.”
The PCPrinter relies on a technology named FFP, or filament free printing. It resembles FDM printing, but that’s superficial.
Where FDM is limited by the filaments it uses, FFP is not. The process creates a direct extrusion of polymer or ceramic particles with exceptional precision rather than having to melt plastic filament first.
There is no heating space required with the PCPrinter (although an optional heater can be added if necessary). With that being said, the remainder of the process is identical to FDM printing, creating a layer-by-layer print based on design input to the printer.
Another significant benefit here is the fact that the PCPrinter can be used with a wide variety of different materials, ranging from biodegradable options that would slowly dissipate as the body heals to composite polymer materials designed for lengthier implant situations. Organic and inorganic materials can be mixed with collage particles and with five-fold deionized water to create a ceramic slurry that can then be extruded easily and accurately.
When used with a heated extrusion head, it becomes the perfect answer to 3D printing natural bone structures.
While human trials have not yet commenced, the company does expect them to get underway within the next few weeks. If those trials are successful, and there’s no reason to doubt that they will, this could herald a brand new age for a wide range of medical situations.