Innovative 3D printing technology that prints electronic components and cells directly on the skin


For the first time, researchers at the University of Minnesota have used customized and low-cost 3D printing technology to print electronic products on their arms. This technology can be applied to soldiers on the battlefield and detected by printed sensors. The body contains chemical substances or biomolecules.

In addition, solar cells can also be printed to help charge simple electronic devices. The researchers also successfully printed biological cells on mouse wounds and found that this technology may provide new treatments for wound healing and skin-related diseases.

The research report was published in the academic journal Advanced Materials.

Michael McAlpine, the study’s lead author and associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, said: “We are excited about this 3D printing technology, and this portable 3D printer costs less than US$400. Imagine a soldier can take a backpack. Take out the printer and print the sensor directly on his skin or the electronic products he needs. The items the soldiers need can be placed in a light and portable 3D printer.”

The key technology of this 3D printer is that it can adapt to the body’s tiny vibrations during the printing process, and it also uses computer vision (the use of cameras and computers instead of human eyes to identify targets, tracking and measurement, and image processing). Sports position.

Associate Professor McAlpine said: “When using a printer on the skin, even if people want to stay still, there will still be slight tremors, and each person will have a different amount of vibration. This printer uses markers to trace hand contours and movements. , and adjust the position immediately, so the printed electronic components remain intact.”

Another unique feature of this 3D printing technology is that it uses “silver flakes” as a special ink, so it cures at room temperature and conducts electricity. This is more convenient than inks that require curing at high temperatures (100 degrees Celsius) and will not burn hands. It is also very simple to remove the printed electronic components by using tweezers to pick it up or wash it with water.

In addition to its use in electronic components, innovative 3D printing technology can also print out cells to help treat dermatological patients. The McAlpine team collaborated with Dean Jakub Tolar, a pediatrician at the University of Minnesota Medical School, to successfully use Bioink to print wounded cells around the wounds of mice, which also pioneered advanced medical experiments in the treatment of skin diseases.

source: Advanced Materials

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