University of Nottingham researchers to develop 3D printing toolkit for healthcare applications with £6m grant

University of Nottingham Researchers have been awarded a grant of 6 million GBP to help develop a 3D printer toolkit for the UK healthcare sector.

The Foundation has awarded the grant. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC).

Researchers hope that this 3D printing toolkit will serve as an instruction guide for researchers.

The research group at the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing (CfAM) deems the uptake of 3D printing within the UK healthcare sector to have been slower than required, given the need for personalised and tailored medtech devices. They point out a lack in materials, long product development cycles, and slow time to market.

CfAM researchers have used funding from the ESPRC to create an instruction toolkit which can help identify the most appropriate medtech device designs. This toolkit will be designed to deliver the materials and processes needed to 3D print medical devices on-demand, while also ‘dialling up’ the performance of the printed devices ‘quickly, predictably and reliably’ to meet sector specific needs.

It will use computational tools for chemical screening and identifying materials. In addition, it will integrate machine learning to rationalise design and to understand how to combine multiple materials in order to allow several functions within one device. 

“If you’re embedded in the 3D printing industry, you know what you’re doing. But if you’re a newcomer, and you’re trying to adopt this technology, it’s very difficult to really understand all the steps that you need to go through and then complete them,” Ricky Wildman, Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Nottingham, told TCT. “So our goal is to almost make a recipe that allows somebody to come in and say, this is my product, this is my idea. I don’t necessarily know how to put it all together, but I can come to this toolkit – which will be a recipe but also computational programmes as well – and I’ll be able to go and access that and it will tell me and assist me and guide me in all of these steps and just make it simple for someone to come and say, I’ve got an idea. How do I make it?”

University of Nottingham researchers believe that the development of this toolkit will enable the creation of customized 3D printed objects. These smart products can be made from (bio),pharma, cell therapy/regenerative medicines and (bio).catalysts. They also have smart products that can create prosthetic limbs, smart pill and intestinal patches that can help rebuild damaged tissue.

“We’re hoping that ultimately the more companies that adopt this toolkit type approach, the more 3D printing products we’ll get into clinical, get onto the market,” Wildman said. “And our view is that 3D printing has much to offer the healthcare industry. For the healthcare industry, the number one thing is that it can be personalised so much and can be made on-demand and bespoke. Personalised medicine is the future of healthcare and additive manufacturing is well-positioned to enable that personalized medicine. Our job is to convince the industry and make it easy for them to adopt this technology. I mean, it’s ready, really, for adoption, but it’s now about making that case and making it easy for industry to put it into clinic.” 

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