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Ink with bacteria enables 3D printing of bones

Light and robust objects

A new 3D printing material containing a bacterium enables the printing of light, porous and at the same time robust objects such as bones and coral structures.

Lausanne (Switzerland). In industry, spare parts and components have long been produced with 3D printers . The technology also has great potential for medical applications , such as Direct Sound Printing (DSP) , a new 3D printing process that can be used directly in the body. So far, however, not all materials can be reproduced with a 3D printer. Bones , for example, are problematic because they have to be robust and light as well as porous at the same time. In addition, the starting material for 3D printing must first be liquid so that the nozzles can inject it into the new shape. 

In the past, research has attempted to create the necessary material properties by adding mineral particles. However, this often resulted in cracks or shrinkage of the 3D printed object during drying. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have now developed a new printing material that can also be used to print bones and other porous, light objects such as coral structures.

3D printing material with bacteria

According to their publication in Materials Today , the ink contains a bacterium that produces calcium carbonate when it comes into contact with a solution containing urea. The 3D-printed shape then mineralizes into a bone-like material within four days. After the mineralization process, the final product is immersed in ethanol (alcohol) so that it does not contain any living bacteria. 

According to the researchers, the innovative 3D printing material is not only suitable for use in medicine, but also for the repair of works of art or for the production of artificial corals that could help in the regeneration of damaged sea reefs.

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