Need a Bone Graft? Print One Out | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: March 8, 2007

Need a Bone Graft? Print One Out

Ink-jet printer used to fabricate synthetic bone grafts
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE

How's this for an unusual application for an ink-jet printer: Jake E. Barralet of McGill University, in Montreal, and colleagues have adapted a printer to produce synthetic, three-dimensional structures to make bone grafts (Adv. Mater., DOI: 10.1002/adma.200601370). Tests indicate that such porous, tailor-made structures could one day be implanted into patients to serve as biodegradable scaffolds for regrowing missing or damaged bone.

The printing technique precisely controls the size and geometry of the pores that riddle the scaffold to promote optimal bone growth. Instead of ink, the printer sprays out phosphoric acid in a defined pattern onto a bed of calcium phosphate powder on a movable platform. The powder forms cement at the spots that are wet with acid. The printer then drops the platform slightly, lays down another layer of calcium phosphate powder, and applies more acid.

Each 100-µm-thick layer takes about 10 seconds to print. The process repeats until the desired 3-D object is finished, at which point unreacted powder is removed with compressed air.

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