Using 3D printing to improve implantable biomedical devices, touchscreens and more

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McGill researchers are exploring a new technique that uses 3D printing and hydrogels. It has the potential not only to improve biomedical implants but could also be useful in the development of human-machine interfaces such as touch screens and neural implants. Biomedical devices like pacemakers or blood pressure sensors that are implanted into the human body need to be fabricated in such a way that they conform and adhere to the body - and then dissolve at the right time.

Using 3D printing and hydrogel technology, researchers in McGill University’s Department of Engineering are moving closer to being able to create devices that better match the human body than the electronic devices currently in use. The researchers say this emerging technology, called soft ionotronics, has the potential to be used to improve wearable and implantable biomedical devices. For example, patients in neuromuscular rehabilitation could benefit from soft and stretchable strain and pressure sensors that can be adhered to their joints.

-Compared to traditional manual fabrication methods, 3D printed ionic junctions can have much better shape fidelity and smaller sizes. Shape fidelity is important for any device to function in the way it is designed. The smaller size means more ionic junctions can be included in one single device of limited size,- said Ran Huo , lead author on the study and PhD candidate in McGill’s Department of Engineering.

Tough Transient Ionic Junctions Printed with Ionic Microgels by Ran Heo et al., was published in Advanced Functional Materials.