Today’s catheters only come in standard sizes and shapes, which means they cannot accommodate the needs of all premature babies.
“With neonatal care, each baby is a different size, each baby has a different set of problems,” says Randall Erb, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “If you can print a catheter whose geometry is specific to the individual patient, you can insert it up to a certain critical spot, you can avoid puncturing veins, and you can expedite delivery of the contents.”Erb’s team has developed an innovative 3-D printing technology that uses magnetic fields to shape composite materials—mixes of plastics and ceramics—into patient-specific products. The biomedical devices they are developing, which include catheters, will be both stronger and lighter than current models and, with their customized design, ensure an appropriate fit. Their paper on the new technology appears in the Oct. 23 issue of Nature Communications.
Others have used composite materials in 3-D printing, says Joshua Martin, the doctoral candidate who helped design and run many of the experiments for the paper. What sets their technology apart, say Erb and Martin, is that it enables them to control how the ceramic fibers are arranged—and hence control the mechanical properties of the material itself. Read more..