Making Medical 3D Printing Faster and More Precise with Piezo Technology

3D printing has quickly become established within the medical field and enables therapies that were unimaginable just a few decades ago.

The advances made in medical technology, however, have been accompanied by an increase in the requirements placed on medical devices, implants, prosthetics, and components. Geometries and structures are becoming more complex, and fast, precise manufacturing, e.g., of personalized implants, is required.

Some 3D printing processes can profit from piezo technology. In the area of medical technology, this includes material jetting and binder jetting. Piezo actuators are preferred in both processes because their high speed makes them ideal for creating extremely precise droplets.

Jetting here is the process of creating droplets in print heads, e.g., in 3D printing systems. A wide range of piezo elements or actuators apply force pulses to the microfluidic channels in the print head so that the extremely fine droplets – with sizes in the microliter range – land contact-free on the printing substrate.

In the so-called material jetting process, liquid polymers are printed, e.g., with a variety of material properties or colours. These methods are used, for instance, to create patient-specific organ models for operation planning.

Products that are created using binder jetting have a much wider range of application. In this method, a liquid polymer binder is jetted into a powder bed consisting of, e.g., ceramic or metallic particles. The printing process is followed by drying and sintering procedures. Dental products such as bridges, crowns, implants, and crown substructures, as well as surgical instruments, can be generated in this way.

The Future: 3D Bioprinting

Jetting technologies are also used in the area of bioprinting, i.e., the printing of biomaterials and living cells. This method is used in tissue engineering, e.g., to precisely dispense picolitre droplets of cell suspensions onto tissue scaffolds. The process can be used to print personalized drugs, as well as artificial organs, preliminary organs and skin that are populated with cells in a defined way.

PI has the expertise and technical capabilities required to manufacture piezo solutions for 3D printing. In addition to designing customized piezo components, PI masters extensive technologies for assembling and contacting these sophisticated elements.

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