Reproducing biological tissues in terms of their mechanical properties by means of 3D printing
- Project Number: SC17-016
- Project Lead: Dieter Pahr, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Biomechanics
- Duration: 34 months starting from 01.12.2018
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM) or rapid prototyping, has become a highly versatile tool with a broad range of applications, such as manufacturing, art, design, and medicine. In the field of biomedical engineering AM has not only gained wide popularity in tissue engineering for printing scaffolds and in biomechanics for patient-specific prostheses, but it has also been proposed as an instrument for fabricating realistic 3D models. For example, individual modelling of patient-specific conditions via AM poses an excellent opportunity for surgeons to practice procedures beforehand. Studies have shown that in doing so operation time is reduced and the physician's confidence is increased, resulting in shorter times of radiation exposure and lower costs. Although 3D modelling approaches for pre-surgical planning have been reported previously, a closer look, concerning the mechanical properties of the printed materials, is still required. Currently, these models lack accurate representation of the tissue biomechanics. This demands a procedure for fine-tuning the mechanical properties of the 3D printed materials to closely match the in vivo conditions. In this project, 3D printing is applied to the task of producing materials that closely imitate biological tissues, and organ-like structures, in terms of their mechanical properties. The printed tissues can be patient-specific for pre-surgical planning, as well as standardized for applications in research dealing with advancing novel operating techniques, implant technology, and other medical devices. One of the incentives is to thereby limit the demand of donor organs and reduce variability of the organs used in research. Due to the fact that the capabilities of 3D printing are currently rapidly increasing, this research can also be seen as the groundwork for even more applications concerning printed organs that might be possible with future technology. The key objectives of this project are:
the establishment of a testing protocol for acquiring characteristic biomechanical parameters of different tissues, the development of software tools for attaining these parameters in 3D printed structures (based on suitable material combinations and spatial distribution thereof, plus post-processing procedures), the printing of these tissue replicas alongside the validation of their mechanical properties via comparison with the actual tissue characteristics. All instructions for manufacturing these models are to be contained in a so-called “toolbox”.