Engineers 3-D Print Flexible Mesh for Ankle and Knee Braces
2019-07-08    [Source:3dprintingindustry.com]
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Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed new, flexible, 3D printable mesh materials that support softer tissues such as muscles and tendons. Such materials could be used to create medical devices, wearable supports, and implantable devices.
 
“This work is new in that it focuses on the mechanical properties and geometries required to support soft tissues,” said Sebastian Pattinson, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT who led the study published in Advanced Functional Materials.

“3D printed clothing and devices tend to be very bulky. We were trying to think of how we can make 3D printed constructs more flexible and comfortable, like textiles and fabrics.”

3D printed stretchy mesh, with customized patterns designed to be flexible yet strong, for use in ankle and knee braces. Photo via Felice Frankel/MIT.

 

Emulating soft tissue with 3D printing
 
Inspired by collagen, Pattinson and his team of researchers sought to create a stretchy, tough, and pliable fabric that works with the human body as personalized, wearable supports. Collagen’s structure can be curvy, intertwined or emulate loosely braided ribbons. Using thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), 3D printed mesh structures were produced.
 
It was found that the taller they designed the waves of the mesh, the more it was able to stretch at low strain before becoming stiffer. The team recognized this as a design principle that can help to tailor a mesh’s degree of flexibility to mimic soft tissue. John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering, MIT, stated:
 
“The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity and versatility. Mesh can be made on a basic desktop 3D printer, and the mechanics can be tailored to precisely match those of soft tissue.”
 
 

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