Researchers refining drugs and implants using 3D printers

Published: 26 October 2017

In a new project at Luleå University of Technology, researchers develop systems to produce personal drugs and implants with 3D printers. The aim is to improve patient safety and health.

In the laboratory at Luleå University of Technology there are two different 3D printers, where one uses high heat, over 100 degrees, and the other UV light to form 3D objects.

– If a drug is unable to handle high temperatures, it can be printed on the other printer instead. The printers are designed using a software that specifies size, area, geometry and other aspects that affect the 3D-printed object, says Mohammed Elbadawi, who will be working for two years at the Luleå University of Technology. He recently graduated in Mechanical Engineering focusing on creating mechanically strong bone implants at the University of Sheffield, UK.

There are several advantages to making drugs using 3D printers. The first is the speed. 3D printers are also called "rapid prototype machines" when the process from design to manufacturing takes only a few minutes.
"Instead of speculating theoretically about a design, we can print it, see it, hold it in hand and make quick adjustments, saving time and unnecessary discussions," said Mohamed Elbadawi.

Secondly, 3D printers enable personalization of drugs. The benefit is that it can cater to an individual’s needs, such whether they prefer taking medicine weekly or monthly. In addition, if a patient is on more than one drug, 3D printing can combine all of them for convenience. Moreover, in the case of insulin needles, they assume individuals can be grouped into certain weight classes. People come in all shapes and sizes, and 3D printing can use a patient’s anatomical features to design a specific needle.

– 3D technology enables continuous drug production and better control of quality and safety, says Sitaram Velaga, professor of medical science at Luleå University of Technology.

Thirdly, the 3D printers can be paired with scanners. Magnetic camera images of, for example, a damaged knee joint can be uploaded directly to the printer. This, in combination with good resolution, where objects in nanometers (1/1000 of a human hair) can be printed, offer researchers and clinics new opportunities to improve and tailor the patient's treatment.

– Our overall goal is to develop the science and technology of 3D manufacturing in pharmaceutical and biomedical science, by creating better understanding of technology as well as biomaterial for 3D printing, says Sitaram Velaga.

– The new knowledge from the project helps researchers to design personal drugs, minimize side effects and improve the overall treatment process, said Mohamed Elbadawi.

The Kemp Foundation will fund the project for two years with laboratory equipment and cooperation with Mohamed Elbadawi. There are also possibilities for finding European cooperation and European funding to further develop the project.


Mohammed Elbadawi, Post Doc

Organisation: Signals and Systems, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering

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