The new technique allows 3D printing of hydrogel-based sensors directly on...
The new technique allows 3D printing of hydrogel-based sensors directly on organs, like the lungs, that change shape or distort due to expanding and contracting.
Source: McAlpine Research Group, University of Minnesota

3D printing sensors on expanding organs

In groundbreaking new research, mechanical engineers and computer scientists at the University of Minnesota have developed a 3D printing technique that uses motion capture technology, similar to that used in Hollywood movies, to print electronic sensors directly on organs that are expanding and contracting. The new 3D printing technique could have future applications in diagnosing and monitoring the lungs of patients with COVID-19.

The new research is the next generation of a 3D printing technique discovered two years ago by members of the team that allowed for printing of electronics directly on the skin of a hand that moved left to right or rotated. The new technique allows for even more sophisticated tracking to 3D print sensors on organs like the lungs or heart that change shape or distort due to expanding and contracting.

“We are pushing the boundaries of 3D printing in new ways we never even imagined years ago,” said Michael McAlpine, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor and senior researcher on the study. “3D printing on a moving object is difficult enough, but it was quite a challenge to find a way to print on a surface that was deforming as it expanded and contracted.”

Photo
3D printing a deformable sensor on a breathing lung.
Source: Zhijie Zhu, University of Minnesota

The researchers started in the lab with a balloon-like surface and a specialized 3D printer. They used motion capture tracking markers, much like those used in movies to create special effects, to help the 3D printer adapt its printing path to the expansion and contraction movements on the surface. The researchers then moved on to an animal lung in the lab that was artificially inflated. They were able to successfully print a soft hydrogel-based sensor directly on the surface. McAlpine said the technique could also possibly be used in the future to 3D print sensors on a pumping heart.

“The broader idea behind this research, is that this is a big step forward to the goal of combining 3D printing technology with surgical robots,” said McAlpine, who holds the Kuhrmeyer Family Chair Professorship in the University of Minnesota Department of Mechanical Engineering. “In the future, 3D printing will not be just about printing but instead be part of a larger autonomous robotic system. This could be important for diseases like COVID-19 where health care providers are at risk when treating patients.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Smart ring detects COVID-19 early

Smart ring detects COVID-19 early

According to new research, the Oura smart ring is indeed suitable for detecting COVID-19 infection up to three days before symptoms appear.

Wearable tracks COVID-19 key symptoms

Wearable tracks COVID-19 key symptoms

Researchers have developed a wearable device to catch early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19 and to monitor patients as the illness progresses.

A wearable COVID-19 early warning system

A wearable COVID-19 early warning system

A remote early warning system for the detection of COVID-19 symptoms among frontline medical staff is showing promising results.

Researchers are developing a ‘pandemic drone’ to detect coronavirus

Researchers are developing a ‘pandemic drone’ to detect coronavirus

A ‘pandemic drone’ to remotely monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions is being developed.

App monitors COVID-19 symptoms and mental health needs

App monitors COVID-19 symptoms and mental health needs

A new app that helps patients in self-isolation monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and identify their mental health needs has been developed.

Wearable sensor tracks Vitamin C levels in sweat

Wearable sensor tracks Vitamin C levels in sweat

Researchers have developed a wearable, non invasive Vitamin C sensor that could provide a new, highly personalized option for users to track their daily nutritional intake and dietary adherence.

Lab engineers 3D functional bone tissues

Lab engineers 3D functional bone tissues

Researchers have developed a printable bioink that could be used to create anatomical-scale functional tissues.

A novel swab design to augment COVID-19 testing

A novel swab design to augment COVID-19 testing

Scientists have developed a novel test swab that can be 3D printed using inexpensive, widely available materials and speedily assembled in a range of fabrication settings.

In-ear sensors to help in fight against COVID-19

In-ear sensors to help in fight against COVID-19

Scientists plan to use high-tech biometric sensors for 24-hour monitoring of COVID-19 patients in home isolation.

Popular articles