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4D multi-material printing with potential in tissue engineering

12 January 2020

Pulling Faces

From tiny cages carrying drugs inside the body to custom-designed transplants 'printed' out of a patient’s cells, 3D printing is changing modern medicine. Researchers are now looking towards the fourth dimension – time. Here tiny looping 'ribs' of different silicon-based inks are piped in a careful overlapping design – all thanks to a mixture of mathematics, computing and materials science. Each ink responds differently to changes in temperature, growing or shrinking over time – the flat layers of ribs can be triggered to pull themselves into a pre-defined 3D shape. This particular design is the face of Carl Friedrich Gauss, whose geometry inspired the technique. In the future, though, similar principles couple be applied to tissue engineering, or prosthetics – creating shape-shifting designs that adapt to their environment and purpose over time.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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