Collaboration for a 3D-printed future

In the early days, 3D printing was mostly about plastic details and spare parts. But how can the 3D printer revolutionize the life science industry? That is what The Additive Manufacturing for Life Sciences Competence Centre is going to find out.

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING (AM) is another word for 3D printing and clearly illustrates what it’s all about: adding material until a product is finished, instead of starting from a large amount of raw material and discarding what is left over. This lets you manufacture with precision and resource efficiency, two aspects that are highly interesting for both the industry and for drug development. The new competence centre in Uppsala has equal parts funding from Vinnova, academia, and the business community, and collaborates with companies in needs-driven research projects. Cecilia Persson, professor of applied materials science, is Director of the center.

– We want to take a broad approach in the field. It’s not just about the products themselves, but we also look at regulatory aspects. How do you CE mark something that is only produced in one copy? And who is responsible for what is created when there are different people behind the levers

New technology in rapid development

At the centre, there will be constant monitoring the emergence of new 3D printers, as well as new types of materials and applications that can be useful for the development of medical technology. Cecilia Persson highlights four concrete uses for additive manufacturing in that context.

1. 3D-printed implants.

2. For medicines or delivery by other active substances, such as printing bacteriostatic materials, or into components for vaccine development equipment.

3. Print with cells, including organ-like objects on which early tests can be performed. One vision in the field is to be able to print organs for transplantation in the future.

4. Dosage of drugs, for example, exact doses of medicine for children.

The initiative will run for five years, but Cecilia Persson hopes for an extension after that time has expired.

– We will develop the field by contributing to the supply of skills for engineers, researchers, and employees at the companies in this field. There is a two-year master’s program today at Uppsala University, but we notice that many companies want to be involved and enhance the level ofcompetence further together with our partners. In addition to the competence issue, high costs are a major threshold for 3D printing to really take off. Therefore, one of the center’s main tasks is to make the technology available so that more people have an opportunity to try it out.

– There must be a payment model and a way to share the costs. Among other things, we will ensure that researchers and companies can rent equipment at Uppsala University to conduct specific projects. Today, some machines are very expensive while others can be built on their own. Our doctoral students have, for example, used 3D printing to print a component to the printer itself. The methods trigger innovation because you learn to think differently.

In the future, she hopes that 3D printing will find its way to hospitals, among other things to be able to create tailored implants. Cecilia Persson is also looking forward to a more general development in the field.

– Above all, we can expect a lot of new types of materials with new properties. The most fun is finding materials that work inside the body or than can adapt to missing tissue. I very much hope for further developments in bioprinting, but perhaps mainly to be able to perform more accurate early evaluations of materials and drugs instead of having to use complete biological systems.

“... the methods trigger innovation because you learn to think differently.” CECILIA PERSSON
3D printing
By collaborating and sharing resources, additive manufacturing can get to more people faster.

ABOUT THE COMPETENCE CENTER:

Additive Manufacturing for Life Sciences is a Competence Centre at Uppsala University that brings together many of the country’s leading experts in additive manufacturing. The total budget for 2020-2024 is SEK 100 million.

The partner network includes 23 members:

Uppsala University, Royal Institute of Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Association For The Advancement Of Tissue Engineering And Cell-Based Technologies & Therapies (A4TEC), RISE, Swerim, Läkemedelsverket, Uppsala Region, Yrkeshögskolan Sandviken, Additive Composite Uppsala, AddNorth, Cellink, Disruptive Materials Operations AB, Erasteel Kloster AB, Exmet AB, OssDsign AB, Cytiva, Graphmatec, VBN Components, ÅF Industry, Kanthal, and Akademiska sjukhuset.

3D Printer Printing Prototypes
Prostheses and implants are important parts of 3D printing, but now comes a plethora of other uses.