We’ve been writing at Design News for a few years on the exciting work in developing new polymers for coronary-opening stents. First there was the compound that releases drugs over a defined span of time. And then there was work to develop bioabsorbable plastic stents that would disappear into the body after completing their work. Now one of the developers is receiving the coveted Lemelson-MIT Prize for innovation – and a check for $500,000.
The winner is Joseph M. DeSimone, chancellor’s eminent professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and William R. Kenan Jr. distinguished professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University. He worked with Richard Stack, president of SyneCor LLC, in developing a fully bioabsorbable, polymer-based stent to provide an alternative to metallic stents. The technology is being commercialized by Abbott Laboratories, and clinical trials are under way. The Abbott stent is made of polylactic acid—the workhorse for bioabosrbable implants—and coated with a drug called Everolimus.
One of DeSimone’s contributions is development of a safe method of removing potentially toxic additives used in plastic implants. Devices are immersed in a densified carbon dioxide composition to absorb toxic materials. The densified carbon dioxide containing the toxic materials is then removed from the polymeric material and the toxic materials are separated from the carbon dioxide composition by decreasing the density of the carbon dioxide.
In another breakthrough, DeSimone helped develop polymers with selectively modified crystallinity so that mechanical properties could be varied within a stent, a feature that directly relates to material degradation.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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