Great question, Cabe. I think the answer is something like--not yet or not soon, or not without a lot of tweaking first. The main purpose wasn't to create biostructures or biomaterials so much as materials inspired by biological ones--biomimetics--that can be 3D printed on a multi-materials printer using both hard and soft polymers. And also, of course, as a proof of concept of the software model. That said, it would be very interesting to adapt the structures to the use of other types of materials. But then you'd need a 3D printer that prints biomaterials and more than one at a time, which doesn't exist yet.
James, you're absolutely right that the materials used to form the composite have not changed,. But this research team has used the multi-materials 3D printer to combine them in completely new ways, making the different types of composites. (The research also were used to test the accuracy of the statistical models.) Imagine what could be done with much more sophisticated materials *and* software!
Upon reading this article I was surprised that the 3D printer was printing with standard polymer materials at standard temps with standard jets but doing so using bone-like geometries identified by computational models. I was looking for a new material used in the printer but it is not true. Basicly these printed models are identical to standard bone geometries found naturally in nature. This printed geometry suggests the basic 3D printing geometries used by 3D manufactures are simple and not designed with any thought other than to make shapes fast for sales of their printers today! The future 3D user will need to be able to print smarter models using natures structural geometries for stronger parts. 3D manufacturers have given us a tool but not the software to make durable models. MIT's work in identifying this is remarkable and should be recognized as very important. Thank you for the informative article. I would like to see software that can be used on standard low cost printers with mutiple material nozzles is the future of 3D.
Thanks for your comment, Greg. I was very surprised myself by the 20x-plus metric. The materials designed for, and available with, Objet's multi-material printer are not high-end engineering polymers, so the machine has been used primarily for printing models and prototypes, plus a few end-use parts for non-extreme environments. But making 20X stronger composites with those materials could change the game.
I am especially intrigued by the ability of this new material to absorb energy (toughness) and provide protection. 20X more toughness than the constituent material is remarkable. As the article mentioned, this could produce big break-throughs for armor technology (or the prosthetic devices).
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