3D-printed antibacterial parts | 3DMedNet

A team of scientists from Sheffield University (UK) has 3D-printed parts which show resistance to some common bacteria. This technique could lead to enhanced infection prevention strategies in hospitals and care homes, for example.

Published in Scientific Reports, the paper describes how the interdisciplinary team from Sheffield University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Clinical Dentistry combined additive manufacturing with a silver-based antibacterial compound, with no negative influence on the printed object’s strength or toxicity to humans.

The team reports that the applications of their findings could extend into the production of medical devices, objects in hospitals subject to high levels of human contact, door handles, children’s toys, dentures and even mobile phone cases. To prove these concepts, the team is already looking to partner with leaders in their respective industries to bring some of these ideas to life and eventually, to market.

Candice Majewski, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University and lead academic for the project explained:

Managing the spread of harmful bacteria, infection and the increasing resistance to antibiotics is a global concern. Introducing antibacterial protection to products and devices at the point of manufacture could be an essential tool in this fight.

Most current 3D-printed products don’t have additional functionality. Adding antibacterial properties at the manufacturing stage will provide a step-change in our utilization of the processes’ capabilities.”

Although medical devices and tools are often coated with antibacterial compounds and cleaned to a high standard, human error and damage to the coating can lead to limited protection from infection.

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Following rigorous testing and imaging, the team determined that their 3D-printed parts were effective against Gram positive Staphylococcus aureus and Gram negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa, both capable of causing many different infections.

In addition to this, the team’s 3D-printed parts appeared to be resistant to the development of biofilms, as the bacteria tested would die before being able to stick to the surface.

Bob Turner (University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science), commented:

Our interactions with microbes are complex and contradictory – they’re essential to our survival and they can knock us dead. Technology like this will be key to informed and sustainable management of this crucial relationship with nature.”

Joey Shepherd (University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry), concluded:

Incorporating antibacterial activity into 3D-printed parts is an intriguing novel direction only made possible by working as part of a great team with complementary skills and experience.”

Sources: Turner RD, Wingham JR, Paterson TE, Shepherd J, Majewski C. Use of silver-based additives for the development of antibacterial functionality in laser sintered polyamide 12 parts. Sci. Rep. 10(892) (2019);

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