Materialise, Sigma Labs to integrate products

Departments - 3D + Additive

Engineers 3D print flexible mesh for ankle, knee braces


Materialise, which recently received FDA clearance for its Mimics Enlight cardiovascular planning software suite, is partnering with Sigma Labs to integrate Sigma Labs PrintRite3D inspection tool with the Materialise Control Platform (MCP), an embedded hardware solution that gives full control to the end user.

Combining the control technology with in-situ process monitoring for metal additive manufacturing (AM) will give customers control of the production process, improving productivity.

“This project has the potential to be an important leap forward for the metal AM industry,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs. “In the laser-powderbed process there are several machine and process factors that cause machines to be unrepeatable. The solution for managing these variables is better controls and software tools that drive AM machines, like self-driving automobiles. Materialise and Sigma Labs are allying on what may become a significant breakout toward this solution.”

Engineers 3D print flexible mesh for ankle, knee braces

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have designed pliable, 3D-printed (3DP) mesh materials flexible and tough enough to emulate and support softer tissues such as muscles and tendons. This material can be used as personalized, wearable supports, including ankle or knee braces, and could potentially be used for implantable devices such as hernia meshes.

“This work is new in that it focuses on the mechanical properties and geometries required to support soft tissues,” says Sebastian Pattinson, a professor at MIT who was involved in the research.

Other members of the research team include Meghan Huber, Sanha Kim, Jongwoo Lee, Sarah Grunsfeld, Ricardo Roberts, Gregory Dreifus, Christoph Meier, and Lei Liu, as well as Sun Jae professor in mechanical engineering Neville Hogan and associate professor of mechanical engineering A. John Hart.

Inspired by collagen’s molecular structure, Pattinson designed wavy patterns that he 3D printed using thermoplastic polyurethane. He then fabricated a mesh resembling stretchy yet tough fabric. After running numerous tests on the mesh used in ankle guards, researchers found it increased the ankle’s stiffness during inversion and left the ankle relatively unaffected as it moved in other directions.

The ankle brace was made using relatively stretchy material, but for other applications, stiff yet conformable material is more effective. Researchers printed stainless steel fibers over regions of elastic mesh where stiffer properties were needed, allowing the mesh to stretch easily until it stiffens and provides stronger support.

Two other techniques were developed to enable the mesh to conform easily to the body, even while in motion.

While in traditional 3DP, material is printed through a heated nozzle onto another layer of material, Pattinson found that if he raised the nozzle slightly, the material would take longer to land on the layer below, making it less sticky. This allowed Pattinson to create layers that moved freely relative to each other.

Finally, researchers designed meshes with auxetic structures – patterns in their centers that widen when pulled on.

“There’s potential to make all sorts of devices that interface with the human body,” Pattinson says. “Surgical meshes, orthoses, cardiovascular devices such as stents – you can imagine all benefiting from the kinds of structures we show.”