The unique capabilities of 3D printing have demonstrated value in a range of healthcare applications ranging from tablet manufacture to tissue engineering and implant construction.
The flexibility to cost-efficiently produce bespoke, patient-specific designs and the ability to control critical properties such as porosity set 3D printing apart from conventional manufacturing techniques. However, the biomedical sector is necessarily limited with respect to materials that can be used, which must meet stringent toxicity and/or biocompatibility standards. The identification of new materials that are suitable for printing remains an ongoing challenge.
Silk is a natural biomaterial already used in biomedical applications, for example, in the form of a knitted surgical mesh, sutures, and therapeutic clothing for the treatment of skin conditions. Widely available and easy to sterilize and purify, silk has established biocompatibility and an advantageous property profile for bio-scaffold manufacture. It has already been successfully used to reinforce polymer-based structures produced using extrusion-based 3D printing techniques.
In this article we describe experimental work carried out by Deakin University which investigates the feasibility of binder jet printing with silk powders. We discuss the test methods used to differentiate silk powders with a high chance of printing success, focusing on the application of powder testing, and explore the properties of printed components. The results demonstrate the viability and potential of binder jetting with a silk powder to make high-resolution bio-scaffolds, and more broadly, exemplify a strategy for characterising natural materials, including waste materials, for printing applications.
Click here to read ‘Characterising silk powders for binder jetting: working towards an innovative solution for bio-scaffold printing’.