Researchers for the Department of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sheffield, have created 3D printed parts that are resistant to common strains of bacteria. This has a vast amount of applications and can prevent the spread of infections and viruses in care homes and hospitals, potentially saving lives.
This has been achieved by this team of researchers by combining a silver-based antibacterial compound with 3D printing to create the desired parts. The compound was successfully integrated into other existing materials without any negative effects on the parts strength or processability. This combination under the right conditions can perform as an antibacterial material while not harming human cells.
At the moment most of the 3D printed objects and devices currently available on the market do not have any added functionality. The addition of these antibacterial products will create the opportunity for these products to be used in a variety of applications. Some of these applications include: parts for hospitals, medical devices, children’s toys, door handles, oral health products and products like mobile phone cases.
Existing procedures are in place to sterilize and coat products with an antibacterial coating. However these methods are quite rigorous and strict and also include a certain amount of human error, where imperfections and damage can occur during the coating process.
Tests were carried out on various objects, like generic spheres, “dog bones” and cubes, which were created both with and without the antibacterial qualities. All of these objects were then covered in different solutions containing various bacteria. After 24 hours, it was observed that the parts that had the additive were much more effective at preventing the two main groups of bacteria, Gram negative (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and Gram positive (Staphylococcus aureus). Each of these types of bacteria can cause varying types of infections, with MRSA being an antibiotic-resistant type of Staphylococcus aureus.
These 3D printed parts are efficient at reducing the amount of bacteria that can remain on surfaces. Bacteria can form a “biofilm”, which is a thin layer over the surface of the part, and these are generally quite hard to remove. An “anti-biofilm” effect was seen on the aforementioned parts as the bacteria did not have enough time to form the film as it was killed too quickly. This effect was less efficient when tested in water, as the nutrient-full water affected the silver’s ability to do its job. This will decide what application the technology can be used for.
Preventing and managing the spread of infection, harmful bacteria and also keeping a close eye on the rising resistance to antibiotics are issues that affect the whole planet. The ability to introduce antibacterial features to both existing and new devices and products when they are being manufactured could be an invaluable asset in the fight against all ailments, from innocuous to life-threatening. More projects similar to this endeavor by the University of Sheffield will be brought forward to work with the respective industry leaders in that field, with the hopes of bringing even more new products and technology that will help the fight against bacteria.
Have you heard of 3D printed parts that can bacteria? What do you think of this new technology and its applications? Let us know with a comment below!