The future of 3D printing on human skin

Machine Design, May 03, 2018

The ability to 3D print different materials has expanded in recent years. Before, 3D printing metals seemed like a ludicrous concept, and now it is one of the leading 3D printing-associated industries. Aviation leaders like Boeing are using 3D-printed metal fasteners in their airplanes to help reduce weight and part lead time. 3D printing as an engineering field continues to push boundaries; in fact, last month marked the first time someone was able to 3D print electronics directly on to human skin.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota used a customized 3D printer to print electronics directly onto a real hand. The research was published in the Advanced Materials academic journal in April.

Conventional 3D printing technologies typically rely on open‐loop, calibrate‐then‐print operation procedures. The new technique uses adaptive 3D printing, a closed‐loop method that combines real‐time feedback control and direct ink writing of functional materials onto moving freeform surfaces.

The hybrid fabrication procedure combines 3D printing of electrical connects with automatic pick‐and‐placing of surface‐mounted electronic components. Using this same approach, the team was also able to successfully print biological cell‐laden hydrogels cells on the skin wound of a mouse.