3D Printing to Prevent Spread of Infectious Diseases

September 28, 2016

    A quick diagnosis of infectious disease can be dynamic in limiting its spread and damage. We know that modern drugs can battleagainst many of these diseases but still in many developing countries the limitation is for proper equipments, lab and diagnosis facilities. Today 3D printing is playing a major role in changing the situation.


    A thesis project “Fabrication of Elastomer Microfluidic Devices using Additive Manufacturing Methods” by Chris Lim a student of University of California Irvine can provide a solution. Under the supervision of UCI Professor Marc Madou, Associate Professor Regina Ragan and Dr. Lawrence Kulinsky, Lim has examined two common 3D printing techniques as methods to fabricate microfluidic devices. Lim’s work overlooks cost reduction in sophisticated technology necessary to accurately identify diseases such as malaria.

    As per Lim, Elastomers offer an appealing prospect for investigation he explains “An octopus is able to deform itself and squeeze through a hole a tenth of its own cross sectional area, all while maintaining its ability to move rapidly in water” mimicking nature and using elastomer could enable a drug delivery capsule that, can precisely deliver a drug through selective opening and closing of a valve controlled by an dielectric actuator.
    With this guiding principle in mind Lim made use of TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) to build “Flexible microfluidic structures”. The writer worked with the Airwolf 3D and Flashforge Creator 3D printers to research the FDM aspect of his thesis and used the Formlab’s Form 1+ for SLA component of his thesis.


    Lim’s primary interest lies in the fabrication of a “disease-detecting immunisation platform” device that would be used to detect the presence of diseases such as malaria in the sample. His method creates, “a stand-alone platform that is intended to be used in developing countries without access to expensive automated workstations.” 3D printing techniques played very critical role for Lim and enabled him to perform a number of iterations of the device. In his work Lim discovered, “Circular structures were generally much more stable then non-circular ones.” One of the most important variable was to control the print speed also controlling the print speed was necessary to monitor and avoiding stretching and its consequences as the consequence of filament stretching is porosity.


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