The University of Minnesota is offering a glimpse into the future of wearable devices, as researchers at the university have achieved a first: using a low-cost 3D printer to print a cell on a real human hand. This exciting new study showed how a customized, low cost 3D printer can print electronics directly onto a human hand.
One of the key innovations from this s3D printer is that it can adjust to small movements from the human during the fabrication. Temporary markers are place on the skin and then the skin is scanned. Using these markers, the 3D printer can make real time adjustments to any movements during the process.
McAlpine explains “This printer can track the hand using the markers and adjust in real-time to the movements and contours of the hand, so printing of the electronics keeps its circuit shape.”
This can open a world of opportunities when it comes to printing electronics directly on humans. One possible opportunity is the ability to 3D print a mobile charger directly on your skin to charge your phone.
The researchers at the University of Minnesota created a low-cost 3D printer and used ink made from silver flakes that not only cure but also conduct at room temperature. To put it simply, they can be printed on a human directly and worn without burning the skin! They would also be simple to remove, as the wearer would just have to remove them or wash them off with water.
Not only can this 3D printing technology be used to print electronics directly on the skin, it can also be used to 3D print cells directly onto wounds. McAlpine and his team partnered with University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics doctor and medical school Dean Jakub Tolar, an expert on treating rare skin diseases. The team recently was able to successfully 3D print cells directly on the skin of a mouse! Think of the possibilities that could come out of this, could help with advanced treatments on patients with skin diseases or burns. They could directly print graphs for skin disorders.
This type of portable and wearable technology could be the “Swiss Army Knife” of the future, with the ability to 3D print anything they want all within a portable 3D printing tool. The research has been published in the journal Advanced Materials, and the paper is titled "3D Printed Functional and Biological Materials on Moving Freeform Surfaces."