Stents are used in surgery to treat narrow or weak arteries near the heart that are in danger of clogging or collapsing. However, these stents can be difficult to manage, as they are highly dependent on the physician performing the surgery. If the physician guesses to large, or too small for the stent size, then the operation could fail. Obviously, this method of guessing the size of the stent is not ideal. Researchers at Northwestern State University may have developed an alternate method of creating and using stents via 3D printing.
These 3D printed stents were developed by engineers Guillermo Ameer and Cheng Sun. (Pictured above.) They used a citrus-based polymer that is bio degradable to create the parts. They are created using stero-lithogrpahy printing at a micro level, a process termed micro continuous liquid interface production. This technique allows an accuracy that usually relies solely upon a surgeon’s experience to be effective, as Ameer explained in a press release: “Right now, the vast majority of stents are made from a metal and have off-the-shelf availability in various size. The physician has to guess which stent size is a good fit to keep the blood vessel open. But we’re all different and results are highly dependent on physician experience, so that’s not an optimal solution”
A complete paper on Ameer and Sun’s research is available through Advanced Materials Technologies. Seen below is a microscopic-level photograph comparison of a stent using the conventional method of fabrication to the one made using microCLIP.
The team from Northwestern have also produced a video of the microCLIP, the process takes less than four minutes to fabricate up to 100 components at time – a fraction of the time taken by traditional manufacturing methods. To learn more watch the below: