CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVES OF THE CENTRE
Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D-printing, is an emerging and disruptive technology which has already shown successful implementation in the field of life sciences. However, there are many remaining challenges connected to for example the development of degradable implants, tissue printing, surface treatment before/after manufacturing, and development of equipment with better resolution.
Additive Manufacturing for the Life Sciences a newly funded VINNOVA (Sweden's Innovation Agency) Competence Centre that gathers more than 20 partners in academia, industry and the public sector to support competence and research development in the filed of life sciences. The centre is funded by academia, industry and VINNOVA in equal parts, with a total budget of approx. 100 MSEK and will run for 5 years in a first instance, between 2020-2025, and engage experts within academia, industry and public sectors with a passion for 3D-printing.
The main goal of the Centre is to support a fast national advancement in the field of Additive Manufacturing for the Life Sciences by creating synergies between academia, industry and healthcare. The Centre focuses on conducting multidisciplinary, cooperative research and innovation by bringing together academic researchers and industrial experts from the life- and materials sciences, biomedical engineering and additive manufacturing. We furthermore strive to directly involve clinicians in the projects, as end users as well as active researchers, and we engage relevant and leading partners working in the field of 3D-printing technologies and related applications. The created synergies constitute the basis for building strong and successful long-term collaborations. The conceptional structure of the Centre is described in the diagram below.
The Vision to become a global player in the education, research and development of additively manufactured materials and components for life science applications, and thereby provide patients with an enhanced quality of life.
The Mission of AM4Life is to develop, provide and support a future supply of competence, technology and spin-offs in additive manufacturing for the life sciences.
The following research fields are covered by the centre:
Work Package 1: Development of equipment and processes
We see a need for further development of printing equipment and printing processes. e.g., the available equipment cannot print biocompatible composites with sufficiently high (sub-µm) resolution. Furthermore, there is a need for incorporating electronic functionality, contrast agents etc into the printed parts, to achieve smart materials and implants. This is a theme of interest to many stakeholders, as fundamental knowledge and processes relevant to several other themes will be developed.
Work Package 2: Additive manufacturing of materials for bioprocessing
AM shows great potential for bioprocess applications but there are also challenges before it can be applied in certain applications and products. These challenges can be related to cost, materials, surfaces or even regulatory requirements and will be worked on in this work package.
Work Package 3: Additive manufacturing of materials for implants
Additive Manufacturing has enabled patient-specific implants to be produced in an affordable way. However, most implants are still non-degradable. One of the main aims of this theme is to develop 3D-printed materials that can degrade in the body while being replaced by the patient’s own tissue, thereby eliminating the need for a second surgery if the implant needs to be removed, and reducing the risk for infection, since bacteria can adhere to and grow on implants also long after the surgery. With the increasing bacterial resistance worldwide, this has become a pressing matter. With the use of AM one can also develop materials with completely new microstructures, and hence other material properties. This can be particularly useful for degradable materials, to tailor degradation rate, ion release and mechanical properties.
Work Package 4: Bioprinting
3D bioprinting combines biomaterials and cells to create tissue-like constructs for an array of research applications, and this technology will in the future also be used to create tissues for transplantation. We use 3D bioprinting to create tissue-like model systems for drug screening and evaluation of new materials that can be used to create implants.
Work Package 5: Printing for medication
The use of printed tablets would free-up hospital personal and improve drug safety and could allow patients to be treated at home since they can receive high quality formulations to bring home. In this WP we focus on developing printable oral dosage forms and we do this in close collaboration with our industrial and academic partners.
Work Package 6 & 7: Implementation - organizational and business aspects and Implementation in Clinics
This work package conducts research on developing AM solutions, and their integration into society (business models and implementation), research on multisectoral partnerships (eg. partnerships for health), identify a concept of value in the AM innovation ecosystem (eg., value creation), provide tailored support for Competence Centre partners with implementation in healthcare. We see a large potential in combining the research performed in Industrial Technology, with the resources within the local innovation system (UU Innovation, UIC etc). We also see a need for better pre-operative models, produced by AM in collaboration with the clinics.