Next Generation Manufacturing of 3D Active Surface Coatings

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Inst for Science and Tech in Medicine

Abstract

We live in an exciting point in history where technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate, with precision manufacture playing a major part in modern day products. Additive manufacturing, making use of 3D printers, has been exploited over the past decade to a point where such instrumentation is considered to be at a peak in its technology life cycle. Reaching their maximum potential, 3D printers enable high resolution structures to be produced, although suffer from the limitation that the entire structure is defined by the material components, albeit that the most advanced manufacturing devices can support many materials simultaneously. The surface properties of any material are of key importance to the performance of the overall object - a simple example being that a waterproofing surface agent adds massive performance-related value to devices intended for use in the open elements.

Advanced medical devices are now being fabricated using additive manufacturing techniques, with defined pores supporting tissue in-growth, and surface roughness being fabricated to enhance integration of implantable devices into bone. The most recent examples include manufacture of a jaw prosthesis, designer skull and facial plates. At a time when we are beginning to understand how to use surface properties to unlock the potential of stem cells for regenerative therapies, each of these example devices lacks the specific surface chemical patterns that could promote desired cellular responses during implantation. Thus, we are looking for novel manufacturing methods to pull research findings from the laboratory into usable devices.

In the last decade, researchers, including ourselves, have understood that the biological niche is highly complex, with many proteinatious species harmoniously controlling the way cells adhere to materials, and how the (bio)materials interface dictates the progression of cellular response. We have extended our current ability to surface coat with simple chemicals, developing a tool for the patterning of (bio)chemicals onto surfaces. Here we will further develop this technology to allow modification of surfaces in both 2D and 3D, advancing the instrumentation to a point where it can be combined with the benefits of current 3D printers. We propose the next generation of 3D printers to include the ability to chemically pattern during production, allowing defined surface characteristics on and within a 3D structure. This technology will pave the way for translation of surface science into 3-dimensions, driving the development of enhanced devices.

We give the example of impact through medical device manufacture, with other sectors also directly benefiting from the extended manufacturing capabilities of the developed instrumentation. These will include precision manufacture within electronics, energy harvest and energy storage devices, where direct-writing of thin film chemical (and electrically conductive) materials will enable miniaturization and enhanced performance. Throughout the project we will engage with multidisciplinary communities to promote the technology, and where possible allow other to use the equipment to manufacture products related to their own field.

Planned Impact

This project aims to deliver a novel instrumentation permitting a step-change in manufacturing capabilities of precision and personalised products. The huge impact of 3D printing is evident across a wide range of sectors, now being common-place in research and industrial product manufacture. The development of a next generation 3D chemical printing will link into this expanding market having high commercial impact of considerable economic and social value. Examples of such products will initially focus on the biomedical devices sector, e.g. personalised advanced implantable scaffolds for cell therapies and regenerative medicine. Through strategic assessment of this novel instrumentation, we will identify and engage with commercial partners, such that the later stages of the instrumentation development/optimisation can be tailored to specific user-led needs. This will ensure maximal interest from industrial partners and therefore deliver a state-of-the-art manufacturing instrument of direct impact to that user group.

The proposed project will build progressively on current prototypes allowing adaptive capability from 2D-3D patterning, each stage having a commercially viable route to systems IP. There are several stages of development which can be used to maximise impact:
1) AP plasma deposition instrumentation, without automation will be developed to allow biological coatings to be fabricated.
The development of instrumentation for biological coating fabrication will be published in peer-reviewed publication. This is an extension of the current limitations of plasma polymerisation with IP likely difficult to obtain due to progression from other works using organic/inorganic small molecules. Impact of this stage will be focused to an academic audience, although the ability to form biological coatings will be of widespread interest amongst the (bio)medical community.
2) Standalone direct-write plasma instrumentation, controlled via a software interface will allow 2D and 3D patterning of coatings.
The standalone system is an emergent technology and will be of widespread interest to many industrial sectors focussing on various surface coatings. Much of what is currently within literature is within the electronics industry, although clearly the ability to direct-write a chemical pattern has impact within biomedical, and more broader materials communities/industries. IP management will allow impact through industrial links. Fuji Film, Hewlett Packard and Cannon are examples of global entities having a research focus on novel lithographic technologies - future partnerships with these, as well as those already established in the biomedical sector (e.g., Smith and Nephew) be sought through the project stages.
3) Combination of 3D extrusion printing and in situ plasma modification will permit fabrication of constructs having defined chemical coatings within a 3D printed structure.

It is noteworthy that the applicants have a track history of managing IP and publishing in high impact journals. Research within the Roach group towards understanding of the biological-materials interface has led to several high impact factor articles, being well received by an interdisciplinary community, as evidenced by the high number of citations to-date (ISI WOS Index, over 1000). Dissemination at this level is expected to continue, ensuring a positive and influential impact on a broad range of subject areas.

Publications

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EP/M020738/1 01/09/2015 17/10/2016 £205,572
EP/M020738/2 Transfer EP/M020738/1 17/01/2017 31/07/2018 £111,045
 
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Primary Audience Postgraduate students
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Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
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Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
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