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Extrusion freeforming
We are using the building platform shown below to create ceramic or metal latticework for hard tissue scaffolds particularly for use in maxillofacial surgery where we work with surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. The same method is being used to makemicrowave metamaterials where we work with colleagues in the Department of Electronic Engineering at Queen Mary, University of London. The platform consists of a three-axis table (X and Y are linear motors) with two extrusion heads using micro-steppers. The extrudate is a ceramic paste. The image shows a hydroxyapatite/tricalcium phosphate lattice with three hierarchical levels of porosity. The larger pores provide pathways for vascularisation, the smaller cavities provide for cell development. Finally the sintering of the ceramic itself controls sub-micron porosity which influences dissolution rate. The overall shape is also computer controlled. This equipment is used to make microwave metamaterials with bandgap structures for antennae and for biomedical applications. Lattices with a central hole can also be assembled for example, to fill with a growth promoter and we are building concentric dies to produce duplex structures. The equipment can also be used to make miniature helices with a central hole and we have recently build devices suitable for high temperature microfluidic applications. Lattices based on spider web structures provide ‘combinatorial’ samples for testing the effect of pore sizes.
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