What's the Latest Development?

Researchers at MIT used bones as their inspiration for creating a synthetic material that can be printed with a 3D printer and is highly resistant to fractures. They did this by modeling a bone on a computer, then used software to convert the model into a schematic that could be read by the printer. The resulting mix of hard and soft polymer "was as tough as bone and more than 20 times stronger than printed polymers that resembled just collagen or mineral." More details can be found in a paper published this week in Advanced Functional Materials.

What's the Big Idea?

Bones are comprised of brittle minerals, which provide structure, and collagen, which distributes energy over a large area; together they create a fairly strong material. The lightweight, inexpensive, and scalable synthetic composite could be used in certain engineering and medical applications, and could someday be incorporated into buildings. To that end, paper co-author and MIT associate professor Markus Buehler hopes that the study and others like it will inspire more scalability in 3D printing.

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