Antibacterial materials and filaments for 3D printing, something that many consider being a key development for biomedical 3D printing applications – are now widely available through a series of new materials introduced by Santhiago, Chile-based startup Copper3D.
More than 40% of amputees suffer some type of skin complication due to the use of their prostheses. This phenomenon is also observed in non-amputee patients who use some type of orthopedic material. Dermic complications in this type of patients are produced by two main causes: the porous nature of the polymers used in the manufacture of prostheses and the complex geometry that many of these products present, especially those printed in 3D. These conditions can make these supports very difficult to clean properly.
This situation leads to an even greater problem: the high bacterial burden present in all medical devices manufactured in conventional plastics or using 3D printing filament, which in contact with the skin can cause dermatitis, folliculitis, fungal or bacterial infections. In addition, the World Health Organization indicates that in the US 100,000 people die due to serious intra-hospital infections.
After an intense process of research, development and innovation, three partners found a solution to the problem described and launched a new startup under the name of Copper3D.
“We started prototyping a new polymer for 3D printing with an internationally patented additive containing copper nanoparticles among other elements, extremely effective in eliminating fungi, viruses and bacteria, but harmless to humans at the right concentrations”, explains the physical therapist and director of Innovation, Daniel Martínez. Martínez is one of the three Co-founders, together with civil engineer Andrés Acuña and Claudio Soto, MD.
After successful preliminary trials in Chile, the partners decide to start with the industrial manufacture of the material in the Netherlands for its subsequent commercialization. The team already has its first product available: A high-quality PLA polymer with additive concentrations of 1, 2 and 3%. It goes under the name of PLACTIVE, a PLA material “active” in the elimination of microorganisms.
“We already have developed a medical grade material called NANOCLEAN, which is made with a high-quality PETG polymer with additive concentrations of 2 and 3% and aimed at more specific purposes in the world of medical devices,” says Daniel Martinez.
The entrepreneurs point out that both the 3D printing materials and the objects printed with this new kind of polymers have been studied and validated as antibacterial by the Microbiology Laboratory of the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. In the United States, PLACTIVE is currently been used by a team led by Jorge M. Zuniga Ph.D., and world expert in 3D printing and researcher at the Department of Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA, where a clinical study is being conducted on partial finger prostheses for war veterans. Furthermore, microbiological tests our currently been performed with an independent laboratory in the United States to confirm the antibacterial properties of PLACTIVE.
“I believe that this new technology represents a before and after in the 3D printing industry for biomedical purposes. PLACTIVE solves one of the major problems of the 3D printing industry, the bacterial burden housed in these materials and devices. This new 3D printing filament could be the beginning of a whole new family of customized items with antibacterial properties, a huge breakthrough for developers, manufacturers, physicians and patients”, commented Dr. Jorge Zuniga.