Hard objects are created on 3-D printers by placing using thin layers of plastic or metal, slowly constructing the object.
However, soft tissues such as organs are more difficult because the materials used for them can’t support their own weight.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have devising a method of 3-D printing soft objects by layering the materials they’re made with inside of another specially designed type of gel.
Lead Author of the Study, Adam Feinberg, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon, said The challenge with soft materials — think about something like Jello that we eat — is that they collapse under their own weight when 3-D printed in air.
“So we developed a method of printing these soft materials inside a support bath material. Essentially, we print one gel inside of another gel, which allows us to accurately position the soft material as it’s being printed, layer-by-layer.
“Not only is the cost low, but by using open-source software, we have access to fine-tune the print parameters, optimize what we’re doing and maximize the quality of what we’re printing.
“It has really enabled us to accelerate development of new materials and innovate in this space. And we are also contributing back by releasing our 3-D printer designs under an open-source license.”