Professor Marc Clement, chairman of Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science in Wales, has given insight into how 3D printing, nanotechnology, and biochemistry will be combined in a project to make smart bandages in the UK.

Made of a fabric laced with minute particles of electro-conductive ink, the bandages feedback real-time reports of how an open wound, from injuries such as burns, are healing. Using this data it can be determined whether the wound needs extra care.

The Internet Coast

The project is a small part of a £1.3 billion fund from private and public sectors in the UK. Announced in March 2017, this money is to be provided to the Swansea Bay City Region for creating what is dubbed “The Internet Coast – the world’s first integrated test-bed for smart systems and technologies.”

According to Professor Clement clinical trials of the bandages are expected to start within the next 12 months. These trials will run through a specialized life science research campus due to be installed next to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital for patients most in need.

Digital representation of the proposed "Life Science and Well-being Village" in Swansea. Image via External Funding Team on YouTube

Digital representation of the proposed “Life Science and Well-being Village” in Swansea. Image via External Funding Team on YouTube

The Welsh Wound Innovation Center, a £2 million facility supporting businesses worldwide, will also be consulted on the project.

3D printing the “most effective way”

Speaking to BBC News South West Wales on producing cost-effective smart bandages, Professor Clement says,

Clearly the most effective way of doing that is through a printing technique […] we live in a world of intelligent 3D printers, of smart printing technology, so this is a multi-technology approach.

In applying electronic functionality to a strip of fabric, 3D printed electronics will be explored in the project. One of the leaders in this particular area of technology is Nano Dimension Inc., the manufacturers of the DragonFly 2020 PCB 3D printer.

As part of our Future of 3D Printing article series, we heard from Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Nano Dimension Simon Fried, who shared more of his vision for the next five years of the technology.

Nano Dimension 3D printed electronics. Photo by Michael Petch

Nano Dimension 3D printed electronics. Photo by Michael Petch

3D printing will also help to engineer the structure of bandages on a nano-scale, as in research from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the 3D printed castle on the tip of pencil from TU Wien.

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Featured image shows researchers at the Welsh Wound Innovation Center testing wound dressings, via: wwic.wales

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