The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA has developed a prototype of its 3-D droplet dispenser to make implants that in the future will assume the function of damaged valves. In collaboration with four industrial partners and the Helmholtz-Institute for Biomedical Engineering of RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Fraunhofer researchers have developed an automated production facility that can make venous valve prostheses from polycarbonate-urethane (PCU) materials.
The centerpiece of the facility is a 3-D droplet dispensing tool that enables researchers to precisely apply a particular polymer onto freeform surfaces and, at the same time, combine various grades of polymer hardness. The scientists use PCU because it is particularly strong and flexible. The material reportedly is also easy to sew into surrounding tissue.
At the production facility, the researchers will soon be able to produce durable thin-walled implants such as heart valves and intervertebral disks.
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