Liquid Metal Could Be Big Leap Forward for 3-D Printing

August 12, 2013 – 8:42 am

As reported in the technology blog of the New York Times Bits, scientists at North Carolina State University have engineered an alloy that remains in a liquid state in ambient temperatures. Consisting of gallium and indium, the alloy can be used in a 3-D printer. “It’s difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a skin that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work in a press release. This effect makes it possible to extrude droplets of the material and create three-dimensional structures. The droplets adhere to one another, but retain their shape.

The alloy is conductive and therefore suitable for wires and electric components. The scientists describe their findings in the journal Advanced Materials. In their paper, “3-D Printing of Free Standing Liquid Metal Microstructures,” they describe the self-healing properties of the material. “These stretchable wires can be completely severed with scissors and [they] rapidly self-heal both mechanically and electrically,” the authors told Bits.

According to the press release, the research team is “currently exploring how to further develop these techniques, as well as how to use them in various electronics applications and in conjunction with established 3-D printing technologies.”

Video of the extrusion process:

— Thomas Klein

Related content:

3-D Bioprinting with Autologous Cells Could Prevent Organ Transplant Rejections, Says Organovo Exec. VP

German Researchers Develop 3-D Printing Method for Nanoscale Applications


Where in the World Are Companies Investing in Academic Research? Asia/Pacific, of Course

August 12, 2013 – 8:23 am

A scorecard published today by Times Higher Education ranks countries based on the amount of research money that universities attract from the business world. The Republic of Korea tops the list, with global companies investing the equivalent of almost US$100,000 in each Korean scholar conducting research on their behalf, according to the World Academic Summit Innovation Index. Its neighbours in the Asia/Pacific region also are well positioned in the index, with Singapore coming in second and Taiwan and China taking the sixth and seventh slots, respectively.

The Netherlands, at number three, is the highest ranking European country: universities there bring in US$72,800 per researcher. Belgium (5), Sweden (8) and Denmark (9) round out the European contingent in the top 10. The United States, perhaps surprisingly, sits in the middle of the rankings at number 14; the United Kingdom, despite its storied academic heritage, is fourth from the bottom. Read more…

First Robot Approved as Medical Device to Start Clinical Trials in Germany

August 9, 2013 – 8:17 am

A wearable robot developed by Tokyo-based Cyberdyne Inc. has been approved by certification body TUV Rhineland as a medical device, clearing the way for clinical trials to begin in Europe. The medical device—yes, we can call it that now—can help people with leg impairments to get up and walk. Cyberdyne will export approximately 12 HAL robots to German hospital group Bergmannsheil for a clinical trial that will involve some 100 patients.

HAL, which is an acronym for hybrid assistive limb, detects biosignals emitted from the brain to a muscle when a person tries to move. The exoskeleton, fitted with an array of sensors and power units, converts these biosignals into assisted movement.

Read more…

Experiment Shows Pupil Dilation Can Allow Locked-in Patients to Communicate

August 8, 2013 – 11:15 am

Although often fully conscious, patients suffering from locked-in syndrome (LIS) are unable to communicate with their surrounding world. Because of their paralysed state, they are literally locked into their own bodies. Researchers at the University of Marburg (Germany) have developed a method that allows LIS patients to answer simple yes or no questions by watching their eyes. As described in the latest issue of Current Biology, the approach is based on the fact that intellectual effort causes human pupils to widen. Read more…

UK NHS Announces Procurement Development Programme to Cut Costs

August 7, 2013 – 1:53 pm

The UK NHS has published a new procurement development programme aimed to cut wasteful spending. The three-year strategy could reduce revenue for some of NHS’ suppliers. Orthopaedic suppliers especially are targeted in the programme due to the high “cost to serve” (the consignment stock, instrumentation and sales support staff), according to the report. Read more…

Medical Packaging Supplier Emerges from 2012 Earthquakes with Emboldened Vision

August 5, 2013 – 8:43 am

Northern Italy’s 2012 earthquakes destroyed the headquarters of medical packaging supplier Encaplast in Mirandola.

The two earthquakes and multiple aftershocks that struck Italy’s Emilia Romagna region in May 2012 caused massive destruction and loss of life. They also dealt a crushing blow to the country’s medtech industry and associated supply base clustered in the area between Modena and Mirandola, known as Biomedical Valley. Just recently, Sorin Group made headlines when it announced that Q2 2013 profits surged more than 90%. Its plant in Mirandola, one of two facilities it operates in Italy, suffered extensive damage from the 6.1- and 5.8-magnitude temblors that shook the region. Also on the rebound is nearby medical packaging supplier Encaplast, headquartered in Mirandola. In fact, its future has never looked brighter, says CEO Mario Neri.

“We had 7000 square metres over three sites before the earthquakes,” says Neri. “Afterwards, our head office was completely destroyed, and about half of our facilities had collapsed.” A little more than one year later, the company is rebuilding, determined to come out of the experience “stronger in many ways.” Notably, Encaplast has instituted a professional improvement initiative and reinforced its commitment to exporting to the European market. Read more…

Smart Contact Lenses Could Go beyond Google Glass’ Augmented Reality

August 2, 2013 – 3:44 pm

Wearable technologies may eventually take a giant leap forward with smart contact lenses that enable augmented reality. An article on Technology Review outlines several projects that are focusing on developing such alternatives to Google Glass (and competitors such as the Frauhofer data glasses). Read more…

Proposed Amendments to Medical Device Regulations Stress Balancing Patient Safety with Innovation

August 2, 2013 – 6:22 am

Following the decision in early July by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to delay its vote on the medical device regulations, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection published an opinion report making amendment suggestions. Read more…

Russian Government May Exclude Foreign Manufacturers from Certain Medical Device Tenders

August 1, 2013 – 3:17 pm

Medical device companies may find it more difficult to export products to Russia in the near future, according to the German foreign trade agency Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI). The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade reportedly is preparing a law that would prohibit foreign companies from participating in government calls for tenders if at least two Russian manufacturers are able to offer comparable products. Read more…

CSA, BSI Form Alliance to Streamline Global Market Access for Electromedical Systems

July 31, 2013 – 4:14 pm

Global testing and certification company CSA Group (Frankfurt, Germany) has formed a strategic alliance with BSI (London), the business standards company, to provide global market access services to clients in the electronic medical device sector. Through the alliance, CSA Group will certify and test electro-medical products to applicable electrical standards for safety and performance and BSI will provide conformity assessments to regional regulatory requirements and certification to ISO 13485.

Electromedical products include patient monitoring equipment, anaesthetic and respiratory equipment, and equipment used in surgical interventions as well as large-scale devices for medical imaging.

The German market alone for electromedical products totaled €1.15 billion in 2010 according to German trade association ZVEI.

Creganna-Tactx Medical Appoints Former Abbott Executive as CEO

July 31, 2013 – 12:15 pm

Creganna-Tactx Medical (Galway, Ireland) has announced that Robert B. “Chip” Hance will join the company as Chief Executive Officer in September 2013. Hance has many years of experience in the medical device industry, most recently as President of Abbott Vascular. He has over 23 years of experience at Abbott Laboratories. During Hance’s leadership at Abbott Vascular, sales grew from US$1.7 billion in 2007 to US$3.3 billion in 2011, according to a press release from Creganna-Tactx Medical. Hance also has experience as an Entrepreneur in Residence at US FDA. Before joining Abbott, Hance was an associate fellow at Harvard Business School and a product development engineer at Procter & Gamble. Read more…

Irradiation Processing Experts to Meet in Shanghai

July 29, 2013 – 3:18 pm

After Montreal, London, Avignon and many points in between, the globe-trotting International Meeting on Irradiation Processing (IMRP) lands in Shanghai in November for its 17th annual meeting.

The scientific conclave explores advances in sterilisation technologies related to healthcare products, polymer modification and food safety. More than 500 industry leaders and scientific experts from around the world are expected to attend the event, which is organised under the theme, Irradiation for Life: Safe, Green and Growing.

The conference, which will be held from 4 to 6 November 2013, will address numerous healthcare-related applications, notably sterility assurance levels (SAL) and current challenges involving 10-6 as the required SAL for medical devices.

Go to the IMRP website for more information and to register.

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