Public Health

23.01.20

University of Sheffield scientists develop 3D parts that can fight bacteria

Manufactured 3D printed parts that show resistance to common bacteria have been manufactured by researchers from the University of Sheffield. This new discovery could stop the spread of contagions such as MRSA in hospitals and care homes, saving the lives of susceptible patients.

The study was published on Tuesday (Jan 21) in Scientific Reports by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Clinical Dentistry. The study combined 3D printing with a silver-based antibacterial compound in order to create the parts.

The results from the research have displayed that the anti-bacterial compound can be positively combined into existing 3D materials without any adverse effect on processability or part strength, and that under the right conditions, the subsequent parts demonstrate anti-bacterial properties without being toxic to human cells. Work has continued to look into the full extent of this capability.

The findings offer the possibility for applications in a wide range of areas, such as medical devices, parts in hospitals that have high levels of human contact, children’s toys and door handles, oral health products and consumer products, such as mobile phone cases.

Further projects are in the pipeline for each of these areas, with an intention to work with leaders in industry and the potential to bring some of these products to market.

Dr Candice Majewski, the lead academic on the project and also works in the Centre for Advanced Additive Manufacturing in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield said: “Managing the spread of harmful bacteria, infection and the increasing resistance to antibiotics is a global concern. Introducing antibacterial protection to products and devices at the point of manufacture could be an essential tool in this fight.

“Most current 3D printed products don’t have additional functionality. Adding antibacterial properties at the manufacturing stage will provide a step-change in our utilisation of the processes’ capabilities.”

Dr Bob Turner from the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: “Our interactions with microbes are complex and contradictory – they’re essential to our survival and they can knock us dead. Technology like this will be key to informed and sustainable management of this crucial relationship with nature.”

Image Credit: The University of Sheffield 

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