Now MIT engineers have designed pliable, 3-D-printed mesh materials whose flexibility and toughness they can tune to emulate and support softer tissues such as muscles and tendons.
They can tailor the intricate structures in each mesh, and they envision the tough yet stretchy fabric-like material being used as personalized, wearable supports, including ankle or knee braces, and even implantable devices, such as hernia meshes, that better match to a person's body.
The researchers also fabricated a knee brace design that could conform to the knee even as it bends.
And, they produced a glove with a 3-D-printed mesh sewn into its top surface, which conforms to a wearer's knuckles, providing resistance against involuntary clenching that can occur following a stroke.
His MIT co-authors include Meghan Huber, Sanha Kim, Jongwoo Lee, Sarah Grunsfeld, Ricardo Roberts, Gregory Dreifus, Christoph Meier, and Lei Liu, as well as Sun Jae Professor in Mechanical Engineering Neville Hogan and associate professor of mechanical engineering A. John Hart.
Inspired by collagen's molecular structure, Pattinson designed wavy patterns, which he 3-D-printed using thermoplastic polyurethane as the printing material.