BioFabrication Symposium attracts top minds
A collection of leading researchers, practitioners and business people have gathered at the University of Wollongong to discuss how functional materials are changing their industries.
Functional materials are revolutionary new materials that are able to perform a role such as in the human body where the material can ‘communicate’ with living cells and encourage growth.
The Processing and Fabrication symposium was aptly held in the AIIM Processing and Devices building, a facility purpose built to fabricate 3D parts and devices from these functional materials, including bionic devices such as conduits to assist in nerve repair.
One of Australia’s leading orthopaedic surgeons, Professor Peter Choong from St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, highlighted the need for continued developments in fabrication using functional materials if the true impact of current research into bionic devices and medical implants is to be realised. He explained that orthopaedic surgery could be revolutionised using these materials developed with nanotechnology.
“For medicine, nanotechnology provides a new paradigm for achieving cure of disease, repair after injury, regeneration of degenerate parts and re-engineering of partial or total organ loss,” Prof Choong said.
Researchers from UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute are currently collaborating with Prof Choong to develop an implant to facilitate bone and cartilage regeneration.
Chief Scientist at Cochlear, Prof. Jim Patrick, highlighted the fact that even for established bionic devices such as the bionic ear, there are significant improvements that could be made from advances in fabrication and manufacturing.
“Changes in processing and fabrication have allowed production volumes to increase from tens of units to tens of thousands of units per year,” said Prof. Patrick.
Co-founder of the venture capital company SciVentures Investments, Dr. Greg Smith, described a number of technology based start up companies wherein success or failure hinged on the ability to fabricate the devices involved in an economic and scientifically effective manner.
“A major cause for this frequent failure appears to be the lack of considerable prior experience in quality manufacturing,” said Dr. Smith.
The AIIM Processing and Devices facility houses start of the art 3D printing and rapid prototyping facilities as well as customisable fabrication tools developed by the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute over the past two years. Coupled with the scientific and engineering skills attracted from around the globe, the resources have allowed IPRI to produce the first organic conducting printed tracks that support nerve cell growth, and a number of other 3D scaffolds for tissue engineering.
The fabrication capabilities at AIIM P&D will be on show at AdFab2012: The Additive Fabrication Prototyping Conference & Workshop. Go to electromaterials.edu.au for more info.