3D Printing is an emerging technology that has rapidly developed in the manufacturing industry in this century. It is called "manufacturing technology with industrial revolution significance." However, the 3D printing technology also has its own shortcomings: First of all, products made from 3D printing materials are monolithic and unique, and cannot be repaired by component replacement when damaged and therefore they have be abandoned. This will increase the maintenance cost of the product and cause great waste; Secondly, the size of the 3D printing product is limited by the size of the printer, and a typical 3D printer cannot print any objects larger than itself; in addition, 3D printing with layer-by-layer additive manufacturing process results in anisotropy of the mechanical properties of the resulting object, and leads to cracks as well as deformations during use. We introduce self-healing technology into 3D printing, which can effectively solve these problems. The products printed from self-healing materials can be quickly repaired after being damaged. Small objects can be assembled into integrated large objects by printing small objects and then using self-healing technology, and the printed products have isotropic mechanical properties (Figure 1a). We have applied Chinese invention patents and PCT patents for the related materials and technologies (patent application numbers: 201610504231.5, PCT/CN2016/087670).
External fixation materials are commonly used as consumable medical and health materials for clinical orthopedics and orthopedic surgery.The gypsum bandage with a history of over 100 years is one of the most commonly used external fixation materials in clinical practice. Its main advantages are non-toxic, high strength, and low water temperature during operation. However, there are many defects in plaster bandages, such as: poor X-ray transmission, poor air permeability, heavy weight, etc. In addition, the operation for plaster casting is complicated, which brings many inconveniences to the medical staff. Our self-healing materials, while being able to repair cracks upon heating, also have excellent temperature-sensitive properties: it is very high strength at room temperature (similar to thermosetting materials), and can be repeatedly processed upon gentle heating (like thermoplastic materials). It can be used as an external fixation material in clinical orthopedics and orthopedics (Figure 1b). Compared with other materials, our materials have many advantages, such as low operation temperature, easy production and use, can adapt to any part of the human body, high hardness and no deformation after hardening, non-toxic to skin, light weight, water insensitive, X-ray permeable, green and environmental friendly.
Figure 1. Self-healing polymer for 3D printing and orthopedic immobilization.
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