Hi Reddit, we are Hannah and Xiang from the Materials for Health Lab at the University of Bath.

I (Hannah) lead the lab in creating new materials for devices that can be used to detect diseases such as bacterial infections and making materials for smart wound dressings (so we can monitor how the wound is healing).

I (Xiang) am a postdoc in the lab and with iCAST (the Innovation Centre for Sustainable Technologies), I use electrospinning to make new materials. Electrospinning is a technique where we apply a very high voltage across a small needle full of polymer, which makes lots of nanofibers, (very, very tiny fibres).

So, why do we need these new materials? While there are lots of devices and materials that have transformed healthcare, we need to ensure these are made using sustainable processes and sources so we can provide accessible healthcare to everyone. For example, by printing microneedle devices using lab-bench 3D printers, we can, in principle, make them anywhere for everyone.

We’d love to answer any questions on how we do this, specifically using microneedles, 3D printing, electrospinning, and how these can support a sustainable healthcare system. Please Ask Me Anything!

We’ll be online to answer questions on Friday 13 October from 2.30 - 3.30pm BST.

Proof: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniofbath/53265092843/in/dateposted/

Comments: 30 • Responses: 5  • Date: 

jetherit12 karma

What determines if something is “medical grade” and what kind of processes are needed to determine a 3D printer can consistently achieve it?

HannahLeese10 karma

Thank you for the question, there are many factors that determines whether devices/equipment meet medical grade, including material type, regulatory approval (e.g. FDA/EMA) - following ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards for medical diagnostics, biocompatibility, sterilisation practices etc. For the 3D printer, there are several aspects that would need to be put in place, for example aside from ensuring reproducibility of spec in each print, we are also currently developing ways to track defects in printing for 'quality assurance'.

Ilikewaterandjuice8 karma

Are there any implications for the tattoo industry with microneedles?

HannahLeese11 karma

Thanks for your question, there is active research in utilising microneedles in the tattoo industry, related to both medical and cosmetic tattooing. Microneedles have the potential to reduce pain and bleeding - depending on the microneedle size and shape and material they are made of.

Annual-Mud-9878 karma

Hi Hannah and Xiang. Wow! I didn't realise you could 3D print medical equipment. How expensive is to print medical equipment? Could it be something we do from our own homes one day?

HannahLeese4 karma

Hello :) thank you so much for your question, for the microneedle devices we currently print, they are made on a lab-bench 3D printer and cost <£1 to print. But at the moment they are not medical grade. The cost will also depend on the type of printer and the materials we use to print. But in the future we do see potential to be able to print medical devices tailored to patient needs, if not at home directly, possibly at pharmacies, community centres or hospitals.

CuriousRedPandaBear4 karma

How small are microneedles?

HannahLeese7 karma

Thank you :) the microneedles have a lot of variety, in shape, size and type, but generally they should be less than 1 mm in height, so not to interact with pain receptors beneath the skin, in general in our lab we make microneedles with heights between 500 micrometers to 1000 micrometres, with a tip between 20-50 micrometers. The shape also varies, but often they are cone and pyramid shapes, the microneedles can also be solid or hollow, and are often made of polymers or inert metals. In our lab we focus on polymer-based microneedles.

[deleted]1 karma


HannahLeese2 karma

Thank you :) Xiang and I are having a philosophical discussion from your question, we are discussing about discoveries and coincidences, when we come across unexpected results and we try to work out what is going on, and repeat what we have found :)