Synthetic bones printed in the lab

MiIT researchers have developed a way of printing synthetic bones using a 3D printer in combination with two synthetic polymers that combine to give the same fracture behavior as bones.

Markus Buehler, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engneering and co-author of the paper published online in Advanced Funcational Materials, said, “The geometric patterns we used in the synthetic materials are based on those seen in natural materials like bone or nacre, but also include new designs that do not exist in nature.” 

Buehler’s co-authors are graduate students Leon Dimas and Graham Bratzel, and Ido Eylon of the 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys. “As engineers we are no longer limited to the natural patterns. We can design our own, which may perform even better than the ones that already exist.”

The researchers created three synthetic compound materials. One sample simulates the mechanical properties of bone and nacre, also known as mother of pearl. The second simulates mineral calcite and a third has a diamond snakeskin pattern, designed to improve on real bone’s ability to shift and spread damage.