Scientists have developed a 3D-printed a soft, artificial heart made of silicone that beats almost like a human heart.
ETH doctoral student Kai von Petersdorff-Campen has developed a method to create products containing magnets using 3D printing.
Using this artificial heart, damaged human hearts can be replaced without the need for a transplant.
The silicone heart features left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an additional chamber that acts as the heart's engine by driving the external pump.
The piece of plastic that the scientist used was of very low quality, but as the ensuing test showed, it worked.
This artificial heart is an example application of the 3D printing method. Artificial heart pumps are not only geometrically complex products, but, they contain magnets.
The silicone heart weights 390 grams (13.8 ounces) having a volume of 679 cubic centimeters (41 cubic inches), it is slightly heavier but the same size as a normal human heart.
This artificial version can eventually replace mechanical pumps, which are always at risk of failure or causing complications in the body.
Petersdorff-Campen's heart pump is one of the first prototypes with magnetic components manufactured using 3D printing.
Petersdorff-Campen calls his newly developed method 'embedded magnet printing'. The major purpose is to ensure that the magnets are printed directly in the plastic.
Magnetic powder and plastic are mixed before printing and processed into strands known as filaments.
These then go through the 3D printer, where they are processed in a similar way to conventional 3D printing. Petersdorff-Campen has chosen the FDM method.
A nozzle automatically outputs the computer-generated form, with its various components. Finally, the printed piece is magetised in an external field.
The heart pump has been tested with various plastics and mixes, until the filaments were flexible enough for printing but still had enough magnetic force.