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DTU Health Tech researchers hack Xbox to create nano 3D printer

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Researchers from DTU Health Tech have repurposed an optical component from an Xbox gaming console to develop an affordable 3D printer that can print 3D objects with nano/microscale structures.
This legacy Xbox 360 3D printer approach can replace conventional expensive optics in research equipment to lower the threshold for more researchers to access micro/nanoscale 3D printing. The repurposed optical pick-up unit costs as little as 5 euros.

“With our 3D printer that can print micro and nanoscale 3D objects, we are able to go from tens of micrometers in printing resolution down to hundreds of nanometers without expensive specialized components. And we also end up with a simpler and more compact nanoscale 3D printer compared to other stereolithography systems,” said PhD Student Tien-Jen Chang.

Xbox 360 3D printer The nano 3D printer uses a form of stereolithography and the researchers behind these results see various applications for the technology in the health area. Associate Professor En Te Hwu explained: “We believe that this technology can impact different areas of health technology. The original goal for developing our own 3D printer was to be able to print cubic centimeter volume with micro/nanoscale resolution for our micro-container based drug delivery development. And we couldn’t find a 3D printer system on the market that could do this. So we had to make our own.”

In addition to printing microscale containers with a diameter of a human hair (100~300 micrometer) for more efficient oral drug delivery developments, this system can also be used to print painless microscale needles to be used on skin patches to speed up transdermal drug delivery developments. Another possibility is to use it for printing 3D structures for cell culture environment for more accurate ex-vivo drug testing studies. And a final example is to print biocompatible micro-devices with nanostructured surfaces that kill bacteria.

The researchers envisage a great potential for commercialization of the technology, and they will work towards establishing a spin-out company within the next few years based on this research.

“In the end, our goal is to help patients experience better diagnostics and treatment, for example through more accurate medical diagnostics, more efficient oral drugs, and better skin patches”, Associate Professor En Te Hwu concluded.

These results are described in detail in the new scientific paper in Communications Physics.

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