The ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological and functional materials could enable the creation of bionic devices possessing unique and compelling geometries, properties, and functionalities. Indeed, interfacing high performance active devices with biology could impact a variety of fields, including regenerative bioelectronic medicines, smart prosthetics, medical robotics, and human–machine interfaces. Biology, from the molecular scale of DNA and proteins, to the macroscopic scale of tissues and organs, is three-dimensional, often soft and stretchable, and temperature sensitive. This renders most biological platforms incompatible with the fabrication and materials processing methods that have been developed and optimized for functional electronics, which are typically planar, rigid and brittle. A number of strategies have been developed to overcome these dichotomies. One particularly novel approach is the use of extrusion- based multi-material 3D printing, which is an additive manufacturing technology that offers a freeform fabrication strategy. This approach addresses the dichotomies presented above by (1) using 3D printing and imaging for customized, hierarchical, and interwoven device architectures; (2) employing nanotechnology as an enabling route for introducing high performance materials, with the potential for exhibiting properties not found in the bulk; and (3) 3D printing a range of soft and nanoscale materials to enable the integration of a diverse palette of high quality functional nanomaterials with biology. Further, 3D printing is a multi-scale platform, allowing for the incorporation of functional nanoscale inks, the printing of microscale features, and ultimately the creation of macroscale devices. This blending of 3D printing, novel nanomaterial properties, and ‘living’ platforms may enable next-generation bionic systems. In this review, we highlight this synergistic integration of the unique properties of nanomaterials with the versatility of extrusion-based 3D printing technologies to interweave nanomaterials and fabricate novel bionic devices.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
M.C.M. thanks the following agencies for their generous support of the studies from the authors’ laboratory that contributed to this review: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (No. D12AP00245 ), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (No. FA9550-12-1-0368 ), the Intelligence Community (Award No. 2013-13070300004), and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (Award No. 1DP2EB020537). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Yong Lin Kong is a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received a B.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering with First Class Honors from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2010), a M.A. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University (2012) and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Princeton University (2016). His current research is focused on the fabrication of biomedical devices and the printing of nanomaterial-based functional devices. He is a recipient of the Materials Research Society Graduate Student Award, Guggenheim Second Year Fellowship, Sayre Award for Academic Excellence, and the HKUST Academic Achievement Medal.
- 3D printing
- Bio-nano hybrids
- Bionic devices