Toledo, Ohio — A filament for 3D printing made of nylon, polyolefin and cellulose is part of an Ohio project to create medical devices such as wearable sensors.
FibreTuff Medical Biopolymers LLC, a company started by Toledo biomaterials developer Robert Joyce, developed the PAPC filament. That stands for polyamide, polyolefin and cellulose. The polyolefin material can be either polyethylene or polypropylene, depending on the application.
FibreTuff is playing a key role in a project coordinated by CIFT, the Toledo-based Center for Innovative Food Technologies that is the northwestern Ohio affiliate of the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership. In phase one of the project, FibreTuff has developed three types of the PAPC filaments.
Keene Village Plastics Co. in Barberton, Ohio, began extruding the PAPC filament for 3D printing in mid-November, said Thomas Hughes, FibreTuff's CEO.
"The medical-grade cellulose is the same grade of cellulose that is used for gauze bandages," he said.
The second phase will be the design and 3D printing of medical devices using the biomaterials; the third phase is developing prototypes for the "smart" devices.
These could be wearable sensors that measure temperature, pressure, motion and other factors that would send the information to a doctor, Joyce said. A sensor could measure balance and equilibrium on a person that has orthopedic surgery or monitor a wound for infection by measuring temperature changes.
"You could actually understand how things are healing up," said Joyce, the president of FibreTuff Medical Biopolymers.
Hughes said the device could be placed in a leg brace to track a patient's recovery.
Several other Ohio companies are involved with the CIFT project. Whiteside Orthotic and Prosthetic Group Inc. is a Youngstown rehabilitation center that makes custom orthotic devices. Youngstown-based 3D printing company JuggerBot3D LLC and Valtronic Technologies (USA) Inc. in Solon, a maker of medical implants and wearables, will produce the devices.
Mercy Health, a Toledo hospital and medical care supplier, and the Ohio Development Services Agency will advance the design and production of the devices.
Joyce said FibreTuff worked with Mercy Health's St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo six months before the CIFT program happened. He said CIFT grant is for $250,000, matched by another $250,000 from the participating companies.
FibreTuff is not a startup company. Joyce started a company in the early 2000s called Innovative Plastics and Molding to develop natural wood fiber products for construction products and other markets. He still has that company.