Engineering: M2A Funded MSc by Research Studentship: Development and Design of Soft Materials for Medical 3D Printing

  • Master
  • Full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend
  • July 21, 2017

Swansea University is a UK top 30 institution for research excellence (Research Excellence Framework 2014), and has been named Welsh University of the Year 2017 by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Sponsoring Company: Murex 3D

Start date: October 2017

Additive manufacturing such as 3D printing has been generating a huge amount of interest in for bespoke medical application in recent years. However until recently these techniques have been confined to using harder engineering plastics such as nylon, polylactic acid (PLA), polyethylene (PE), acrylics and polypropylene (PP). In addition to this few materials are available that comply with ISO 10993 or USP Class VI standards making them biocompatible. As a result the use of AM in the production of products such a prosthetics, orthotics and other medical devices has been severely limited, not by the lack of design or demand but by the materials. More recently a handful elastomer 3D printable materials have been developed, creating AM opportunities in application that require flexibility. However these materials are still on the high end of the shore hardness A scale (70-100), leaving a huge range of applications where the ergonomics and aesthetics can only be achieved with soft materials (0-50 shore A hardness) still undeveloped. The processing and 3D printing of soft materials represents an additional challenge and so far has only been attempted by a few companies around the world.  Even in state of the art methods reproducibility is an issue, the printers are relatively slow plus the material has no medical certification. This leads to a costly, less than perfect print that is limited in its colour, material (properties and feel) and size.

Murex 3D is one of the few companies who have developed soft materials printing, with a keen focus on the medical sector. Currently they have a need for a research program aimed at the development of their next generation of soft materials for 3D printing.

Project Aims

Our main aim is to develop a soft material that both fits the requirements for medical application and is 3D printable. This will revolve around both UV and catalyst cure silicones and will involve not only developing the material itself but also the printing method. Basic properties such as tensile strength, elongation at break, fatigue, abrasion resistance can be measured in Swansea University testing facilities. Following this adaption of the materials on a base level through compounding and chemical formulations to better suit the needs of the desired applications will be needed. Careful consideration will be applied to the materials certification, selecting materials from an early stage that are promising candidates for biocompatibility. Additionally, once in devices, the materials will need to be able to undergo a series of cleaning methods such as autoclaving and gamma radiation and material compatibility with these processes can be assessed at this stage. This materials development will encompass a close collaboration between Swansea University, manufacturers and the expertise and experience in Murex 3D.

The Athena SWAN Charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committed to addressing unequal gender representation.

Eligibility

Candidates should hold an Engineering or Physical Sciences degree with a minimum classification level of 2:1 or equivalent relevant experience. This project would be suitable for someone with a background in materials science or chemistry. The candidate should have an understanding of polymer chemistry and materials properties such as rheology, mechanical properties, curing mechanisms and thermal properties. Prior experience in 3D printing is preferred or as a minimum an understanding of the technology. A knowledge of computer aiding design (CAD) and experience with gCode is desirable.

Our funders require applicants to also meet the following eligibility criteria:

You must be a UK or EU citizen (i.e. eligible for ‘home’ tuition fees at the University) and have the right to work in Wales at the end of your studies.You must be resident in West Wales and the Valleys at the point of enrolment and throughout the duration of your studies.You must not be financially able to participate without the award of grant funding.

Benefits

The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a tax free stipend of ÂŁ12,500 p.a.

Application

Please visit our website for more information: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/postgraduate/scholarships/research/engineering-m2a-msc-research-development-and-design.php

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