Magic disappearing act comes to 3D printing using stereolithography and ionic salts

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In Rhode Island, Brown University engineers demonstrated a technique for making 3D printed biomaterials that can degrade on demand, which can be useful in making intricately patterned microfluidic devices or in making cell cultures than can change dynamically during experiments, according to their press release on Science Daily.

The Brown team made their new degradable structures using a type of 3-D printing called stereolithography. They showed that alginate could be used in stereolithography and by using different combinations of ionic salts — magnesium, barium and calcium — they could create structures with varying stiffness, which could then be dissolved away at varying rates.

“It’s a bit like Legos,” Ian Wong, an assistant professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and co-author of the research told Science Daily. “We can attach polymers together to build 3-D structures. The idea is that the attachments between polymers should come apart when the ions are removed, which we can do by adding a chelating agent that grabs all the ions. This way we can pattern transient structures that dissolve away when we want them to.”