Mar 102013
 
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Experts agree that rising Chinese labor costs and improving U.S. technology will gradually cause significant manufacturing activity to return to the United States.

When it does, a new interdisciplinary manufacturing venture called the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTecH) group at the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) will likely help lead the charge.

AMTecH was formed to design, create, and test—both virtually and physically—a wide variety of electromechanical and biomedical components, systems and processes. Currently, the group is working on projects ranging from printed circuit boards for automobiles and aircraft to replacement parts for damaged and failing human organs and tissue, says Tim Marler, AMTecH co-director.

“Electromechanical systems are one of two current branches of the AMTecHgroup,” he says. “We want to simulate, analyze and test printed circuit boards and assemblies, because they are used in a wide range of products from missiles to power plants to cell phones.
“The second branch of the group involves biomanufacturing and is led by my colleague and AMTecH co-director Ibrahim Ozbolat, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering,” says Marler. “The long-term goal of this branch is to create functioning human organs some five or 10 years from now. This is not far-fetched.”

Using its facilities for engineering living tissue systems, the Biomanufacturing Laboratory at CCAD is working to develop and refine various 3D printing processes required for organ and tissue fabrication, Ozbolat says.

“One of the most promising research activities is bioprinting a glucose-sensitive pancreatic organ that can be grown in a lab and transplanted anywhere inside the body to regulate the glucose level of blood,” says Ozbolat. He adds that the 3D printing, as well as virtual electronic manufacturing, being conducted at AMTecH are done nowhere else in Iowa.

In fact, the multi-arm bio printer being used in the lab is unique. Ozbolat and Howard Chen, a UI doctoral student in industrial engineering, designed it and Chen built it. It turns out that managing multiple arms without having them collide with one another is difficult enough that other printers used in other parts of the world avoid the problem by using simpler designs calling for single-arm printing. As Chen continues to refine his and Ozbolat’s design, the UI printer currently gives the UI researchers a distinct advantage.

While bioprinters at other institutions use one arm with multiple heads to print multiple materials one after the other, the UI device with multiple arms can print several materials concurrently. This capability offers a time-saving advantage when attempting to print a human organ because one arm can be used to create blood vessels while the other arm is creating tissue-specific cells in between the blood vessels.

Read more . . .

via University of Iowa & Newswise
 

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