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Soft Material

Medical innovation using 3D soft-material modeling technology

Background

Today, most 3D modeling schemes use semi-hard materials like resin and rubber. Medical and healthcare fields, however, require softer materials.
Hydrogel is a promising soft material because of its high biocompatibility. As hydrogel has a particularly high water content, its texture and physical properties are very similar to those of the human body and associated organs. Expectations are high for its use in creating artificial organ models (such as viscera and blood vessels)

Background

Solutions

The material makes it especially easy for surgeons to conduct preoperative simulation and training.

・Artificial organ models with realistic texture

3D modeling technology enables organs to be accurately reproduced using soft material.
Material softness can be adjusted, enabling the production of soft-material organ models which resemble a close likeness in terms of both texture and appearance. They are best used for preoperative simulations and training in medical institutes; the users experience a realistic feel as they, for example, remove an artificial tumor with a surgical knife and stitch up the material when a tumor has been removed. Soft-material organ models are a positive alternative to using animal organs.

3D modeling technology enables organs to be accurately reproduced using soft material.

*Photo of kidney model supplied by Kazuhide Makiyama, Associate Professor at School of Medicine, Yokohama City University

Zoom In

・X-ray-free blood vessel models to keep doctors from exposure to radiation

In the model of a blood vessel, a hollow structure can be reproduced with the accuracy of the size of a microcatheter (0.5 mm or less) and because of its transparency, you can visually check the internal structure.
In the past, an X-ray was required to check the internal structure. The soft-material model allows X-ray-free catheter operation and simulation, protecting the doctor in training from unnecessary exposure.

X-ray-free blood vessel models to keep doctors from exposure to radiation

*Photo of blood vessel model supplied by:
Takeshi Kamomae, Adjunct Professor, School of Medicine, Nagoya University
Tomohiro Komada, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Nagoya University

Technical Highlights

1. Proprietary technology turns nano-composite hydrogel (NC gel) into ink

NC gel is the best hydrogel for artificial organ model creation. Using dispersion technology, Ricoh has successfully made an ink out of the NC gel. Water, inorganic material and organic polymers are blended in order to reproduce complex models – optimizing hardness distribution, density distribution, and local placement of functional materials.

1. Proprietary technology turns nano-composite hydrogel (NC gel) into ink

2. Material jetting methods produce artificial organ models with a 3D printer

A 3D printer models things using two materials: the model material for the model itself, and the support material that maintains the shape of the model. Ricoh has developed an original support material (phase-change type) that matches the NC gel (model material). By combining the two materials, a 3D printer directly model things using the lamination process.
In material jetting, a layer is formed by hardening the discharged droplets using UV irradiation. The process is repeated for lamination. By applying this method, Ricoh has successfully produced blood vessel models with a micro hollow structure, which was difficult with previously used methods.

Ricoh’s vision

By combining the strengths of proprietary material development technology and inkjet-based 3D modeling technology, Ricoh aims to make a greater contribution to the medical field.

*Part of the technological development is a joint effort with the Medical Schools of Yokohama City University and Nagoya University.