The heart is a simple organ.
It is a muscle that functions as a pump. However, it isn’t easy or cheap to replicate using synthetic materials.
To manufacture an artificial heart, the cost can be anywhere from £100,000 to £300,000 (and sometimes more).
The biggest cost is manufacturing the chambers, which are incredibly intricate and will only function if they are perfect dimensionally. Then, you have the very genuine issue of bio-compatibility, which limits the amount of research people can perform.
Right now, mechanical hearts are a viable treatment for end-stage biventricular heart failure and they are being considered for other conditions. But, the technology isn’t perfect.
A potential solution to the issue of cost is 3D printing, which a team of researchers used recently to manufacture artificial heart components as part of a trial for a project named ‘Centre of the Advanced Studies on Engineering Systems’. Headed by Tomasz Górski, PhD Eng, a team of researchers used a Zortrax M200 3D printer to manufacture all the required components.
An Artificial Heart
A team of researchers, 3D printed blood and air chambers for an artificial heart using the Zortrax M200.
They used Z-ULTRAT and Z-PETG filaments to print these, and Z-ULTRAT was also used to print the diaphragms, while the cast for silicone moulds was also printed with Z-ULTRAT.
As Zortrax points out, the models can improve the safety of surgeries: “The main objective of the project was to create a computerized built-in system, including the software and equipment, which is to measure the stroke volume from the chamber of the artificial heart in real time. Together they have already printed 4 models of artificial hearts that are used for tests where by applying algorithms, the efficiency of the models is being tested. Having the models of devices that are used to transplantation’s allows testing the measuring techniques, which boosts the safety of surgeries.”
3D printing can change that. For instance, 3D printing the components of an artificial heart, allowed a team of researchers to speed up the development of their study, and keep costs super-low. The approximate cost to manufacture the heart was just $21 USD.