Materials Scientists Working On Dental Enamel That Could Regenerate

You never know where an opportunity will present itself for a materials science technician. Your local dentist or dental lab may need help in the near future if this research from Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom develops.

Earlier this month, researchers announced they were working on a new way to grow “mineralized” materials that mimic hard tissues – dental enamel or bone.

The study, originally published in Nature Communications, show how new materials can be recreated to look and work like natural dental enamel. The researchers believe that it could help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity and also provide a way to treat those conditions.

According to the paper:

“Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.”

The paper cites “lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, also from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, who said: ‘A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks. The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralisation at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties.'”

Mimic other hard tissues

As the researchers understand and control how the process of mineralization works, they believe they will be able to mimic other hard tissues. That potential makes it interesting and valuable to other specialties within the medical and dental communities, particularly in regenerative medicine.

An understanding of how materials work is going to be increasingly valuable in our materials research-based world. Whether it is dental enamel, human bones, or carbon fiber, materials science technicians have a bright future.

More resources and information:

The full research paper was published at Nature Communications: ‘Protein disorder-order interplay to guide 1 the growth of hierarchical mineralized structures’. Sherif Elsharkawy, Maisoon Al-Jawad, Maria F. Pantano, Esther Tejeda-Montes, Khushbu Mehta, Hasan Jamal, Shweta Agarwal, Kseniya Shuturminska, Alistair Rice, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Rory M. Wilson, Andy J. Bushby, Matilde Alonso, Jose C. Rodriguez-Cabello, Ettore Barbieri, Armando del Rio Hernández, Molly M. Stevens, Nicola M. Pugno, Paul Anderson, Alvaro Mata.

Details from Queen Mary University of London news post: Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel. The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (STROFUNSCAFF) and the Marie Curie Integration Grant (BIOMORPH).

An early release of the research was featured in Labiotech.eu and it has a good breakdown of what it looks like and what it means for dentistry and for us as patients: Dental Enamel Biopolymers.

Photo used with permission from Queen Mary University of London. Credit: Alvaro Mata.

If you are interested in other materials science advancements for technician education (and future employment opportunity ideas), check out this post on TEAMM AM News: Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint.

Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint

SME Has Three Questions They Want To Help You Answer About Additive Manufacturing

SME believes that additive manufacturing (3D printing) faces barriers to more widespread adoption and use. There is a gap between existing knowledge and the technology’s capabilities and potential. At the heart of their new initiative are three questions to help bridge that gap:

  • Can I print it?
  • Should I print it?
  • What’s the best machine, material and process for a particular part?

The initiative is called the Independent Technical Evaluation of Additive Manufacturing (ITEAM). The consortium is comprised of manufacturing companies, additive manufacturing equipment and material producers, industry organizations, academic institutions, service bureaus, CAD, CAE, and other software solutions providers. Here is an ITEAM overview video on YouTube.

The purpose of ITEAM is to advance additive manufacturing by providing a trusted information platform as a resource for manufacturers using this technology. Users need a better way to evaluate the feasibility of producing additively manufactured parts amidst the constantly changing field of machines, materials and processes. SME and their partners through ITEAM are building a new prototype AM Rapid Virtual Evaluation Platform.

This platform is being developed and tested by the ITEAM consortium in collaboration with Dr. Michael Grieves, renowned expert at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), along with GM and other major industry users in automotive and aerospace. The open platform will provide a virtual repository of AM machine/material capabilities with evaluation tools to enable users to determine their parts’ suitability to be manufactured additively.

Check out the Michael Grieves Interview from RAPID+TCT 2018.

According to the SME news release, “The ITEAM tool compares and calculates the best machine, material and process for a particular application. Utilizing SAM-CT (size, accuracy and materials + economic evaluation of cost and throughput) methodology, companies can upload their part file to the secure platform and evaluate whether something “can” and “should” be produced by additive manufacturing. This helps manufacturers reduce risking valuable time and resources on trial and error in the manufacturing process.”

Dr. Grieves explained the SAM-CT model in a recent post at 3DPrint.com entitled, How Do We Make Better Decisions in 3D Technologies? ITEAM has the Answer. In it, he shares this visual that explains how the process works. In short, “SAM is the technical evaluation of the ‘Can I make it,’” Grieves said. The SAM-CT model and Dr. Grieves’ work certainly answers the three questions SME wants to help you with, plus quite a bit more.

RAND Publication Explores Additive Manufacturing in 2040

TEAMM Principal Investigator, Mel Cossette, was recently interviewed for a special report by RAND Corporation: Additive Manufacturing in 2040. The report subtitle: Powerful Enabler, Disruptive Threat looks at how companies, and by extension, educators, might want to prepare for various challenges and big opportunities facing the growing AM opportunities.

RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis, produced the report as part of a broader effort of its RAND Ventures to look at security challenges our world may face in the next 20-plus years. The research was conducted within the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security.

As additive manufacturing (AM) technician education increases, it is helpful to look at the effects of political, technological, social, and demographic trends facing 3D printing. This short, free report may give future graduates ideas for new AM products and services. RAND’s report aims to do just that and increase awareness of how our uses of AM might profoundly impact global and local economies.

While the report looked specifically at international security, and threats to it, it also alludes to ways manufacturers will be affected as businesses. It digs into the history, the value of AM, and its growth:

“The use of AM within various industries, both traditional manufacturing and more niche applications, has grown dramatically in recent years. However, not all industries and products will be equally affected. Despite some optimists’ predictions that AM will become ubiquitous, the benefits and costs of this technology will likely vary widely across sectors. Eventually, some products could be entirely produced through AM, radically transforming these industries, but others might remain fairly constant as traditional manufacturing methods continue to dominate in price and quality.”

As the RAND report makes suggestions for how companies and governments will want to prepare for a secure future, students and technicians can use this report to consider career directions and business opportunities they might want to pursue. Download the Additive Manufacturing in 2040 report.

iMakerSpace Creates Innovation and Entrepreneurship Culture at Tennessee Tech University

Many colleges and universities work to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) among students. Teaching either concept can be an esoteric pursuit, full of buzzwords and hard-to-implement ideas, but after making the decision to drive a new approach to I&E, Tennessee Tech University (TTU) immediately won a competition to be one of the first cohorts in the National Science Foundation Pathways to Innovation Program run by Epicenter and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell (formerly NCIIA).

The effort of this Pathways team led to the launch of the EagleWorks student competition and the iMakerSpace, as well as providing a model for many schools to follow – by combining a range of resources and access points. Under the leadership of both the Colleges of Engineering and Business, the TTU iMakerSpace serves as a central location on campus to provide training, service, partnership, research and evaluation in Innovation and Entrepreneurship to all disciplines.

“In today’s economy, it is imperative for all students to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset. College graduates need to enter the workforce skilled in assessing complex problems, conceiving innovative solutions and developing scalable solutions, whether they join a company or non-profit organization or start a new venture,” said Humera Fasihuddin, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program for Epicenter.

iMakerSpace supports NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates

The space hosts an Internet of Things Platform for Engineering Education and Research known as IoT PEER. Thanks to the College of Engineering, via the iMakerSpace, the IoT testbed has become an area of collaborative innovation and interdisciplinary research.

If you have heard of the Lean Startup concept, then the Tenn Tech I-Corps is worth checking out. The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Sites is a NSF-funded entity established at universities to nurture and support multiple, local teams as they transition their technology concepts into the marketplace.

Engineering students who have been working on projects under the NSF-funded AM-WATCH program, TTU NSF I-Corps Site,  and the Additive Manufacturing Studio are regular users of the iMakerSpace facility (housed within the TTU library).

The above mentioned programs are only a handful of the many ways that TTU is focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship for its students. Through partnerships, such as the Epicenter, the Colleges of Business and Engineering, and the Biz Foundry, a nonprofit focused on building entrepreneurs and innovators in the region; TTU is showing how to make STEM an essential and real-world practical part of education.

Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series at Tennessee Tech University

Tennessee Tech University (TTU), over the last 5 semesters, has planned and delivered the “TED Talks of Additive Manufacturing,” says Dr. Ismail Fidan, Professor of the Department of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology. The series, known as the “Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series” is delivered via Zoom, a web video conferencing platform.

NOTE: If you or your students are looking for the most current 3D technology and the opportunity it presents, sign up for the web-based lectures on 3D printing here. Full text details on the webinars are at the end of this post.

The lecture series has trained 500-plus people from all over the world, from Africa to Europe to North America, on a wide variety of timely, hot Additive Manufacturing (AM) topics. These talks are aimed at AM industry professionals as well as STEM educators. If you have been looking for on-point, deeper talks about Additive Manufacturing, keep tabs on what Dr. Fidan and his team are doing at Tennessee Tech University.

The lectures are offered through the iMakerSpace, which was established as a university-wide, student-centered space under the leadership of the Colleges of Engineering and Business. It serves as a focal point on campus to provide training, service, partnership, research and evaluation in Innovation and Entrepreneurship to all disciplines. It also encourages interdisciplinary teams and provides support and training to extend Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) activities into research and the classroom.

AM WATCH is an ATE funded project focused on the skills AM technicians need to know.  The AM Studios provide STEM educators with the education/training/exposure to 3D that they can integrate into their current programs.

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Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series SPRING 2018

  • February 22: Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing: enabling 10-meter metal parts with Filomeno Martina, Ph.D., WAAMMat Program Manager Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Center, Cranfield University, UK
  • March 1: Free and Easy Software for Designing for 3–D Printing with Timothy Gornet, Manager of the Operations Rapid Prototyping Center, University of Louisville, Kentucky
  • March 29: AM Research and Applications for Real World Production and Impact with Eric N. Wooldridge, PE, RA, Professor of Additive Manufacturing, Workforce Development, and Pre-Engineering at Somerset Community College, Kentucky
  • April 19: Dental 3–D Printing Overview with Frank Alifui-Segbaya, Program Director for Bachelor of Dental Technology School of Dentistry and Oral Health, Griffith University, Australia