Non-toxic, Bioseniatic™ PHBHHx-based Filament for 3D Printing of Fused Deposition Models Developed at UGA New Materials Institute

FDM prints of a deformed domestic cat skull using PLA- (left) and PHBHHx- (right) based filaments. Photo by UGA/Brad Gilleland
FDM prints of a deformed domestic cat skull using PLA- (left) and PHBHHx- (right) based filaments. Photo by UGA/Brad Gilleland

Manuscript documenting study nominated for award

A non-toxic, biologically degradable 3D filament developed for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) had superior degradation and comparable precision in printing instructional and clinical medical specimens, when compared to samples from a conventional 3D filament, according to a study from the University of Georgia New Materials Institute. Additionally, the manuscript to document the study, “A Biologically Degradable and Bioseniatic™ Feedstock for the High-Quality 3D Printing of Medical Illustrations,” has been nominated for the 2024 Literary Award from the Association of Medical Illustrators. The award will be presented later this summer at the group’s annual conference.

The filament, developed by a team at the UGA New Materials Institute, is made from a poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate), or PHBHHx, material. Printed cat vertebra, a skull bone, and an aortic arch cast from the PHBHHx-based filament had comparable surface quality when compared to conventional materials. The medical illustrations used to print the samples were designed by co-author Brad Gilleland, a medical illustrator in the Educational Resources Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who is a member of the Association of Medical Illustrators.

Samples of the PHBHHx-based extrudates degraded rapidly under industrial composting conditions, in under two months with no visible polymer remaining. Respirometry studies conducted by the UGA New Materials Institute’s Bioseniatic℠ Laboratory found the PHBHHx-based filament met the criteria for it to be described as a Bioseniatic™ material, achieving greater than 90% mineralization within 32 days in industrial composting conditions. No micronized plastic particles larger than 10 microns were formed during biodegradation, per Raman microscopy, and an earthworm study found the PHBHHx filament was nontoxic to Eisenia fetida.

“A Biologically Degradable and Bioseniatic Feedstock for the High-Quality 3D Printing of Medical Illustrations” was published recently in the Journal of Biocommunication, 47(2), Additional co-authors on the study are Joshua C. Bledsoe, Austin F. Wright, Evan M. White, Grant H. Crane, Christopher B. Herron, Jason J. Locklin and Branson W. Ritchie. Their work was funded in part by a grant from the RWDC Environmental Stewardship Foundation.

The UGA New Materials Institute is committed to preventing waste through the design of materials and systems that adhere to Green Engineering principles. The Institute partners with industry and businesses to design materials for their use that are bio-based, fully biodegradable, or completely recyclable, and safe for people, animals and our planet. In addition, it works with businesses, governments, foundations and other organizations to redesign systems so that they generate less waste and promote circularity in materials management. The New Materials Institute is also shaping the future by training the next generation of scientists and engineers on the importance of considering Green Engineering design principles in everything they do. For more information, visit