3D printing of hydrogel tubing via reactive hydrodynamic focusing to replace single-use plastic medical tubing

Single-use plastic medical tubing is widely used in hospitals. Although practical, plastic tubing has a potentially life-threatening problem in that blood cells and proteins can deposit on the tubing to form clots. There are also problems with being unable to dispose of the plastic tubing in an environmentally-friendly manner. Commercially available plastic tubing has seen little change over the last 30 years.

We propose replacing plastic tubing with a 3D printed tube made from compostable materials. Our tubes are based on a substance called a hydrogel, have excellent mechanical and fluid movement properties, and are bio-compatible (do not cause reactions in people). Our approach is technically and economically feasible for scale-up. We target MSFHR health priority #3. We will provide on-demand printing of hydrogel tubing, replacing existing plastic tubing used, e.g. dialysis, to allow clinicians to rapidly customize tubing shape, size, and composition to adapt specific treatment needs. At the end of its life-cycle, our tubing is compostable, which will reduce single-use plastic and open up new pathways for environmentally-friendly disposal.