While 3D printers may still seem like the stuff of science fiction, they are actually becoming quite pervasive in the technological sphere, and we’ll begin seeing them in households soon enough. From applications in the automotive industry to biomedical engineering, the possibilities are endless, but recently, scientists may have discovered a way for 3D printing to contribute to hair replacement therapies as well.
Scientists and researchers at Carnegie Melon University have discovered a way to print material that looks and behaves quite like human hair using an FDM (fused deposition modeling) printer. The method is quite like what happens when you use a hot glue gun, and you pull the nose of the gun away from a dollop of glue: a thin fiber of glue remains attached to the dollop of glue and the nose of the gun. By squeezing a small drop of glue-like plastic from the machine, and then stretching it, the printer can create fibers that look like human hair.
The fibers can be as thick or thin as desired, so they can be as thick as bristles on a toothbrush, or as thin as regular hair that can be curled and cut easily. Researchers at the university suggest that these fibers could be someday be fashioned into hairpieces and sold to consumers.
However, the process is still quite slow: to print 10 square millimeters of fibers takes over 20 minutes. So if these products were to be tested and sold on the market, we imagine that they would be quite expensive—though this exciting new method certainly opens up the possibilities to scientists and researchers providing high-tech solutions to hair replacement. Who knows – in a few years the process may become far more efficient and affordable.