Midlands finalist - Morgan Lowther
Having studied for an MSci in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK, Morgan returned to his Midlands roots to work at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in 2016. As part of the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing, he spent time characterising the feedstocks used for metal powder bed printers. This led to a fascination with how powder, printing parameters and post-processing alter the behaviour of additively manufactured materials.
Now a final year PhD student at the University of Birmingham, UK, Morgan's research uses 3D printing to deliver antimicrobials from biomedical implants, hoping to tackle the increasing challenge of implant-associated infections. Engaging with science outreach since his undergraduate days, a highlight has been helping students become human 3D printers. In his spare time, Morgan is a (very) amateur baker, climber and badminton player
Head, shoulders, knees and microbes: 3D printing better implants
Over 100,000 joint replacement surgeries take place each year in the UK alone, accounting for 1 in 10 hospital admissions. But the prevalence of metallic implants belies that the human body is among the most challenging environments for materials design. Implants often fail not through mechanical means, but biologically, by failing to integrate with native tissues and being colonised by microbes. With the increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance predicted to kill more people than cancer by 2050, making previously simple surgeries life threatening, preventing implant-associated infection is a necessity.
Conventional approaches have relied on coatings and other secondary processing to modify implants after manufacture. However, in the past decade, advances in metal additive manufacturing (AM) have opened the possibility of radically new approaches to implant design and materials. How might AM simultaneously revolutionise the production of implants and help mitigate the threat of antimicrobial resistance?