A 3D printed biosensor for use in wearable monitors could lead to improved glucose monitors for millions of people who suffer from diabetes. Using 3D printing, the research team developed a glucose monitor with much better stability and sensitivity than those manufactured through traditional methods.

The 3D printed biosensor for glucose sensing. The graphic illustrates the direct-ink-writing of electrode and enzyme ink. (Credit: Washington State University)

Using a method called direct-ink-writing (DIW), which involves printing “inks” out of nozzles, they created intricate and precise designs at tiny scales, printing out a nanoscale material that is electrically conductive to create flexible electrodes. The technique allows a precise application of the material, resulting in a uniform surface and fewer defects, which increases the sensor's sensitivity. The 3D printed sensors did better at picking up glucose signals than the traditionally produced electrodes.

For large-scale use, the printed biosensors will need to be integrated with electronic components on a wearable platform. But, manufacturers could use the same 3D printer nozzles used for printing the sensors to print electronics and other components of a wearable medical device, helping to consolidate manufacturing processes and reduce costs even more.

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