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WSU Team Creates 3D-Printed Glucose Biosensors

Washington State University scientists have created a 3D-printed glucose biosensor for use in wearable monitors.

Arda Gozen, assistant professor, WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, in the Manufacturing Processes and Machinery Lab. (Image credit: Washington State University)

The work could pave the way toward better glucose monitors for millions of people who have to deal with diabetes.

Led by Arda Gozen and Yuehe Lin, faculty in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the research has been reported in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.

People with diabetes most frequently monitor their disease using glucose meters that require pricking the finger often. Continuous glucose monitoring systems are an option, but they are not cost effective.

Scientists have been aiming to create wearable, flexible electronics that can adapt to patients’ skin and track the glucose in body fluids, such as in sweat. To construct such sensors, manufacturers have employed traditional manufacturing strategies, such as screen printing or photolithography. While these approaches work, they have several disadvantages, including necessitating the use of unsafe chemicals and expensive cleanroom processing. They also generate a lot of waste.

Using 3D printing, the WSU research team designed a glucose monitor with a lot better stability and sensitivity than those built through traditional approaches.

The scientists used a technique called direct-ink-writing (DIW) that involves printing “inks” out of nozzles to develop intricate and precise designs at minute scales. The scientists printed out a nanoscale material that is electrically conductive to develop flexible electrodes. The WSU team’s method allows an exact application of the material, resulting in an even surface and fewer flaws, which increases the sensitivity of the sensor. The scientists learned that their 3D-printed sensors did better at capturing glucose signals than the conventionally produced electrodes.

Since it uses 3D printing, their system can also be personalized to suit a variety of people’s biology.

“3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients” said Gozen.

As 3D printing uses only the amount of material necessary, there is also less waste in the process compared to traditional manufacturing techniques.

“This can potentially bring down the cost,” said Gozen.

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

Our 3D printed glucose sensor will be used as wearable sensor for replacing painful finger pricking.  Since this is a noninvasive, needleless technique for glucose monitoring, it will be easier for children’s glucose monitoring.

Yuehe Lin, Faculty, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University

The researchers are currently involved in integrating the sensors into a packaged system that can be used as a wearable device for long-term glucose monitoring.

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