Silver’s Value In 3-D Printing And Curing Cancer

In its monthly industry release, The Silver Institute reported once again new applications of silver in products across several industries, in particular health. The Silver Institute has written extensively how silver has helped breakthrough improvements in product development and industries; read previous articles herehere, here, and here.

The State of Silver and 3-D Printing

3-D printing — a process of making a three-dimensional object by adding successive layers of material under computer control — which can be accomplished using metals, plastics and composites, is now being used in the manufacture of many products in which silver is the main or a key component. These products range from circuit boards to jewelry to prosthetic devices.

Two types of 3-D printing processes involve silver. One is the equivalent of casting silver into a 3-D printed mold such as those made of plaster- fortified wax. Casting silver in a preprinted mold is almost exactly the same as standard casting of silver. A wax or polymeric mold is made and treated with plaster. Silver is then poured into the plaster-lined mold. After cooling, the plaster mold is removed, leaving the silver object, which usually needs to be polished or sanded to remove rough areas. The main advantage of using 3-D printing to make molds is that it offers a greater range of design capabilities, especially in the manufacture of products incorporating delicate designs such as lacework.

The second type of printing is direct laser sintering, a process of forming a solid with heat that does not reach the melting point. The formation of 3-D printed objects directly with silver is a relatively new technique that has yet to be widely adopted. It is under consideration from designers, silversmiths, and manufacturers of jewelry and silverware. This technique uses high intensity light to fuse the silver and then shape it. The high reflectivity of silver is a serious challenge because so little of the light is absorbed to accomplish the fusing. This technical difficulty is being overcome by reformulating the silver to make it less reflective. This currently is done by Cookson Precious Metals Ltd (UK) and by artisan-developed compositions of silver within a binder. A masking technology and new alloys may also be used.

Although initial use is primarily for jewelry, manufacturing sterling silver tableware and hollowware is being researched. Further use of 3-D printing may also be possible in the production of coins, medals, and other objects by government and private mints. It is also anticipated that 3-D printing with silver can be used in the mass manufacture of batteries and other electrical components (See 3-D Printers With Nanosilver Can Build Batteries Into Tiny Electronic Products, December, 2013, Silver News).

Heating Silver Nanoparticles to Kill Cancer Cells

Killing cancer cells with heat is not a new idea, but researchers at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, are using silver nanoparticles to help minimize damage to adjacent healthy cells during the heating process.

In their experiments, the researchers introduce inactive, metallic nanoparticles containing silver, gold or iron to cancer cells which absorb the microscopic particles. The nanoparticles are then shot with magnetic energy, infrared light, or radio waves. The interaction creates heat that kills cancer cells. In addition, when precisely applied, the heat can also prompt the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells that have not been heated. The goal is to kill cancer cells but leave unharmed healthy nearby tissue and cells. The small size of the nanoparticles helps to focus the heat therapy.

“The use of heat to treat cancer was first recorded by ancient Egyptians, but has reemerged with high-tech modern systems as a contributor to the new paradigm of fighting cancer with the patient’s own immune system,” said Steve Fiering, PhD, Norris Cotton Cancer Center researcher and professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and of Genetics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock team is also using nanoparticles to deliver anti-cancer drugs with pinpoint accuracy. “Our lab’s approach differs from most in that we use nanoparticles to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors and there are a variety of potential ways that can be done,” said Fiering. “Perhaps the most exciting potential of nanoparticles is that although very small, they can combine multiple therapeutic agents. Now that efforts to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses are moving from the lab to the clinic, the potential for nanoparticles to be utilized to improve an immune- based therapy approach is attracting a lot of attention from both scientists and clinicians. Clinical usage does not appear too distant.”


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