Semisolid extrusion: A disruptive technology for the medical and pharmaceutical fields

April 01, 2021 | Featured

Researchers at FabRx and the UCL School of Pharmacy recently published a review article (link) exploring how semisolid extrusion (SSE), a type of 3D printing, can facilitate personalised solutions for various healthcare challenges. SSE is a highly versatile technology meaning it can be used for a multitude of different functions, from making 3D printed multi-drug polypills (polyprintlets) to drug-loaded medical devices and even in bioprinting to print live cells.

SSE is a subset of material extrusion 3D printing, similar to fused deposition modelling (FDM) or direct powder extrusion (DPE) but instead of a filament or powder, prints from a syringe filled with a gel or a paste. The material is extruded from the syringe under pressure and is deposited onto the printing bed, see Figure 1 below. Another difference of SSE to FDM or DPE is the low printing temperature, making SSE suitable for thermosensitive drug delivery and biomedical applications such as printing live cells. Additionally, the use of disposable syringes provides benefits in meeting critical quality requirements for pharmaceutical use as well as manufacturing at the point of care.


Figure 1: Diagram of an SSE syringe and the various methods of extruding material.


SSE has a number of other advantages for the production of personalised dosage forms. Firstly, SSE is one of the fastest material extrusion 3D printing technologies, capable of producing a month’s supply of personalised dosage forms in a matter of minutes. Additionally, SSE is suitable for the production of flavoured, chewable formulations, particularly appealing to children. This is also why SSE was chosen as the technology used for the world’s first clinical study using personalised 3D printed dosage forms (link). The study treated paediatric patients with a rare metabolic disorder that required personalised dosing. Unfortunately, the traditional medication was extremely unpalatable and led to issues with acceptability and adherence. The SSE printed doses were much more acceptable and able to achieve superior drug bioavailability than the standard treatment.


Figure 2. Chewable printlets (3D printed tablets) in different flavours, colour and doses.

Figure 2: Chewable printlets in different flavours, colours and doses. Scale in cm.


Nevertheless, the applications of SSE in healthcare go beyond just oral dosage forms. SSE has great potential within the bioprinting field and with the release of benchtop pharmaceutical 3D printers such as the M3DIMAKER™, is likely to become a staple within the field.


Figure 3: M3DIMAKER™ pharmaceutical 3D printer from FabRx.


It is clear that the pharmaceutical and healthcare fields are heading towards more tailored treatment plans and SSE is likely to play a crucial role in the growth of medical 3D printing in the future.



Background on FabRx

FabRx Ltd was established in 2014 by leading academics from University College London (UCL) and is recognised as a world leader in the application of 3D printing technology for medicines and medical devices. Since its initiation, FabRx has developed over seven different types of pharmaceutical 3D printers and in 2017 were awarded with the TCT Best Start Up Award. In 2019, FabRx conducted a world-first clinical study using 3D printed personalised doses, utilising their Printlets™ technology. In early 2020, following a grant from Innovate UK totalling near £1 million, FabRx launched M3DIMAKER™, the world’s first personalised medicine 3D printer. Recently, FabRx won the Excellence in Pharma: Manufacturing Technology and Equipment Award at the prestigious CPhI Pharma Awards for the M3DIMAKER™. FabRx’s founders have a wealth of experience in all aspects of oral drug formulation and knowledge of the challenges of bringing new medicines through regulatory processes of the pharmaceutical sector.


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