3D printing has made some huge gains over the past decade or so, and one of the biggest developments was when we announced it was possible to 3D print biological material. While these bio-printers ran several hundred thousand dollars, and the materials they used were also quite expensive, we’d taken that first step toward 3D printing a heart, or a bone, to replace broken or damaged body parts. 2016 may have just brought us even closer than that.
Off-the-Shelf 3D Bioprinting
Bioprinting replacement parts for the human body sounds like something that would take sci-fi technology. After all, it’s not like you can just fork over a few hundred bucks for a common 3D printer, and make yourself a new heart.
Well, maybe not today. But in the next few years, that might be just what happens thanks to work done by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.
Standard 3D printers need to have support from one layer to the next. That means that if you’re working with a gel, as is the case with most bioprinting, then the whole project falls apart. Assuming, of course, it’s being printed in air. The development that allowed scientists to use standard 3D printers to create bioprinting models was the development of a simple gel. The bioprinting is done inside this gel, which means that the softer material is supported while it’s being printed. The outer layer of gel can be melted away with ease once the bioprinting is complete, leaving fully functional bone or muscle material behind.