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The Coolest 3D Printer Technology Around - And What Makes it So Special? The Ink of Course!
Since developers fondled with the idea of 3D printing, the technology has come a long way, and now even the average consumer can get their hands on such tech. From children’s artwork and wearable garments, to working guns, foetuses, and the face of long-lost king, Richard III – 3D printing technology can be used to produce a seemingly endless range of objects, whether it’s ethical to do so or not.
And now US start-up, BioBots, has taken 3D printing to a whole other level: they’ve perfected a method of printing real human body parts from living tissue. Sound bonkers? Here, we’ll unearth the technology behind the world’s most innovative 3D printer, and find out what makes it such a dramatic leap forward in printer technology.
Biofabrication in a Nutshell
According to BioBots founder, Danny Cabrera, scientists have been trying to solve the mystery of producing human body parts from living tissue for decades. The process itself is named ‘biofabrication’, and up until BioBots recent discovery, it had proved extremely difficult to get off the ground.
Speaking in a recent interview with TechCrunch, Cabrera said: “When we looked at what was out there, we found devices that existed were huge — they looked like old mainframe computers, they took up entire rooms, they cost half a million dollars and were really difficult to operate. You needed technicians to operate them.”
The first step for BioBots was to overhaul previous biofabrication technologies and create a smaller, easier to operate and more affordable machine. Enter BioBots 1, a compact machine that uses 3D printing technology and a specialist bio ink to produce three-dimensional human body parts with a living structure.
So How Does it Work?
For BioBots 1 to succeed, the team at BioBots had to engineer a special ink which, when combined with living cells, produces a functional human tissue structure.
BioBots specially engineered ink contains a “photoinitiator powder”. When hit with a specific wavelength of blue light, this powder solidifies, thus creating a predefined shape. In previous attempts at perfecting biofabrication, UV was used to cure the powder, but this – unlike blue light – was found to harm cells.
To produce living tissue, BioBot’s combine their patented photoinitiator powder with living cells, as well as a binding agent to help the elements stick together. This mixture is added to the BioBots 1, where it is forced through the extruder using hydraulic pressure. From this point onward, BioBots 1 acts like any other 3D printer: it uses a CAD or 3D modelling design to produce a living, human body part. Pretty cool, right?
Currently, BioBots 3D printer isn’t widely available, and the firm are looking to secure funding to produce a series of new prototypes. Once perfected however, BioBots 1 has the potential to change modern medicine, making it feasible to replace human body parts with living alternatives for the first time.
In the meantime, if you’re tired of paying through the nose for printer ink cartridges, browse our range of compatible ink and toner cartridges. We offer third party cartridges for a range of printer manufacturers and models – visit the Printhead homepage to find a compatible cartridge for your machine and start saving on print costs today.
Image sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Creative Tools.