What is 3D Bioprinting?

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3D bioprinting
Above: Organovo’s NovoGen Bioprinter® Platform fabricating tissue into a 24-well plate/Image Credit: Organovo

3D printing or additive manufacturing has come a long way from its early rapid prototyping days. No, it is not only a prototyping technology but a technology to manufacture end-use parts.

With more and more sectors finding revolutionary applications with this technology, we are seeing a rapid change in how things are manufactured. Same is the case with healthcare sector which has realised the potential of 3D printing pretty early. The sector is witnessing heavy investments and a multitude of researches which revolve around bioprinting.

What is 3D Bioprinting?

3D Bioprinting is the branch of 3D printing which prints three-dimensional tissues and organs from specially formulated bioinks. The bioinks are made from a mixture of chemicals, stem-cells, or living cells. The actual printing is carried out in a gel-like base made from collagen, gelatin, hyaluronan, silk, alginate or nanocellulose. 

How 3D Bioprinting Works?

Organovo’s step-by-step 3D bioprinting process
Above: Step-by-step 3D Bioprinting process/Image Credit: Organovo

The process of 3D bioprinting is fairly similar to how a regular 3D printer operates apart from a few distinct differentiations. Below are the steps in bioprinting:

Imaging: The 3D bioprinting process starts with converting the patient data from MRI and CT scans to get a 3D model of the implant.

3D Modelling: The patient data is then sent to a compatible CAD software where the object to be printed is modelled based on the imaging. In this step, finer adjustments to the model are made along with defining the slicing & layer settings.

Bioink: This is the most important step of the entire 3D bioprinting process. Stem cells or cells from the patient are put into a growth medium to multiply and these are used as a bioink made from combination of the cells. This is the material, or more specifically the bioink to be used for the bioprinting.

3D Bioprinting
Above: Range of CELLINK Bioinks/Image Credit: CELLINK

This bioink is used to 3D print artificial tissues. These artificial tissues and organs are then left to mature in a laboratory to be used for research purpose or are implanted to replace the defective body part of the patient.

This bioink is used to 3D print artificial tissues. These artificial tissues and organs are then left to mature in a laboratory to be used for research purpose or are implanted to replace the defective body part of the patient.

Loading and final preparation: The bioink so formed is then loaded into the printing cartridges and final settings are rechecked in the software.

3D Bioprinting: As per the settings so defined the 3D printer or Bioprinter starts printing the model in a pre-set pattern inside a gel-like watery substance, called as a hydrogel. This gel supports the structure.

Single-cell 3D printer™ developed by cytena team
Above: Single-cell 3D printer™ developed by cytena team/Image Credit: cytena

As the layer-by-layer process continues the initial layers solidify assisted by external UV light stimulation/exposure and thus the complete object is able to hold its shape.

Maturation: Once the printing completes the bioprinted structure is left in the gel for maturation and growth before being removed. And after sufficient maturation, the printed structure is separated from the hydrogel to be used for whatever purpose it was printed.

3D Bioprinting is still in its early stages and there is a lot more to be achieved in the coming years. However, scientists are rigorously researching more and more ground-breaking applications of the revolutionary method.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Read more such informative articles on our 3D Printing Info page. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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