3D printing with living materials

Week 14 Blog 10: By Blake Weaver

In architecture people are mainly looking at 3D printing with ceramics or plastics but there is another area of material that sounds even more far-fetched than 3D printing an entire building, 3D printing synthetic biological matter.  The process mainly involves “turning bacteria and proteins into operational systems that can provide basic commands usually reserved for computer chips” (Beau Jackson.)  If this type of research is thoroughly investigated it can potentially be used to print 3D organisms like plant matter.  Alternatively using traditional 3D materials we can also culture living organisms such as human body tissue.


Photo Credit: ARL’S Eric Proctor

Often the biomaterials that are being considered for design use are expensive to reproduce because of the requirements to get the materials, such as spider silk.  There are significant challenges to actualizing this as a commercially or project specific innovation but the properties that are available in organisms like wood are incredibly efficient and cannot currently be worked with traditional methods that can theoretically be 3D printed with this synthetic process.  This is useful for high tech industries like aerospace that can use these materials to create more resistant clothing that is more compatible with space and more harsher conditions on earth.


This also leads to medical possibilities from cultured stem cells that can uses printed ceramics to mimic porosity in ways to mimic human organs to grow the correct tissue structure.  Ingrown human organs can create random porous connections that the organs need to mimic human functions but they are unintentional and not always as successful than when done within the micro precision of Solid Free Form printed forms “Future scaffolds constructed with these integrated manufacturing techniques should aid tissue reconstruction, regeneration of damaged tissues and organs, artificial organ production and living tissue construct fabrication.”  These processes decrease the likelihood of organ rejection both due to this micro-structure.

3D printing seems to have started to permeate into every single industry but no one industry needs this process more than these medical and scientific fields that can be some of the most expensive and necessary.  3D printing to saving lives is an incredible advancement that will need as much help as possible to bring into light as soon as possible.


3D printing synthetic biology- https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/arl-insight-synthetic-biology-advanced-3d-printing-materials-100107/

Nasa’s vision- https://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/cct/office/cif/center-innovation-fund-2012-winners/lynn-rothschild

Indirect solid free form fabrication of local and global porous, biomimetic and composite 3D polymer-ceramic scaffolds Taboas, J.M ; Maddox, R.D ; Krebsbach, P.H ; Hollister, S.J Biomaterials, 2003, Vol.24(1), pp.181-194


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