By Prarthana Mitra
A group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University recently published a paper containing detailed instructions on how to build a 3-D bioprinter from a normal desktop printer. The paper published in the peer-reviewed journal HardwareX is open source, which means anyone can access the manual and build a do-it-yourself bio-printer thus ensuring the technology can reach those who really need it.
Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and Biomedical Engineering (BME) Associate Professor Adam Feinberg, BME postdoctoral fellow TJ Hinton, and Kira Pusch, a recent graduate of the MSE undergraduate program— created the blueprint for this inexpensive adaptation that works with almost any open source fused deposition modelling plastic printer.
3-D bioprinters have revolutionised medical research by printing living tissue and replacement organs. Although there are a plethora of bioprinters in the market, most of them are too complex and expensive. Due to this, the benefits of bioprinting have remained restricted and exclusive to a privileged few, until now.
Making technology more accessible
Feinberg, Hinton and Pusch’s syringe-based large volume extruder can modify any typical commercial printer, and is an easy adaptation of the printer, without compromising on its quality. Pusch added that it was also necessary to upscale bioprinting’s inherent limitations of volume without having to compromise on the detail nor quality of the print, says Pusch.
At a time when biomedical pharmas are leveraging the rising need for bioprinters to mark their models between $10,000 to $200,000, Feinberg remarks that their DIY printer will cost significantly less ($500 dollars at the most). Moreover, most commercial printers in the market are difficult to modify.
By opening up this research, Feinberg hopes to sow the seeds of innovation for other biomedical engineers to expand upon and further develop the technology. “We envision this as being the first of many technologies that we push into the open source environment to drive the field forward,” he said in an interview with CMU News. “It’s really about democratizing technology and trying to get it into more people’s hands.”