Has its time come?

Because of the unique nature of the materials involved (cells and other hydrogel bioinks), bioprinting can be considered a stand-alone area of additive manufacturing. As such, it also sometimes overlaps with more traditional 3D printing technologies and materials, such as ceramics and resorbable polymers, for implants and scaffolds.

The long-term potential of bioprinting is as large if not larger than the entire potential of industrial additive manufacturing, with significant implications on human life-expectancy and quality of life. This however is something that will likely take place several decades from today.

The current reality is that no commercial bioprinted products – such as organ/tissue transplants and grafts – are yet available on the market for consumer regenerative medicine. Nevertheless, these technologies and processes are already having a massive impact on regenerative medicine and pharmaceutical research.

Mapping and categorizing bioprinting technologies is challenging since most systems integrate hybrid versions of extrusion, material jetting and even photopolymerization as well as other approaches that are not used in industrial manufacturing such as acoustic and magnetic assembly.

One general element to consider is that bioprinting is primarily divided into indirect technologies, used to build polymeric scaffolds upon which to add the cellular materials, and technologies that assemble the cellular materials directly. Scaffolds can be compared to tools in industrial manufacturing: as such these technologies are likely to be the first to enable the production of complex, vascularized organs and tissues. On the other hand, direct bioprinting technologies represent the ultimate goal of bioassembly and bioengineering, with volumetric approaches (where a part is built by consolidating all sides at the same time, not just one 2D layer at a time) seen as the key to the production of entire organs.

One related area that is emerging very rapidly is cellular agriculture, which is the ability to produce meat and dairy products directly from lab-grown cells. Using bioprinters to assemble these cells can become an effective way to give cellular agriculture products the look and shape of animal-derived equivalents.

Commercial implementation of bioprinting technologies is already underway in the fields of drug development testing (DDT) and cosmetics development and testing. Adoption has also been booming within the regenerative and bioengineering areas of research at major academic institutions operating in these fields around the world, which has driven the development and sale of an increasing number of bioprinting systems, based on several different additive processes.

Although complex organ production for human transplant remains a very long term objective, simpler bioprinted organs and tissue grafting for human use now seem increasingly within reach, especially for cartilage, bone, and skin. The latest breakthrough in lung regeneration technology, which saw the involvement of traditional 3D printing firm 3D Systems, provides an indication for future production of commercially available complex bioprinted organs for human transplant.

The map above categorizes the companies that have developed and commercialized bioprinting hardware or bioprinted products based on internally developed bioprinting technologies. If you’d like to see a company added to this map, write us at [email protected]

Both bioprinting technologies and materials (bioinks) are evolving rapidly and in many different directions, making the segment difficult to accurately map and track. 3dpbm’s 3D Printing Business Directory lists just over 100 active companies and three primary categories: 19% are bioink (and generally bioprinting materials) manufacturers, 39% are bioprinting hardware manufacturers and 42% are bioprinting service providers. As is the case in many other fringe areas of AM, such as construction and advanced materials, several technology developers use their proprietary hardware to provide services and parts. This category of companies also includes university laboratories and internal laboratories within pharmaceutical firms that leverage bioprinting to provide services.

In this month’s AM Focus Bioprinting, we will present some of the latest innovations in this segment. We will also take a much closer look at some of the companies that are driving innovation in bioprinting by contributing to widening access to these technologies and their applications.

  • Ourobionics becomes a distribution partner for Humabiologics in Europe

    Ourobionics entered into a non-exclusive agreement with Humabiologics, a US biotech company specializing in the development and commercialization of human biomaterials for regenerative medicine research applications. The partnership agreement allows Humabiologics to respond to the growing demand and serve a broader life sciences customer base of industry partners and academic…

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  • Readily3D’s volumetric bioprinters will make pancreatic tissue for ENLIGHT project

    As part of the European project ENLIGHT, Readily3D is joining forces with leading academic centers and companies across Europe to develop a living model of the pancreas to enable better testing of diabetes medication. This model will be shaped using 3D bioprinters made by Readily3D, leveraging tomographic printing to produce…

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  • 3D bioprinted trachea using CollPlant Biotechnologies’s BioInk, courtesy of United Therapeutics and 3D systems

    CollPlant Biotechnologies releases shareholder letter to cap 2020

    CollPlant Biotechnologies released a letter from its Chief Executive Officer, Yehiel Tal, to its shareholders. The letter summarizes a strong year for the company and its shareholders, which has benefitted from the uptick in 3D printing research and interest throughout 2020 to position itself for an even stronger 2021. The letter…

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  • Redefine Meat raises $29M ahead of global launch

    Alt-Meat innovator Redefine Meat completed a $29 million A-series funding round led by Happiness Capital and Hanaco Ventures. They are joined by CPT Capital, a leading alternative protein investor and early supporter of Redefine Meat, as well as other notable new international investors including Losa Group, Sake Bosch, and K3…

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  • CELLINK to acquire robotics and diagnostics automation company Ginolis

    CELLINK has entered into an agreement with the shareholders of Ginolis Oy, a Finnish company focusing on diagnostics automation and robotics solutions, to acquire all shares for a purchase price on cash- and debt-free basis of 70M euros. Forty percent of the purchase price will be paid in newly issued…

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  • 3dpbm’s map of bioprinting technologies and companies* (v8)

    In this month’s AM Focus on Bioprinting—and the eBook edition which will be released on March 1st—we will take a deep dive into the different bioprinting technologies that are commercially available today. Starting with 3dpbm’s map of bioprinting technologies and companies.     When cell cultures went 3D 3D cell…

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  • The printing process for the bottleneck elastomers.

    Postdocs at UCSB develop a bottlebrush elastomer for AM

    Two postdoctoral researchers at UC Santa Barbara, Renxuan Xie and Sanjoy Mukherjee, developed the first 3D-printable “bottlebrush” elastomer. The new material results in printed objects that have unusual softness and elasticity that closely resemble those of human tissue. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Science Advances. These polymers…

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  • ETH researchers 3D print bioresorbable airway stent by DLP

    Is 3D printing of structures for implantation in the human body using bioresorbable polymers to be considered a type of bioprinting? In a way, it is and it can bring significant healthcare benefits sooner than parts printed using actual cells will be able to. Along the lines of: “why  change…

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  • Porcogen, Sunmax’s pig-based collagen for bioprinting

    Produced by Sunmax, a Taiwanese collagen materials specialist, Porcogen is a sterile purified collagen solution specifically formulated to be a bioink in bioprinting processes. It contains stable collagen protein with a native triple-helical structure for medical device, tissue engineering and research purpose. Founded in 2001, with technology out of the…

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  • Allevi's high-temperature print head attached to the Allevi 3.

    Allevi releases a new high-temperature print head printing at 255˚

    Allevi released a new high-temperature print head capable of melting thermoplastics at temperatures up to 255˚ celsius. This high temperature will be particularly useful in bio-printing applications: rapid prototyping, bone modelling, joint and dental implants, and biomedical device creation are all in this new print head’s wheelhouse. The print head…

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