10 Cool Things You Could Print with a 3D Bioprinter in the Near Future

3D bioprinting is an intuitive way to approach biology. But not many people realize its versatility. To give an idea of what is possible through 3D bioprinting, we’re starting a little series called “10 Cool Things You Could Print with a 3D Bioprinter.” Hopefully, this will make the idea of bioprinting a little more accessible! So without further ado, let’s get started.

1. Knee-replacements.

2. Microfluidic chips. Think pregnancy tests, but printable.

3. The cell-scaffold for a new heart. 

4. An ear, using PEG – a biomaterial that mimics cartilage. 

5. A model of a patient’s skull.

6. Antibiotics. Imagine printing vitamins or medicine, especially in developing nations.

7. A new set of pearly whites.

8. Sheets of skin for drug testing. This could take animal testing out of the equation, and doesn’t need skin from actual human donors.

9. A customized cast or protective armor.

10. Replacement blood vessels. Great for heart attack or wound victims.

As new possibilities emerge, we’ll keep you up to date with all the amazing things that a 3D bioprinter can do!

by Ishmam Ahmed


BioBots Is A 3D Printer For Living Cells

“Biofabrication, the process of artificially building living tissue structures, is not a new field — there is more than a decade of research in this area already. But Cabrera and his co-founders believe they have spotted an opportunity to overhaul expensive (circa $100,000+), large, complex legacy devices — taking inspiration from the small, low-cost desktop 3D printers being used by the maker movement to extrude plastic. Instead of plastic, BioBots’ 3D printer uses a special ink that can be combined with biomaterials and living cells to build 3D living tissue and miniature human organs. The use-case at this point is for research and pre-clinical screening, such as drug testing (as a replacement for animal testing). It’s not about 3D printing replacement organs from a person’s own cells — albeit developments in this area are heading (incrementally) in that direction. More near term future potential for the tech is to help foster bespoke disease therapies, according to Cabrera.”

CyborgRoaches aka RoboRoaches aka BioBots

National Geographic has an interesting video about researchers at North Carolina State University that are training a swarm of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

By placing an array of microphones and electrode sensors onto a small circuit board, they’ve created what they call a “backpack” to be worn by the cockroaches.The backpacks pick up sounds and help control the insect’s movement. A researcher uses a joystick to steer the roach toward the sound source. This technology could help first responders find survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.

Weird enough, but nothing new. However, the description of the project at the iBionicS Lab (Integrated Bionic MicroSystems Laboratory) is worth a note. Reads like a sci-fi novel:

iBionicS Lab’s vision is to introduce conceptually novel neural engineering methodologies to interface artificial systems with biological organisms towards the next generation bionic cyber-physical systems. Broadly, we perform research at the intersection of bioMEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-systems), microelectronics, biophysics, electrochemistry and robotics, and our research efforts focus on the development and use of implantable and wearable biomedical microsystems for various in vivo and in vitro applications at different biocomplexity levels. We are particularly interested in biophotonics based brain machine interfaces, physiological and behavioral sensing through body area networks, remote control of locomotion in insects, neuro-electronic interfaces with developing tissues and organisms.

Bionic cyber-physical systems FTW.

[iBionicS] [via BoingBoing] [picture credit: Tat Thang Vo Doan and Hirotaka Sato, NTU Singapore;; stills from National Geographic & The Fifth Element]

30 July 2014

Bio-bots Are Coming

Think of a robot and you probably imagine something made of metal and wires. But scientists are now exploring the softer side of robotics, developing devices made from squishy biological materials that adapt quickly to the environment around them. These bio-bots, as they’re known, could transform the robots of the future. A team of US researchers has used 3D printing to create a tiny soft ‘skeleton’ made of a special gel. This is then impregnated with mouse muscle stem cells, which grow into a sheet of strong muscle cells (pictured) to provide power and movement. Normally, muscle cells in the body respond to electrical signals, and it’s the same here: an electrical zap gets the bio-bot crawling along like an inchworm. It’s pretty slow – just a fraction of a millimetre per second – but this technology could one day lead to revolutionary biological machines.

Written by Kat Arney

Image by Rashid Bashir and colleagues
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, USA
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in PNAS, July 2014

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This is an artist’s rendering of a biobot powered by actual muscle. It was designed by NSF-funded bioengineer Rashid Bashir and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Hear about it on Science Update Daily, featured podcast @Science360 Radio:

This research was funded by the NSF STC EBICS (
Bashir Lab:
Image Credit: Janet Sinn-Hanlon


Kumi showed me her new bio- “Crosby the Bear”… just born but without a face.  Oh no!  I looked it over and put an eyeball on in… there- a Mutant Cyclops Bear.  He doesn’t have a mouth, so he’s actually mute.


Research paves way for development of cyborg moth ‘biobots’

North Carolina State University researchers have developed methods for electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and for monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles. The work opens the door to the development of remotely-controlled moths, or “biobots,” for use in emergency response.

“In the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.”

The paper presents a technique Bozkurt developed for attaching electrodes to a moth during its pupal stage, when the caterpillar is in a cocoon undergoing metamorphosis into its winged adult stage. This aspect of the work was done in conjunction with Dr. Amit Lal of Cornell University.

But the new findings in the paper involve methods developed by Bozkurt’s research team for improving our understanding of precisely how a moth coordinates its muscles during flight.

By attaching electrodes to the muscle groups responsible for a moth’s flight, Bozkurt’s team is able to monitor electromyographic signals – the electric signals the moth uses during flight to tell those muscles what to do.

The moth is connected to a wireless platform that collects the electromyographic data as the moth moves its wings. To give the moth freedom to turn left and right, the entire platform levitates, suspended in mid-air by electromagnets. A short video describing the work is available at

“By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we’re getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air,” Bozkurt says.

“We’re optimistic that this information will help us develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight,” Bozkurt says. “That’s essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network.”

via >

Research Paves Way for Cyborg Moth Biobots

Read the full article Research Paves Way for Cyborg Moth Biobots at

North Carolina State University researchers have developed methods for electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and for monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles. The work opens the door to the development of remotely controlled moths, or “biobots,” for use in emergency response.

The research is in JOVE. (Closed access, subscription required)

Research: “Early Metamorphic Insertion Technology for Insect Flight Behavior Monitoring” by Alexander Verderber, Michael McKnight, and Alper Bozkurt in JoVE. doi:10.3791/50901

Image: The moth is connected to a wireless platform that collects the electromyographic data as the moth moves its wings. To give the moth freedom to turn left and right, the entire platform levitates, suspended in mid-air by electromagnets. Credit Alper Bozkurt.


Rapid Roach Responders - these cyborg roaches can pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound - catch the story on “The Discovery Files” podcast, featured @Science360 Radio:

In the second image, researchers were able to precisely steer the roaches along a curved line. Image credits: iBionicS Lab,

Check out this article on a 3D printer that can print living tissue!  The two primary purposes of this printer is for (1) research and (2) pre-clinical screening. So for the latter, that means testing drugs on living tissue that was 3D printed, instead of animals.

U.S. biotech startup BioBots sits at the intersection between computer science and chemistry. Its debut product, a desktop 3D printer for biomaterials, which..

NC State Debuts Remote-Controlled Cyborg Cockroach

A team [at NC State] has developed an electronic interface that allows them to remotely control cockroaches along fairly precise paths…

The idea here is to find a way to pilot sensor laden insects into places humans wouldn’t want to go, like a chemical contamination site or a collapsed building. By piggybacking on the cockroach’s evolutionarily-tested physiology, robotics researchers can skip the difficult step of building a reliable robotic body to carry their sensor loads. But in order for this to work, of course, users have to be able to control the cockroaches.

Doing so isn’t necessarily easy, but the NC State team has found a way to do so that also taps the cockroaches natural sensory pathways to stimulate certain movements. The team wired a 0.7-gram micro-controller that is fitted to the roach’s back… to its antennae and cerci. The cerci is an organ on the roaches abdomen that senses movement in the air and gives the roach a sense that something is approaching from behind, prompting it to move forward. The antennae sense obstacles in front of the roach and spur it to turn right or left to avoid the physical impediment. By sending small electrical impulses to these organs, the researchers have demonstrated that they can both prompt their “biobotic” roaches to scurry forward and steer them along a curved path.

(via Video: Cyborg Cockroach Scurries Along a Precise, Curved Path | Popular Science)

BioBots Develops Low-Cost 3D Printing of Human Organs

BioBots Develops Low-Cost 3D Printing of Human Organs

3D printing has been around for decades, but recently its seen an explosion in popularity. Developments in 3D printing technology have brought down costs and increased convenience to the point where an average consumer can make use of the technology. People have used 3D printing for things like rapid prototyping, building scale models, and in some cases even using it to create parts to assemble…

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Coming soon: the first 3D bioprinted organ transplant

3D bioprinters are steadily becoming a staple in research and health settings around the world—and Russian researchers from the 3D Bioprinting Solutions lab just outside Moscow are proving just how powerful they can be.

Their aim is to perform the first transplant of a 3D bioprinted organ by March of this year. The organ of choice? A thyroid gland, due to its relative simplicity. If the operation succeeds and the thyroid is accepted by the patient’s body, the lab will work on transplanting a 3D bioprinted kidney in the coming years.

The thyroid will be printed using fat-derived stem cells, and a hydrogel. Since the patient’s own stem cells will be used, the hope is that the resulting thyroid gland will not be rejected by their body.

Head of research at the lab, Vladimir Mironov, is excited by the prospect of applying this technology to kidneys: “The one who will be the first to print and then successfully transplant the kidney to the patient - who will stay alive - will for sure get a Nobel prize.”

The whole 3D bioprinting community, including us here at BioBots, has high hopes for the operation. It’s success could be a huge watershed moment in medical history. 

Written by Ishmam Ahmed

3D bioprinting technology startup, BioBots, is seeking to disrupt the nascent field of bioprinting with its new printer for 3D living tissue creation. At only USD$5,000 per printer, I would say they are off to a pretty good start.

3D bioprinting is not new: It began in the mid-1990s. Recently, many bioprinting efforts talk about the technology as a way to speed up the government requirements for getting a new drug to market.

Prescription drugs come at a high cost, to consumers all the way up to the federal government, with many factors contributing, but one of the largest expenses is for a pharmaceutical company to complete the FDA approval process. After all the effort, with more than $50 billion spent on research and development annually, only one in 5,000 drugs will make it to market and a big piece of the challenge or problem is related to animal testing.

Image courtesy of BioBots

Enter BioBots, a small team from the University of Pennsylvania, with a new 3D bioprinter called the BioBot 1, which they believe is the bioprinting equivalent of the PC. This low-cost, desktop bioprinter, gives big and small companies or institutions (such as university research labs), a chance to develop 3D organ models with human cells in their own lab.

I heard about the bioprinter and reached out to CEO and co-founder Danny Cabrera to see if we could talk about their invention. He was quick to respond, his passion for solving this big problem evident in our conversation: “If we could somehow reveal the failures before testing drugs on people, we would be able to identify false positives much earlier in the drug development process. The problem is in animal testing – mice are not humans, and tests on animals often fail to mimic human diseases or predict how the human body responds to new drugs.”

According to Cabrera, that’s where 3D bioprinting technology comes in, allowing researchers to create tissues with software that instructs a printer to deposit groups of cells in precise layers, which are intermixed with a hydrogel that binds the cells together, ultimately creating 3D functional tissues out of human cells.

The BioBot is similar to the fused-deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers such as the MakerBot or PrintrBots you see today that melt plastic filament via a hot extruder. Their printer uses cells and materials that your body can handle and does not “melt” anything since the heat would kill the cells.

Dr. Stuart Williams, director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute with its Bioficial Organs Program, a partnership between Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, commented on his use of 3D bioprinting and his plans for the BioBot 1: “Our bioprinting efforts are focused on the creation of tissues and organs for use in preclinical studies (e.g. drug and device testing) and clinical studies (e.g. replacement tissues and organs).

“We see 3D Bioprinting as a means to construct tissues and organs using regenerative and stem cells.  The most critical technology hurdle that must be addressed in tissue constructs is incorporation of blood vessels in these constructs, and we believe 3D Bioprinting provides the technology necessary to create pre-vascularized tissue constructs.”

With unit sales in the double digits, the company is aggressively pursuing the research market, among other commercial markets. For the BioBots team, this is just the first step, says Cabrera, “our initial customers are using the BioBot printer to build complex tissue structures that may someday be grown into new tissues in the lab in order to replace damaged tissues in the body. The Holy Grail is to develop fully functioning replacement organs out of a patient’s own cells, eliminating the organ waiting list, but in the meantime we’ll settle for getting more drugs approved by the FDA at a significantly lower cost on an accelerated time scale, improving the quality of life for millions of people around the world.”

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TJ McCue Contributor: Passionate about tech: 3D to Cloud to Gadgets full bio →

In 2014, I spent 8-months in an RV exploring 3D printing, 3D scanning, and 3D design. The trip was sponsored, in part, by Autodesk, HP, Nvidia, Stratasys, Faro, and Jayco.

I consult on content strategy and produce web content for technology companies. In 2014, I went around the USA on an 8-month roadtrip (in a bright blue RV called 3DRV) exploring 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, and 3D Design. In the past, I have put pen to paper for the Wall Street Journal, Make, Sports Afield, the Pittsburgh Business Times and many others. You can follow my work via Twitter or email me. I write about the cloud, gadgets and gear, and 3D.

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The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.