How 3D Printing Is Turning Each And Every Industry On Its Head –

Posted: November 15, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Calling all carnivores: ever thought about getting a meat printer? Of hand-crafting delectable beef steaks at home from plant proteins, that have the same texture, appearance, and flavor as real meat, only without the distasteful killing part?

3D-printed steaks and chicken could be on the menu in European restaurants as early as 2020, with home-spun meat printers available to the consumer within a few more years. Israel-based Redefine Meat is already using advanced food formulations along with proprietary 3D printing technology to make what it calls the holy grail of alt-meat,reports Tech Radar Pro.

The idea sounds absurd, but its not so far-fetched, as three-dimensional printing technology goes in directions no-one could dream of, prior to the launch of 3D printing in the 1980s.


Put simply, 3D printing is a progression of 2D printing, where a third dimension is added to the printing of images on a flat surface (a regular ink-jet printer), adding depth and allowing the printer cartridge to move in all directions. A digital file is first created using modeling software, then sent to the printer, depositing layers of the chosen material - often plastic or wax - to build up the final product. Other printing materials include plastics, powders, filaments, paper, and even human or animal cells - used in the cutting-edge new field of bioprinting.

3D printing is also referred to as additive manufacturing because objects are made by injection-molding them to the desired size and shape, versus traditional manufacturing which invariably entails loading material into a machine to be cut to the required dimensions. With additive manufacturing, material is added, layer upon layer, without creating waste/ scrap.

3D Printer employs agood analogy for 3D printing, describing the process as similar to baking a multi-layered cake:

3D printers use a variety of very different types of additive manufacturing technologies, but they all share one core thing in common: they create athree dimensionalobject by building it layer by successive layer, until the entire object is complete. Its much like printing in two dimensions on a sheet of paper, but with an added third dimension: UP. The Z-axis.

Each of these printed layers is athinly-sliced, horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. Imagine a multi-layer cake, with the baker laying down each layer one at a time until the entire cake is formed. 3D printing is somewhat similar, but just a bit more precise than 3D baking.

Formerly known as stereolithography, 3D printing was invented in 1983 by Chuck Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems. Frustrated by how long it took to make small, custom parts, Hull suggested using his furniture companys UV lamps to create parts by curing photosensitive resin, layer by layer. Calling the technology stereolithography, Hull applied for a patent and was issued one in 1986.

Two years later, start-up 3D Systems manufactured the first 3D printer, the SLA-1.

It took over 30 years for the technology to become mainstream, but now 3D printing can be done by anyone with access to a base-model 3D printer, which can be purchased for under $500.

Among the more interesting items that have been 3D-printed are prosthetic limbs, fabricated firearms, electrical vehicles, steel parts (Caterpillar introduced thefirst 3D-printed excavatorin 2017), quick-build homes, parts for combat aircraft, spacecraft, and even decorative chocolates.

Relativity Space is 3D-printing rockets at its Los Angeles headquarters.

According to Wired,youll find four of the largest metal 3D printers in the world, churning out rocket parts day and night. The latest model of the companys proprietary printer, dubbed Stargate, stands 30 feet tall and has two massive robotic arms that protrude like tentacles from the machine. The Stargate printers will manufacture about 95 percent, by mass, of Relativitys first rocket, named Terran-1. The only parts that wont be printed are the electronics, cables, and a handful of moving parts and rubber gaskets.

Z-Morph Bloglists five more really cool, recently-printed 3D-printed objects:


From its mid-80s beginning, a number of 3D printing technologies have emerged.

The first, known asStereolithography (SLA), concentrates a beam of ultraviolet light onto the surface of a vat filled with liquid photocurable resin. The laser beam draws out the 3D model one layer at a time, with each slice hardening as the light hits the resin. The solidified structure is gradually dragged up by a lifting platform, while the laser continues to form a different pattern for each layer to create the desired shape of the object.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)is similar toStereolithography, butuses more conventional light sources. A liquid crystal display allows for a large amount of light to be projected onto the surface of the object being printed, and for the resin to harden quickly.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)was invented in the late 1980s. The object is made by extruding a stream of melted thermoplastic material to form layers. The layers harden and fuse together almost immediately after leaving the extrusion nozzle.

InSelective Layer Sintering (SLS), powdered materials instead of liquid photopolymer is drawn from the vat, including polystyrene, ceramics, glass, nylon and metals such as steel, titanium, aluminum and silver. A layer of powdered material is placed on top of the previous layer using a roller and then the powdered material is fused or sintered according to a certain pattern.

PolyJetphotopolymershoots out a photopolymer liquid, similarly to an ink-jet printer, which is hardened with a UV light. This technology acquired by Stratasys allows for various materials and colors to be incorporated into single prints, and at high resolutions.

WithSyringe Extrusion, virtually any material with a creamy viscosity such as clay, cement or silicone, can be 3D-printed using syringe extruders. The syringe is heated or not heated, depending on the material.

Other variants of these technologies includeSelective Laser Melting (SLM),Electron Beam Melting (EBM)which uses an electron beam instead of a laser, andLaminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), where layers of paper, plastic or metal, coated with adhesive, are successively glued together and cut to shape.


Sales related to 3D printing, including printers, materials and services, will move past $US2.7 billion in 2019 and hit $3 billion in 2020according to Deloitte Global, with a CAGR of 12.5%. Comparing that to the $12 trillion in global manufacturing revenues indicates the amount of growth potential in 3D printing and bioprinting.

The consulting firm explains that companies across multiple industries are increasingly using 3D printing for more than just rapid prototyping:

3D printers todayare capable of printinga greater variety of materials (which mainly means more metal printing and less plastic printing, although plastic will likely still predominate); they print objects faster than they used to, and they can print larger objects (build volume). A steady stream of new entrants is expanding the market. 3D printing is considered an essential ingredient in Industry 4.0, the marriage of advanced production and operations techniques with smart digital technologies that is being heralded as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Deloitte notes the number of materials used in 3D printing has more than doubled from five years ago, with mixed-material printers becoming more common. 3D printers are also about twice as fast in 2019 as they were in 2014.

It says the biggest shift is from plastic to metal printing: Plastic is fine for prototypes and certain final parts, but the trillion-dollar metal-parts fabrication market is the more important market for 3D printers to address. Plastics share of the 3D printing industry fell from 88 to 65% in 2017-18, and metal rose from 28 to 36%.

A recent technology called binder jet metal printing could halve the time required to produce each part, compared to the relatively slow and expensive selective laser sintering (SLS) method, states Deloitte.

Size capabilities are improving too. A few yearsagoa high-end metal printer could only build an object 10x10x10 cm or one cubic liter. In 2019 metal printers with the capacity to print 30x30x30 cm are available.


As 3D printing technology continues to advance, more and more companies are forming, eager to get in on the action. Three of the largest are Stratasys, 3D Systems and Proto Labs; these companies offer 3D printers and services to help manufacturers move prototypes into production.

Based in Minnesota,Stratasyshas over 600 granted or pending additive manufacturing patents, including for the FDM,Polyjetand WDM 3D printing technologies. Among the sectors Stratasys serves are healthcare, aerospace, automotive and education. The companyssubsidiaries include MakerBot,GrabCAD,RedEyeOnDemand and Solid Concepts.

Asmentioned3D Systemswas first out of the gate with a 3D printer, back in 1988. Along with pioneering stereolithography, 3D Systems has also developed selective laser sintering, multi-jet printing, film-transfer imaging, color jet printing, direct metal printing, and plastic jet printing. Divided into three business units - products, materials and services - 3D Systems offers small desk-top printers, metal printers and commercial printers that print in plastics and other materials.

Also headquartered in Minnesota isProto Labs, established in 1999. Building on automated solutions to develop plastic and metal parts used in manufacturing, in 2014 Proto Labs launched an industrial-grade 3D printing service, enabling software developers and engineers to quickly move prototypes into production. The company acquired Rapid Manufacturing in 2017 to further its efforts in sheet metal fabrication. It currently has 2,300 employees in 12 manufacturing hubs.

3D bioprinting - the next big thing in medical investing

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, every day 21 people in the United States die waiting for an organ, and over 120,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists.

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The situation is worse in Canada. While Spain has 43 donors per million people, the US has 26, Britain has 21, and Canada has just 20. Out of 4,500 Canadians waiting for an organ, about 260 will die each year, according toThe Organ Project. Thats five deaths per week.

Imagine if, instead of waiting for an organ from another person - possibly a relative but likely a stranger - you could walk into a doctors office and have one manufactured, with your cells. It sounds far-fetched, but the technology now exists for the tailor-made transplantation of organs through brand-new medicine called 3D bioprinting.

What is 3D bioprinting?

3D printing is a progression of 2D printing, where a third dimension is added to the printing of images on a flat surface (a regular ink-jet printer), adding depth and allowing the printer cartridge to move in all directions. A digital file is first created using modeling software, then sent to the printer, depositing layers of the chosen material - often plastic or wax - to build up the final product.

Among the more interesting items that have been 3D-printed are prosthetic limbs, fabricated firearms, electrical vehicles, steel parts (Caterpillar introduced thefirst 3D-printed excavatorin 2017), quick-build homes, parts for combat aircraft and spacecraft, and even decorative chocolates.

Bioprinting operates on the same principle as regular 3D printing but instead of plastic, wax or other matter, bioprinters deposit layers of living cells to build structures like blood vessels or skin tissue. The cells are taken from an animal or a human being and cultivated until there are enough to create bio-ink which is then loaded into the printer using mechanical syringes. Adult stem cells can also be utilized.

Key to the process is a dissolvable gel which acts as a kind of incubator for the cells to multiply - like an embryo growing in a womb. Researchers may also plant cells around 3D scaffolds made of biodegradable polymers or collagen, allowing them to develop into functional tissue. The cells use their inherent properties to seek out similar cells to join with. Researchersare able tocontrol the shape into which the cells form, and the printer builds the final structure.

After the tissues are fully grown and shaped, they are placed into a recipients body. The hope is that the 3D-printed object becomes as much a part of the patients body as the cells he or she was born with.

There are currently five common methods of 3D bioprinting:

- Inkjet bioprinting: Droplets of bio-ink are deposited, layer by layer, onto a culture plate. Cells that can help fight breast cancer have been successful printed using inkjet bioprinting.

- Extrusion bioprinting: Polymer or hydrogel is loaded in syringes and dispensed via pneumatic- or screw-driven force, onto a building platform. The motion is controlled by a computer. Extrusion bioprinting offers lower resolution than inkjet bioprinting but the fabrication speed is considerably higher, allowinganatomically-shapedobjects to be generated.

- Laser-assisted bioprinting: A laser is used to deposit the biomaterials into a receptor via a tape covered with biological material. The laser irradiates the tape, causing the biological material to evaporate and reach the receptor in the form of droplets. The droplets contain a biopolymer that acts as an adhesive to help the cells to grow. This high-resolution bioprinting method is being used in a partnership between French bioprinting companyPoietisand LOral to recreate a hair follicle that could lead to a cure for baldness.

- Stereolithography: Stereolithographic bioprinting uses a digital micro-mirror to direct ultraviolet light onto the printing surface. Light directed by the micro-mirrors triggers the formation of molecular bonds, which cause light-sensitive hydrogels to form into solid material.

- Bioprinting with acoustic waves: Using a device that allows cells to be manipulated with acoustic waves, researchers can manipulate where the waves will meet along three axes. The waves then form a trap that captures the cells, which are collected to create 3D patterns.

How far has it progressed?

Some of the most advanced work on bioprinting has been done at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in California. One of the first major structures that Wake Forestbioprintedwas a human bladder. Made from cells extracted from a patient with a poor-functioning bladder, the 3D-printed bladder was successfully transplanted. The project built on custom-grown bladders that had previously been transplanted into seven patients suffering from spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord.

Wake Forest staffers have also created an outer human ear, and implantedbioprintedskin, bone and muscle on laboratory animals that successfully grew into surrounding tissue.

The institutes director, AnthonyAtala, sees bioprinting astotalytransforming the relationship between the transplant patient and doctor, in much the same way that Dell changed the way consumers interacted with the computer company that sold PCs tailored to each customers unique needs. Patients could order replacement parts in much the same way they might order a new clutch for their Mazda.

Youd have companies that exist to process cells, create constructs, tissue. Your surgeon might take a CT scan and a tissue sample and ship it to that company,Atalasaid in afeature article on bioprinting in Smithsonian Magazine.

The company would then ship the organ back a week or so later, ready for implantation. Welcome to the new world of regenerative medicine: the plug and play human body.

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Atalasaid the technology is developing to the point where researchers are almost able to replicate simple organs like the outer ear and the trachea (windpipe). Importantly, there are no real surgical challenges, he told Smithsonian.


The holy grail of 3D bioprinting would be to come up with a viable kidney for transplant. ProfessorAtala, of the Wake Forest Institute, created the first small-scalebioprintedkidney in 2002. However,Atalais the first to admit that his machine-produced kidney is nowhere near at the level it needs to be for a human transplant. A TED TalkAtalagave in 2011 about bioprinting, which culminated with a dramatic display of an object - really an over-sized bean - became controversial when the press gotaholdof it and printed enthusiastic, but wrong, stories about the technology eliminating the need for a kidney transplant.

Another potential roadblock is the cost. No-one yet knows what it would cost tobioprintand transplant a human organ on demand, and how accessible the procedure would be to the masses of patients requiring a transplant. And while there have been successful bioprinted organ transplants, there havent been enough to determine how well the human body will accept the new tissue or artificial organ.

Finally, one shouldnt underestimate the complexity and level of difficulty involved. Aspharmaforumpoints out, A complex network of cells, tissues, nerves and structures in a human organ need to be correctly positioned with a highest precision for it to function properly. From arranging the thousands of tiny capillaries in a liver, to printing a heart that beats, it is a long, difficult process.


Wake Forest is working on a skin-cell printer capable of printing live skin cells directly onto a burn wound. The procedure could replace skin-grafting, a procedure where healthy skin is harvested from an unburnt part of a patients body. Skin grafting can be hard to heal from, and in severe burn cases, there isnt enough healthy skin left to use.

This new printing technique only needs a patch of skin 10% the size of the burn, that is used to grow enough cells for 3D printing. The wound is then scanned for size and depth, information which the printer uses to print skin cells at the proper depths to cover the wound.

In 2017 scientists in Madrid created a prototype of a 3D bioprinter that can create functional human skin. The printer is adequate for transplanting skin and for testing cosmetic, chemical and pharmaceutical products,ScienceDaily reported.


At the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, researchers are working with decelluarized pig hearts. The organs have been stripped of muscle and other living tissue, but the original architecture is intact. The idea is to use decelluarized pig hearts, repopulated with bioprinted human cells, for implantation into humans. Sofarthe institute has succeeded in injecting pig hearts with living bovine cells, then inserted them into cows where they worked successfully next to a cows heart.

Already, patients with a defective heart valve can have a pigs valve or a mechanical valve implanted. Doris Taylor, director of the institutes regenerative medicine research program, says thedecelluarizedmethod gets around the tricky process of printing at the extremely high resolution required for highly vascularized (containing many blood vessels) organs like the heart.

The tech is going to have to improve a great deal before were able tobioprinta kidney or a heart, and get blood to it, and keep it alive, Taylor told Smithsonian.

More recent developments though are moving in that direction. In 2016 Harvard researchers 3D-printed the first heart-on-a-chip. The tiny device contains living human heart cells that mimic the hearts functions.

In 2018, 3D printingstartupBioLife4D successfully produced human tissue in the form of a cardiac patch - derived from a patients white blood cells with multiple cell types contained in the human heart.According to pharmaforum, its another step towards bioprinting major organs for transplant.

Scientists at the American Friends of Tel Aviv University havereportedly 3D-printed a fully-vascularized heartusing fat cells from a donor. The fat cells were partially cultured and re-programmed into heart cells. This early-stage technology has only been able to print a heart the size of a rabbits, but researchers hope to test the printed hearts in other animals.


Northwestern University in Illinois debuted a 3D-printed ovary using the acoustic waves method described above, and in Sweden, researchers have successfully created human cartilage tissue, also using acoustic waves.


Russian scientists aboard the International Space Stationsuccessful bioprinted the first organ in space: a mouses thyroid. Spaces zero-gravity environment enables organs and tissues to mature faster than on Earth.

Bones/ cartilage

A team from the UKs Swansea University has apparently developed a bioprinting process that uses regenerative material to create an artificial bone matrix. The technology could replace bone grafting, a surgical procedure that replaces missing or damaged bones with synthetic materials. Unlike bone grafting, which doesnt allow new bone tissues to form, thus limiting mechanical integrity, 3D-printed bones are capable of fusing with, and even replacing over time, a patients natural bones.

Cartilage printing could revolutionize joint care through a hand-held cartilage printing device calledBioPen. Built by Australian researchers, theBioPencontains stem cells derived from a patients fat, which create custom scaffolds of living material into failing joints much like 3D-printed bones. So farBioPenhas only been tested on sheep but developers plan to accelerate it to regenerate functional human cartilage.


Finally, a group of researchers in South Korea has 3D-printed prototype corneas fromdecelluarizedcorneal stroma and stem cells. Unlike artificial corneas currently available, made of substances like synthetic polymer which resist incorporation into the eye, printed corneas are made to mimic the material within natural corneas. The invention could replace the need for donors and synthetic corneas in cataract surgery and other sight complications.

Investment opportunity

3D bioprinting has come a long way since ProfessorAtalasfirst artificial bladder in 2002. At Ahead of the Herd, we think it is the next big thing in regenerative medicine. Science always starts out with experimentation, sometimes many years of it, before the technologies are commercialized. We want our subscribers to bewell awareof 3D bioprintings potential, putting them in a position to get in early to companies that are offeringbioprintedproducts.

While there are currently a handful of bioprinting firms, we see an entire ecosystem of small firms developing, with each focusing on a different aspect, technology or part of the body. It will not take 10 years for start-up pub-cos to IPO, seeking money to develop their technologies.

Currently valued at USD$685 million, within the next six years,the global bioprinting market is expected to expand by a CAGR of 26.2%, reaching $4.4 billion by 2026. The United States and Canada are the industry leaders, making bioprinting an ideal new sector for North America-focused investors.

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