r3bEL bioprinter printing an ear model (left), vs. a traditional 3D printer printing aplastic widget
When the r3bEL bioprinter from SE3D is on display at CES, NSTA, or other educational events focused on STEM, the first impression is that it’s another 3D printer like those manufactured by MakerBot or Dremel. As you move in closer and notice that there is no spool for filament, one becomes a bit puzzled and asks the question,
“This is a 3D printer, right?”
In some ways, but the r3bEL bioprinter's features and applications are very different than the traditional 3D printers most educators are familiar with. While the r3bEL bioprinter may have the basic physical structure and platform resembling a 3D printer, it has certain distinct features that cannot be produced in 3D printers typically found in schools. The r3bEL is actually classified as a “bioprinter” for the following:
Fact #1 – It does not print plastic!
Most desktop 3D printers like MakerBots are based on fused deposition modeling (FDM). It takes in plastic filament and extrudes plastic in a molten form to create 3D objects. It’s commonly used in classes where a plastic object (model) is required as the assignment. A bioprinter, on the other hand, prints organic matter and materials that are either liquid or gel-based. Because of its output, it can...
Fact #2 – It can print cells!
It means that you can print anything from honey to collagen to chocolate to food paste to living cells. Living cells? Yes! With a bioprinter, you can print living cells such as bacteria, algae and animal cells. Because you can print most viscous material, the possibility exists for anyone to print a variety of materials with applications across multiple industries. These applications include and are not limited to life sciences, biotechnology, biomedicine and the food industry.
Conrad Weiser High Schools Summer Science Research Institute takes STEM to the next level with bioprinting.
Learn more by reading Matthew Nojiri's article titled
"Conrad Weiser High School science program
on the cutting edge"
Over the past decade, the applications of bioprinting have been steadily growing in the biomedical industry, particularly in the area of tissue printing. For example, small and large pharmaceutical companies are trying to create tissue analogs that would be more representative of real human tissue to help them develop better drugs thus reducing our reliance on animal testing. Other research groups and companies are creating bioartificial tissue for tissue replacement therapy. There are many more applications in for this technology in other industries including agriculture, food science, and green technology to name a few. With technology advancing so rapidly and the growing number of applications, it is important for educators to utilize industry relevant tools like the r3bEL to prepare students for careers in science, medicine and other related technologies.