Researchers at the University of Buffalo are bringing a science fiction trope to life with their new 3D printing method, which can produce a synthetic hand in under 20 minutes. The rapid printing technology minimizes cellular damage and deformation, making it one of the most viable options for 3D printing human organs.
A surreal YouTube video shows the 3D printing method in action, and it looks like something out of a movie—it’s just so quick and simple. A machine dips into a shallow solution of yellow goo and pulls out a fully-formed synthetic hand in just under 20 minutes. Researchers at the University of Buffalo say that conventional printing methods would take 6 hours to produce the same hand.
The new printing method relies on stereolithography or photo-solidification, the same process used in resin printing. Basically, scientists use light to selectively cure a hydrogel solution into a desired shape. Stereolithography works 10 to 15 times faster than regular bioprinting methods, so scientists can provide a continuous supply of biogel to their model, limiting environmental exposure and mistakes.
Biogel stereolitography is already suited to print cellular models with blood-vessel networks, although the technology is currently limited to centimeter-sized models. Scientists should be able to scale up the method, though, which will be essential for printing human-sized organs. Who knows, in the future, every hospital could be equipped with a biogel stereolithography printer to manufacture replacement organs on the fly, eliminating the need for human-to-human organ transplants.