With so much scientific research coming from institutions all over the world, in 2016 I have become 3DPI’s unofficial 3D bioprinting ‘expert’. As someone who loves to learn so much, I’ve also pursued stories about 3D printing in education, and reached out to some of the 3D printing community on YouTube.

If any of the projects highlighted in this article have been your favorites of the year, be sure to nominate them for the 3D Printing Industry Awards here, and to all readers, I wish you all the best for 2017!

3D printed organs for implants

One of the stories that I’ve been unable to escape this year is the 3D printed kidney-on-a-chip from Harvard’s Wyss Institute. The 3D printed tubule fibers that make up a kidney allow researchers to test how a real human kidney might react to substances in the body. The hope is that the process developed at this molecular-level will be scaled-up to produce a whole, functioning kidney that is suitable for transplants.

The structure of proximal tubules found inside a human kidney Image via: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

The structure of proximal tubules found inside a human kidney Image via: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

As such a breakthrough development, Harvard’s became a point of reference for me when it came to other 3D bioprinting research from 2016. There has been a 3D printed artery, liver tissue and bones, and also the successful implant of a 3D printed vein segment into living monkey.

hyper elastic bone Northwestern University

Testing the 3D printed hyperelastic bone. Figure via: Science Translational Medicine 28 Sep 2016

In 2017 this momentum is sure to continue, and the world will see more transplants of 3D printed tissue into living things. The next step up from 3D printed veins is tissue than can perform a function, like a beating heart for example, or tissue with enough elasticity to retain shape after being stretched. An early highlight of 2017 is going to be learning more about 3D bioprinting at the 3D Medical Expo in Maastricht – 3DPI will be reporting directly from there at the end of January.

More 3D printers in schools

Watching the evolution of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) initiatives this year has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and in 2017 I am hopeful of a more refined 3D printing curriculum in schools, particularly in America and Australia where governmental incentives are already in place. In comparison, the UK seems to be lagging in bringing 3D printers into the classroom, I hope to be proved wrong about this in 2017.

A Minecraft 'Story Mountain' story plan by Simon Baddeley Image via: simonbaddeley64 on WordPress

A Minecraft ‘Story Mountain’ story plan by Simon Baddeley Image via: simonbaddeley64 on WordPress

As Minecraft Edu makes its way into schools too, I imagine we’ll see more fantastic creations from budding engineers and designers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Minecraft makers announced development of their own specific 3D printing program/game.

The 3DP community

I’d also like to hear more from independent Makers in 2017. The 3D printing community on YouTube is growing daily, and hopefully there are more projects like the #3Dblockzoo to encourage collaboration and new ideas.

A block puppy, elephant and penguin, designed and printed by Tessa Nesci Photo via: SparkyFace5 on Thingiverse

A block puppy, elephant and penguin, designed and printed by Tessa Nesci Photo via: SparkyFace5 on Thingiverse

If you’re part of the community and have something planned for 2017, send us an email here. I’m also looking forward to meeting more readers at the 3D Printing Industry Awards in April too! Send your nominations in here.

Featured image shows a hyperelastic spine. Photo via: Northwestern University. 

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