BiologIC Technologies, a UK-based biotechnology firm, is using Stratasys 3D printing to create a ‘desktop PC’ of life sciences and biology.
Specifically, the firm is leveraging Stratasys’ full-color, multi-material J826 3D printer in its mission to advance the field of synthetic biology. The BiologIC team is currently developing a digital bio-processing unit, described as a digital ‘lab-in-a-box’ that speeds up laboratory processes in order to make the latest breakthroughs in food, fuels, and medicines more accessible. Once the product finishes development, BiologIC plans to also manufacture the device using the J826 3D Printer.
“Our ‘lab in a box’ draws inspiration from advances in 3D printing and the semiconductor’s long and successful history,” explains Nick Rollings, Co-founder of BiologIC.
“Importantly, our instrument could be used to create biology by design and on-demand, whether it’s to treat patients on-site or make the latest biofuels. We believe this device will enable the next industrial revolution.”
Who is BiologIC?
Founded in 2019, BiologIC specializes in the field of synthetic biology, an area of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities. The company believes this field has the potential to create billions of dollars of disruptive value and benefits for society in existing and new markets, however, its growth is constrained as breakthrough bioproducts cannot be easily applied and scaled.
BiologIC explains that engineering biology is a complicated and costly undertaking, often requiring large laboratories and highly skilled scientists mixing and moving liquids to different robots performing specific, sometimes repetitive tasks. As such, the company aims to condense that entire process into a lab-in-a-box that simplifies existing methods.
Key to BiologIC’s proposition is a bio-processing unit developed using the Stratasys J826 3D printer. The unit is designed to automate a number of complex biological processes using many different elements and materials. As such, the multi-material and full-color capabilities of the J826 3D printer was essential for BiologIC: “The cost and time implications of creating such a device and bringing it to reality with a working prototype was the stumbling block. Ultimately, 3D printing was the technology capable of overcoming this problem. Indeed, without the J826, we wouldn’t be moving ahead as a company as we wouldn’t have a product,” adds Rollings.
Leveraging multi-material, full-color 3D printing
Launched just recently in February 2020, the J826 3D printer is aimed at enterprises with mid-volume modeling requirements across a number of industries, including consumer goods and electronics, automotive and educational institutions. The system can be used with many of the materials under the Stratasys PolyJet range, including transparency with Vero Ultra Clear. It also enables multi-material 3D printing, which allows users to produce highly realistic prototypes using a range of textures.
The ability to print in the transparent Vero Ultra Clear material was important for BiologIC in creating its lab-in-a-box cartridges. It is essential that scientists can observe the inner workings of the cartridge to ensure that the biology is of high quality and performing as designed. Additionally, the designers used flexible photopolymers like Agilus30 and other digital materials to add a level of functionality within the bio-processing unit; it helped to enable the precision movement of fluids, which is key to controlling the biology.
The design of the bio-processing unit currently leverages a combination of four materials, however BiologIC plans to utilize the full eight-material capabilities of the J826 in the future.
As well as taking advantage of the J826’s multi-material and color 3D printing capabilities, BiologIC has also benefited from the rapid development process of the technology. This has allowed the firm to showcase the development of the cartridges to potential customers in real-time. Colin Barker, another of the company’s co-founders, explains that BiologIC specifically identified a technology that could physically and economically suit the firm’s business model. In the future, the company aims to use 3D printing to manufacture the bioprocessing units on-demand at a significant scale. “Our priorities as a start-up meant we needed a technology that enabled us to be lean and agile. Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing is the best in the game, so importantly the J826 gave us access to this technology at a price point and physical size attractive for a start-up,” Barker explains.
Stratasys PolyJet technology
The J826 is the latest addition in Stratasys’ J8-series of PolyJet printers, a range that includes the J850 color 3D printer announced in October 2019. PolyJet technology has been leveraged for a broad selection of applications, particularly in applications where color and multi-material 3D printing have been important.
For example, using the Stratasys J750, fashion designers were able to create a lenticular effect on pieces of clothing to play with light and color, in order to replicate the appearance of a Greta-Oto butterfly for New York Fashion Week (NYFW) 2019.
PolyJet technology has also played an integral role in the films of American stop-motion animation studio LAIKA. These films include the likes of Coraline, Kubo & the Two Strings, and most recently, Missing Link, which featured the use of 106,000 3D printed faces made with PolyJet J750 and PolyJet Connex3 3D printers from Stratasys.
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Featured image shows BiologIC cartridges. Photo via Stratasys.