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Lets Find Out How A 3-D Bio-Printer Prints A Lever

The NovoGen MMX Bioprinter Photograph by Timothy Hogan

The first ever commercial 3-D bioprinter has been unveiled and its called Organovo's NovoGen MMX Bioprinter, it can manufacture the functional liver tissues that will soon help biochemists test new drugs. Here we have gathered the practical steps involved in the printing process.

Steps of 3D printing of a lever.

Step 1: You have to load one syringe with a bio-ink (A) which actually is made up of spheroids that each contain tens of thousands of parenchymal liver cells and a second syringe with a bio-ink (B) containing non-parenchymal liver cells that bolster cellular development and a hydrogel that helps with extrusion.

Step 2: Load the required software and blue print on a PC wired to the bioprinter instructs a stepper motor attached to the robotic arm to move and lower the pump head (C) with the second syringe, which begins printing a mold. The mold looks like three hexagons arranged in a honeycomb pattern.

Step 3: There is a matchbox-size triangulation sensor (D) sitting beside the printing surface tracks the tip of each syringe as it moves along the x-, y-, and z- axes. Based on this precise location data, the software determines where the first syringe should be positioned.

Step 4: Robotic arm lowers the pump head (E) with the first syringe, which fills the honeycomb with parenchymal cells.

Step 5: Engineers remove the well plate­ (F)—which contains up to 24 completed microtissues, each approximately 250 microns thick­—and place it in an incubator. There, the cells continue fusing to form the complex matrix of a liver tissue.

And that's it, a 3D printed lever is ready.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Popular Science.
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