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3D Bioprinting - Applications, Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Pragya Soni
  • Oct 02, 2021
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When we talk about the latest technologies or innovations in healthcare, 3D bioprinting always steals the spotlight. And that’s obvious too. 3D bioprinting is one of the greatest gifts of science to healthcare. 


With 3D bioprinting comes advancement in tissue engineering. Not only in the sector of healthcare, but 3D printing has also excelled in almost all fields including education, art, engineering, medicines, etc. Today 3D printers are widely in use for printing biomaterials, medicines, map designs, etc.


Read about latest technologies in healthcare


Let’s read how 3D printing as bioprinting is revolutionizing the healthcare sector:


What is 3D Bioprinting?


The term 3D bioprinting itself has its meaning. It comprises three words, 3D means three-dimensional, bio means related to body and printing means making hardcopy of something. 


So, 3D bioprinting refers to the technique of combining cells, biomaterials, and other growth factors to fabricate or print a biomedical part. The printed biomedical parts often aim to imitate the characteristics of natural tissues. 


3D bioprinting works on the principle of layer deposits. Layers of bioinks are deposited on one another to create different tissue-like structures. Bioinks are the special raw materials used in 3D bioprinting, just like we use inks in our normal printers.


Read more about bioinks here. 


Currently, bioprinting is in use for the printing of tissues and organs. As these biomaterials almost imitate natural tissues, it becomes cost-effective to study the interaction of different chemicals. 


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These biomaterials further help in the invention and research of drugs and pills. Also, in recent times, bioprinting has succeeded in printing scaffolds. Now, medical scientists are working to regenerate ligaments and joints with the help of these scaffolds.



Process of 3D Bioprinting


The whole process of 3D bioprinting involves three major steps. Just like any other major project, the process is divided into pre-processing, in-processing, and post-processing. Here are the brief details of all three steps.


The image shows the Process of 3D Bioprinting. It involves three steps - Pre- printing, Bioprinting, Post-printing

Process of 3D Bioprinting




It is the basic step of 3D printing. It involves the creation of a model and selection of raw materials to be used. The first step is deciding the 3D frame or structure that needs to be printed.


Later, the biopsy of a particular organ or tissue is prepared. Once it is done, 2D images are sent to the printers. In the end, by tomographic reconstruction i.e., layer by layer approach, 3D printers are assigned their tasks.


Methods used in pre-bioprinting:


1.       Computed tomography (CT)


2.       Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


3.       Tomographic reconstruction (TR)





It is the main step in any kind of 3D printing. In this step, bioinks are placed in the printer cartridge. Bioinks can be defined as a liquid mixture of cells, nutrients, and matrix. Using a layer-by-layer approach, biomaterials are then printed in 3-dimensions. Here the bioprinted pre-tissues are transferred to the incubator where it matures into healthy tissue.


In recent times, 3D bioprinting has printed artificial organs such as kidneys and livers. Though similar to natural organs, these organs lack some crucial elements.


Methods used in 3D bioprinting:


1.       Photolithography


2.       Magnetic 3D bioprinting


3.       Stereolithography


4.       Direct cell extrusion





This is the last step in the bioprinting process. It is necessary to create a stable structure from printed biomaterials. This process works to maintain the mechanical integrity and function of the 3D printed object. 


It also helps to diminish the risk of artificial tissues and organs. The process involves the use of bioreactors. Bioreactors work to provide convective nutrient transport through the cells. 


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They also create the microgravity environment and suitable environmental conditions to ensure the proper functioning of cells. There are different types of bioreactors for the different types of tissue. For example, compression bioreactors are preferred for cartilage tissues.


Often, a question comes to mind, what kind of printers are used in 3D printing. Well, we got your answer. Extrusion-based printers are used in 3d printing. These printers work on the principle of extruding a continuous stream of liquid raw material through an orifice.


Different types of printers are used depending upon the nature of raw materials. Three types of extrusion-based printers are:


1.       Pneumatic driven


2.       Piston driven


3.       Screw driven



Principles of 3D bioprinting


The approaches of 3D bioprinting help in deciding the objectives or goals of bioprinting. It also decides the benchmark of final products or results. Three basic approaches or goals of 3D printed are as follows:




The basic aim of biomimicry is to create artificial biomaterials that are identical to their natural counterparts. It is essential for both intracellular or extracellular tissues. It requires the duplication of shape, microenvironment and framework of natural organs or tissues.





This approach focuses on the development of printed biomaterial. It works on the process of embryonic organ development to replicate the required tissues.





The final approach mini-tissue is a blend of both other approaches. In 3D bioprinting, biomaterials are printed in basic structures such as tissues. Mini tissue works on these basic structures and builds them into larger frameworks.



Applications of 3D bioprinting


In recent decades, 3D bioprinting has served several purposes for mankind. Following are the important applications of 3D bioprinting.

The image shows the Applications of 3D Bioprinting. It is used in printing body tissues, blood vessels and body organs, by layer by layer approach.

Applications of 3D Bioprinting



This is the basic application of 3D bioprinting. It served as a building block for further uses. 3D bioprinting helps in reconstructing vital biological tissues.





As 3D bioprinting can reconstruct different types of body tissues. These generated tissues are provided with a suitable environment to replicate themselves further and form organs. Thus, providing artificial organs with natural characters for transplants and surgeries.


Case study: Few years back, an infant patient with a respiratory disease called tracheobronchomalacia was given a tracheal splint. The tracheal splint is said to be a product of 3D bioprinting. The operation was successful, and the infant was saved. 


That’s why 3D bioprinting is regarded as a boon to the healthcare sector.


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As 3D bioprinting has succeeded in creating biomaterials and organs. Thus, brings a new era of clinical research. The organs are used for studying the drug-organ response and interactions.


For example, in 2019, Israeli researchers successfully constructed a rabbit-sized heart from human cells.



Advantages of 3D Printing


The discovery of 3D bioprinting is itself an achievement to mankind. The major advantages of 3D printing are listed below:


  1. An alternative to fill ORGAN SHORTAGE


In the US alone, more than 10,000 people are waiting for their organ transplant. Guess, the statistics of the globe! Entire globe is running short of organs. Though there are donations, the supply is still not meeting the demand. 


If improvement is done in the field of 3D printing it can definitely fill this gap between the supply and demand. Also, this will save a million people from the risk of life. It has also reduced the waiting time of organ transplant patients.





For the pharmaceuticals and clinical sector, 3D bioprinting is no less than a miracle. Working and researching on natural organs costs a huge amount of money. 


Organ shortage is also a major factor for this. But 3D printed organs are low in cost when compared to natural organs. Thus, 3D bioprinting is a cost-effective approach in healthcare.


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The whole process of 3D bioprinting is faster and more precise than earlier traditional systems.





As animal testing has decreased with the use of 3D bioprinting. The number of animals killed annually to serve clinical studies and trials have also reduced. Indirectly, this technology is protecting our ecosystem.



Drawbacks of 3D Bioprinting


Where there is a pro, there is con too. Though, there are only a few cons of 3D bioprinting when compared to its pros. 3D bioprinting can reach its zenith by improving following factors:


  1. Need of low viscosity bioinks:


More varieties of low viscosity bioinks are required for more effective outputs.


Please refer to 3D printing fluid information



  1. Emission of harmful chemicals


There is an emission of harmful chemicals during the bioprinting process.



  1. Precision doubts in droplet placement


Lack of precision in droplet placement and size is one of the major drawbacks in 3D bioprinting.


3D bioprinting has already topped the list of latest technologies in healthcare. With some improvements, the drawbacks of it can be covered. Decreasing the risk and fear of life, 3D bioprinting is improving global health. 


Scientists need to search alternatives to make this technology more feasible and sustainable. Once the major hurdles coming in its path are crossed, 3D bioprinting will set a benchmark in the healthcare sector.

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