3D printing technology has made a big impact in the medical field, in more ways than one, including bioprinting and biofabrication. The Institute for Development of Advanced Applied Systems, or Institute IRNAS, located in Slovenia, operates Symbiolab, an open source-based biolab that focuses on the development of future-proof 3D biofabrication. The lab works on innovative biomaterials research, and also develops biomedical research applications and hardware solutions, including its Vitaprint 3D bioprinting platform. The open source Vitaprint was developed in-house at Symbiolab, and the platform includes demo files, protocols, and hardware.
According to the IRNAS website, the main objective with the Vitaprint platform is to bring 3D bioprinting closer to the audience in fields like the pharmacological industry and medicine, both human and animal. IRNAS researcher Bostjan Vihar told us that right now, the researchers are working to develop new modifications and use cases for custom applications using the Vitaprint.
“Recently, we’ve been able to develop protocols for fabrication of perfusable channels in biobased hydrogels, for example in the shape of an earlobe,” Vihar told 3DPrint.com.
They have had prior success in making 2D branched perfusable structures, as well as 3D molded meniscus models out of gelatin, but have now taken their research to the next level and fabricated a complex, geometric network made of vessels that have shaped the vasculature into that of a human earlobe.
“Vascularization is a major challenge in tissue engineering as it currently sets a very restrictive limit on the thickness of tissues that can be fabricated,” IRNAS wrote in a blog post. “New approaches will be necessary to achieve major improvements and the co-development of material and technology will play a vital role in this sense. We’re currently devising new protocols to fabricate vessel systems from other hydrogels to make it more versatile and useful for tissue engineering research. Currently structures are possible using gelatin and alginate.”
That’s not all that Vitaprint is capable of, however. The compact platform, with a print volume of 200 x 300 x 500 mm, is used to help researchers apply the convenience of biofabrication to their specific applications, in order to, as IRNAS puts its, “facilitate the transition of ideas into operational devices and procedures.”
The Vitaprint workflow is simple:
- Assess case-specific requirements
- When required, undergo hardware engineering and/or customization
- Develop 3D biofabrication methods
- Test and validate developed solutions
- Manufacture the hardware
- Consult and support users and share knowledge
The researchers have used their Vitaprint bioprinting system to 3D print woodpile structures out of gluten, and say that other shapes are possible as well. Thanks to its integrated thermal control, Vitaprint allows for FDM printing that matches the melting point of hydrogels and polymers, and as well as controlled extrusion of highly viscous materials, such as pastes. The 3D bioprinter can also fabricate complex anatomical structures, like noses, using gelatin-alginate copolymers.
Vitaprint has optional WiFi and a motorized piston drive, which means an external high-pressure system is not necessary. Multiple slicing software, like Slic3r and Cura, can work with the modular platform, and because it’s open source, users can easily integrate and exchange different tools, like lasers and microscopes, with electrospinning and multi-photon lithography tools in the works.
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