New Technique 3D Prints Living Materials

January
2018

Although most 3D printers produce objects from inorganic matter, an international team of scientists has developed a way for their prints to take on a life of their own.

By immobilizing different strains of bacteria in bio-compatible inks, researchers from ETH Zurich and Univ. College Dublin have demonstrated a new way to 3D print living materials in bulk. The functional living ink, dubbed “flink” by the team, contains components common to food science — hyaluronic acid, κ-carrageenan, and fumed silica — combined with bacteria. These components form a hydrogel that can be printed into virtually any shape.

“Bacteria are more important to us than most of us know. In terms of metabolism, they are more diverse than any other organisms on Earth,” says Patrick Rühs, a postdoctoral fellow in the Dept. of Materials at ETH Zurich. “Bacteria have been 3D printed in previous studies using other approaches. We show how the localization and incorporation of bacteria add a new living functionality to the printing material.”

The potential uses for a structure embedded with bacteria are diverse, Rühs...

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